Jordan Burroughs celebrates after winning the Olympic gold medal(Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
LONDON -- Twenty-eight years ago today, U.S. wrestling legends Dave Schultz and Bruce Baumgartner won Olympic gold medals in Los Angeles. Now another wrestler U.S. wrestling great can be added to that exclusive list of Olympic gold medalists on Aug. 10: Jordan Burroughs.
The 24-year-old Burroughs won four matches on Friday at the ExCeL North Arena 2 in London to claim the Olympic gold medal at 74 kilos, defeating Iran's Sadegh Goudarzi in the gold-medal match 1-0, 1-0. It was a rematch of last year's World Championship gold-medal match, also won by Burroughs.
"I waited for this moment for a long time," said Burroughs. "I told everyone I wanted to be the best for a long time. There's a difference between having a plan and actually executing that plan. A lot of people thought I was cocky. I lot of people didn't think I had what it took to be Olympic champ. I won a World championship last year and they thought maybe I got a little bit lucky. Nobody is laughing anymore."
Burroughs tweeted on Thursday night that he would be an Olympic gold medalist.
"I have a high standard all the time," said Burroughs, whose Twitter handle is @alliseeisgold. "The next tweet I'll have is an Olympic gold medal, and I got it done."
Burroughs said his confidence came from his training.
"I work hard," said Burroughs. "It's easy to be confident when you work as hard as I work. I know the work that I put in. I know the sacrifices and commitments that I make on a daily basis. Whatever I tweet is basically a reflection of all the hard work I put in."
Jordan Burroughs takes a bite out of his Olympic gold medal (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Both Burroughs' points in the gold-medal match came from his trademark double leg, and both in the final 15 seconds of each period. U.S. freestyle coach Zeke Jones believes that was all part of Burroughs' match strategy.
"I think Jordan waited until the end of those periods to score," said Jones. "Could he have scored earlier? Yes. But I think he waited until the end, and then he picked up the pace."
Burroughs, now two-for-two in world-level events, has sights set on becoming the best freestyle wrestler ever. John Smith won six straight World and Olympic titles from 1987 to 1992. Burroughs is the first American freestyle wrestler since Kurt Angle in 1996 to win back-to-back world-level gold medals. He is a perfect 38-0 in his senior level freestyle career since finishing his college career at Nebraska in 2011.
"I want to be the best ever," said Burroughs. "I have a couple more championships to win at this point. Right now I'm feeling great. I'm going to take a couple months off, go back to the drawing board, and hopefully not have any close matches in 2013."
In the semifinals Burroughs defeated Russia's Denis Tsargush, a two-time World champion, in a thrilling match that came down to a third and deciding period.
Jordan Burroughs gets in on a shot against Russia's Denis Tsargush (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Burroughs won the first period 3-1, scoring a takedown and transitioning to an ankle lace and then a pushout. In the second period Tsargush scored with a single leg takedown and then a pushout to win the period 2-0. The third period was scoreless through the first 90 seconds before Burroughs shot in and scored with his double leg. A short time later he scored with a pushout to extend his lead to 2-0 late in the period. Tsargush would add a late one-point takedown, but it wouldn't be enough as Burroughs advanced with a 2-1 victory over the Russian.
"Tough match," said Burroughs's coach Mark Manning, who coached him at Nebraska and now on the senior level. "Jordan didn't wrestle his best there. When it was 30 seconds left, 40 seconds left, he just hit a shot, hit another shot, kind of his signature. Kind of a three-set combination. Hit that patented double leg, baby. Came in handy."
Burroughs' victory over Tsargush came after shutting out Puerto Rico's Francisco Soler, 4-0, 6-0, in the opening round, and then winning a hard-fought match over a game Matt Gentry of Canada, 2-1, 1-1, in the quarterfinals. Gentry finished fifth, losing to Tsargush, 1-0, 2-0, in the bronze-medal match.
The other U.S. men's freestyle wrestler to compete today was Sam Hazewinkel at 55 kilos. Hazewinkel dropped his first match to 2011 World bronze medalist Dauhelet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan, 3-1, 2-0. The final period came down to a ball draw where Niyazbekov started in the advantageous position and scored the winning point, which the U.S. contested but to no avail.
"What it came down to is he got the offense," said Hazewinkel. "He got the one offensive attack. It's upsetting because I feel like I should beat him. I can't let it go to a ball grab second period, plain and simple. That's what he wanted. He knew he had a fifty-fifty chance there. So I really needed to get my offense going a little more."
John Smith, who is serving as a coach for the U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team, talked about Hazewinkel needing to get to his leg attacks earlier in the match.
"It was a good effort, good opponent, " said Smith. "Just not enough. You need to find those leg attacks a little earlier, especially when you're down a period."
Hazewinkel was eliminated from the competition when Niyazbekov lost to Russia's Dzhamal Otarsultanov in the semifinals. Niyazbekov finished fifth.
"I feel like I let down the USA a little bit," said Hazewinkel. "I came here to do better for the USA and my family and supporters. So that's frustrating."
Hazewinkel is a second generation Olympic wrestler. His father Dave and uncle Jim both competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games as members of the U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling team. Hazewinkel and his father became the first father-son combination to make a U.S. Olympic Team in wresting.
"I would have liked to have added to the tradition and got us an Olympic medal," said Hazewinkel. "But at the same time my career is not over. I got a taste for it now. My dad made six straight teams. My uncle made seven. So hopefully this is the start for me."
Three more U.S. wrestlers will take to the mats Saturday in London, Coleman Scott (60 kilos), Jake Herbert (84 kilos), and Tervel Dlagnev (120 kilos).
Scott, who is in the top half of the bracket at 60 kilos, opens with Seung-Chul Lee of Korea, a 2010 Asian bronze medalist. If Scott gets past Lee, he will face the winner of a match between Olympic silver medalist Vasyl Fedoryshin of Ukraine and Malkhaz Zarkua of Georgia. In the bottom half of the bracket, four-time World champion Besik Kudukhov of Russia and Franklin Gomez of Puerto Rico, a former Michigan State star, in the first round, a rematch of last year's World finals. Gomez has a recent win over Kudukhov.
Herbert, a 2009 World silver medalist, is paired with Humberto Arencibia of Cuba in his first match. A win would put him in the quarterfinals against the winner of a match between World champion and two-time World medalist Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan and Ibrahim Bolukbasi of Turkey.
Dlagnev, a 2009 World bronze medalist, drew Eldesoky Shaban of Egypt in his first match. If Dlagnev defeats Shaban, he would face the winner of a match between World champion Aleksei Shemarov of Belarus and Daniel Ligety of Hungary. Two-time Olympic champion Artur Taymazov of Uzbekistan is on Dlagnev's side of the bracket, while Russia's Bilyal Makhov, a three-time World champion, is on the other side of the bracket.
Russian Otarsultanov claims gold at 55 kilos
Russian Dzhamal Otarsultanov, a two-time Junior World champion, claimed his first World gold on the senior level, beating another two-time Junior World champion, Vladimer Khinchegashvili of Georgia, 1-0, 4-3 in the gold-medal match at 55 kilos.
Otarsultanov defeated two-time World champion Viktor Lebedev to make the Russian team.
Day 6 Olympic Wrestling Placewinners (Men's Freestyle)
Gold: Dzhamel Otarsulatnov (Russia)
Silver: Vladimer Khinchagashvili (Georgia)
Bronze: Kyong-Il Yang (North Korea)
Bronze: Shinichi Yumoto (Japan)
5th: Daulet Niyazbekov (Kazakhstan)
5th: Radoslav Velikov (Bulgaria)
7th: Mihran Jaburyan (Armenia)
8th: Hassan Rahimi (Iran)
9th: Ahmet Peker (Turkey)
10th: Amit Kumar (India)
Gold: Jordan Burroughs (United States)
Silver: Sadegh Goudarzi (Iran)
Bronze: Soslan Tigiev (Uzbekistan)
Bronze: Denis Tsargush (Canada)
5th: Gabor Hatos (Hungary)
5th: Matt Gentry (Canada),
7th: Davit Khutishvili (Georgia)
8th: Augusto Midana (Guinea-Bissau)
9th: Ashraf Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
10th: Abdulhakim Shapiev (Kazakhstan)