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By Bryan Van Kley
LONDON, England — Defending World champ Jordan Burroughs whose Twitter says a lot about his personality: alliseeisgold. The supremely confident Burroughs had a very specific game plan to how to win his first Olympics on Friday night. And he executed it to gold-medal perfection.
Burroughs methodically defeated Iran’s Sadegh Goudarzi 1-0, 1-0. Ironically, both points were scored with 11 seconds to go in the first and second periods. Not so ironically, both came from Burroughs’ patented double-leg takedown.
When asked in the press conference after winning gold if it mattered that he was wrestling Iranian, Burroughs’ answer was about as Jordan as it gets:
“I’m ready to wrestle anyone who steps across that line. If the queen of England came out on the mat, I would probably double leg her. No offense, I was ready to go!” he said.
Burroughs wrestled a very tactical match against the very strong, stocky Iranian who’s now been in the World/Olympic finals for three straight years. The two foes jockeyed for position throughout the bout, being very careful to not get out of position. Goudarzi likely was wrestling conservatively because of Burroughs’ explosiveness. Burroughs said his plan was to score in the final 15 seconds so Goudarzi wouldn’t have much time to score. And like a big-time homerun hitter, that’s exactly what he did.
“It was a bit of a plan for me. I knew I could take him down at any moment. But I knew it would be a dogfight despite what the score was. I pictured myself taking him down with about 10 seconds left in each period. Then all his shots were really frantic in that last 10 or 15 seconds,” he said.
The double in the first period came off a reshot, something that was critical for Burroughs in the semifinals as well. The New Jersey native knocked off two-time World champ Denis Tsargush of Russia in three periods, 3-1, 0-2, 2-1. Burroughs also defeated Tsargush in the second round of last year’s Worlds in Turkey in September.
Burroughs was pleased he was able to pull his double-leg takedown out of his bag of tricks to win matches at this year’s Olympics. He used primarily singles to win the World title in 2011 and joked that opponents were wary of his double last year. This year, though, he said opponents squared back up to him opening the opportunity for the double again.
After having his hand raised and getting hugs from his coaches, Burroughs was given a U.S. flag for his celebratory lap around the mat. He even jumped up onto the top step of the medal platform in celebration with the flag. After descending and heading over to the corner where his mom was sitting, he jumped up into the stands. He ascended the 20 rows to give him mom, Janice, a hug. It was something he had been planning for quite some time after he won.
Burroughs is not shy in stating what his desire is: to become the greatest U.S. wrestler of all time. The record he’s gunning for to achieve that distinction is John Smith’s six straight World/Olympic medals from 1987 to 1992. Burroughs won No. 2 on Friday night and has “five more to go” he says.
Burroughs has never lost on the Senior level. The win in the finals moved his undefeated streak to 39.
“I’m excited. I’m still young. I’m 24 and got a lot of wrestling left in me. I want to be the best ever. I’ve got a couple more championships left at this point,” he said when asked about where he goes from here. “I’m going to take a couple months off and go back to the drawing board and hopefully not have any close matches in 2013.”
There’s been more hype about Burroughs as the gold-medal favorite than any U.S. wrestler since college superstar Cael Sanderson and the 2004 Athens Olympics. Burroughs brings a lot of that on himself, he appears to revel being in the spotlight, saying being able to joke around about it helps him relax.
Burroughs said his Twitter account had 35,000 followers before the match. Not even four after the win, it was already up over 42,000. He’s got a goal of 100,000 followers in the next week. Burroughs even tweeted the night before the competition began that the next tweet people would get would be a picture of him with the gold medal.
And he delivered in the way big-time performers do who like the spotlight so much.
Burroughs opened his first Olympic Games with a 4-0, 6-0 win over Puerto Rico’s Francisco Soler. He then wrestled another NCAA champ in the second round in former Stanford Cardinal Matt Gentry. Burroughs upended Gentry, whose mother is Canadian, 2-1, 1-1. (Gentry made it to the bronze medal bout, but lost to Tsargush.)
Burroughs had told media a week before the Games that “hopefully he’d be an American hero soon.” With his personality, sense of humor and talent, he may soon be in that category. When asked if he achieved that already with this win, he said time will tell.
“I guess we’ll see in the morning. I’m excited about this opportunity. It’s (Olympic gold) the pinnacle of success for amateur wrestling. We’ll see the level of interest the world has in me. I definitely have an interest in winning multiple gold medals. I want to be that guy who puts us on ESPN,” Burroughs said.
And with five more freestylers yet to hit the mats, Burroughs’ gold and high level of confidence could not come at a better time for his teammates and USA Wrestling as an organization.