Sicklerville's Burroughs excited for shot at Olympic gold

Posted: July 27, 2012

The excitement was undeniable.

All the years of training, enduring, and certainly dreaming are now allowing Jordan Burroughs the chance to attain a lifelong goal - an Olympic gold medal in wrestling.

A Sicklerville resident and 2006 graduate of Winslow Township High in Camden County, Burroughs is considered the favorite to win the gold in freestyle wrestling at 74 kilograms (163 pounds). He ensured that there would be no sneaking up on the opposition after winning the World Wrestling Freestyle Championship in September in Istanbul, Turkey.

"I am super excited for this," Burroughs said in a phone interview from Nebraska, before he departed for London on Wednesday. "I am trying to seize the moment."

At least he has experience in this aspect.

Burroughs has seized plenty of wrestling moments, beginning with winning the NJSIAA state title at 135 pounds during his senior year at Winslow Township.

He then became a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Nebraska.

Since winning the title at the worlds, Burroughs has also won the 2011 Pan American Games title in Guadalajara, Mexico, and he captured the championship in the Dave Schultz Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colo.

All those were outstanding accomplishments, but nothing would trump an Olympic gold medal.

"I've been dreaming about that since I was 8 years old," Burroughs said.

He competes in a sport that doesn't provide much national publicity outside of the Olympics, so Burroughs must manage expectations and not be overwhelmed by the atmosphere.

"There is a lot of hype here, and I have to be mentally focused on my goal of winning a gold medal," he said.

During his career, not everything has come easily for the 24-year-old Burroughs, which has made him appreciate even more the stature he has earned.

As a freshman at Winslow Township, the Eagles placed 14 wrestlers in the District competition, the first step toward competing for a state title.

Of those 14, only one wrestler lost his first match.

You guessed it, that was Burroughs, who lost at 103 pounds during a time when he weighed all of 95 pounds.

"He doesn't like that story being told of him losing, but it shows his great determination," said Rick Koss, his coach all four years at Winslow Township, who has maintained a close relationship with Burroughs and will attend the Olympics to watch him compete.

Koss said that it was an extremely difficult field in which Burroughs competed. Instead of hanging his head, Burroughs used the opening-round defeat to continue to improve.

"He was special from Day 1," Koss said. "He is the most competitive person I have ever coached."

As a junior at Winslow Township, Burroughs lost in the final in overtime of the 2005 NJSIAA state championship at 125 pounds but rebounded to become a state champion the next year.

Similarly at Nebraska, he didn't start out an immediate champion. His first year he qualified for the NCAA championships and went 1-2 in the tournament. As a sophomore he placed third at 149 pounds before winning his first NCAA title as a junior at 157 pounds in 2009.

The next year he suffered a season-ending knee injury and was a medical redshirt.

Burroughs returned in 2011 to win the NCAA title at 165 pounds, earning the title in his own backyard because the championships were held at the Wells Fargo Center.

Even after winning the gold at the World Championships, Burroughs still had some unfinished business - qualifying at the U.S. Olympic Trials in April at the University of Iowa.

He did so in unconventional fashion, defeating Andrew Howe of the University of Wisconsin by injury default. Burroughs won the first match of their best-of-three final, but Howe wasn't able to continue after suffering a knee injury.

"It was kind of weird winning after he was injured in the first match," Burroughs said. "But part of this sport is staying healthy, and that was out of my control."

Regardless of the Olympic outcome, Burroughs says he plans to continue wrestling and is looking to compete in the 2016 Games. But he only talks about the future when asked.

"I will wrestle in 2016," he said. "Right now my focus is on London, but I love the sport and want to keep competing."

The fate of Burroughs and other 163-pound wrestlers will all be decided in one day. The entire 163-pound competition takes place on Aug. 10.

Even though he is the favorite, Burroughs said he won't wilt under heightened expectations.

"There is no more pressure than I put on myself because I hold myself to a high standard," he said. "I look at it as an opportunity to showcase to the world what I am capable of doing."


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|