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RETURN OF THE GUNSLINGER: Jordan Burroughs wins sixth World Championship in Oslo

 Jordan Burroughs, who for a decade had been the bedrock of USA Wrestling’s Freestyle program, was defeated by Kyle Dake in two straight matches at the 2020 Olympic Trials. It would be the first time since Burroughs graduated from the University of Nebraska that he failed to make a World or Olympic team.

During the 2020 Games, Burroughs served alongside Oklahoma State Head Coach and six-time World and Olympic Champion John Smith as television color commentator. While Burroughs did well in the role, it was clear that he would rather be on the mat than in the booth. Though many speculated the Trails may be Burroughs’ last stand, it became evident that Burroughs wasn’t ready to retire as the Games progressed. During Dake’s quarterfinal loss to Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau of Belarus, Burroughs’s voice went quiet mid-match. He remained silent for three more matches before he finally began again contributing to the broadcast. Though Dake went on to win the Bronze, it was clear that Burroughs wanted to return to competition.

The Burroughs comeback began at the 2021 World Team trials, where the five-time World/Olympic Champion won three straight matches, at a new weight of 79 kg, up from 74 kg. The crafty veteran Burroughs looked smaller than Alex Dieringer in the best-of-three finals but took both matches 10–5 and 4–3. Though smaller, Burroughs energy level seemed much higher at the larger weight. At age 33, the cut to 74 kg became more difficult than in previous years. In the Olympic Trials, Burroughs was clearly at a strength disadvantage to Dake. Since the 79 kg division isn’t not an approved division at the Olympics, Burroughs, the foundation of the US team, had little choice but to stay at 74 kg.

At the second day of the 2021 World Championships in Oslo, Norway, Burroughs entered his first International event, unseeded, at his new weight. In the opening round, Burroughs defeated Sam Barnish of Canada via 10–0 technical superiority before Bolat Sakayev of Kazakstan withdrew from their Round of 16 match. Burroughs defeated Radik Valiev of the Russian Federation 9–4, then beat Japan’s Ryuki Yoshida 10–1 in the semifinals. The win secured Burroughs a chance to win his sixth World or Olympic Championship.

As the match wore on, like an aging gunslinger, Burroughs drew his best, most-trusted weapon: the double leg.

In the finals, Burroughs faced Mohammad Nokhodi of the Islamic Republic of Iran. After a disappointing showing at the Olympic Games, the Iranian contingent stands in first place, just ahead of the US heading into tomorrow’s final day of the Men’s Freestyle competition. With heavily bandaged foreheads, both men collided for personal and national pride.

Burroughs relied on his speed and power early in his career, trucking opponents with his explosive double leg. After being scouted heavily over the years, Burroughs adapted his technique to include a low single leg and the best re-attack in the world. As the match wore on, like an aging gunslinger, Burroughs drew his best, most-trusted weapon: the double leg. Burroughs blast through Nokhodi with two explosive double leg attacks to win his sixth Championship medal and bringing the United States to within one point of Iran.

If the United States wants to win the World Championship team title, Kyle Snyder will need to average his Olympic finals loss to Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia in the latest chapter of their storied rivalry. Action from Oslo continues Tuesday morning.

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