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By Bryan Van Kley, WIN Publisher
RIO DE JANEIRO — Four-time World/Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs had gold medal dreams when he came to Brazil looking to “cement his legacy” in the sport.
Instead his second Olympics turned into a nightmare as the 74-kilogram superstar not only failed to win a gold medal on Friday, but left Carioca Arena 2 without a medal at all.
After losing 3-2 earlier in the day in the quarterfinals to Russian Aniuar, Burroughs still had a chance at a bronze medal, but was eliminated in a repechage bout by Uzebekistan’s Bekzod Abdurakhmanov, 11-1.
Burroughs, who had lost just two bouts in 131 career starts since 2011 before going 1-2 on the first day of men’s freestyle, said he didn’t handle the recent pressure that comes with being the face of USA Wrestling … as he did since winning three World championships (2011, 13, 15) and the 2012 gold medal in London.
“Today is not indicative of who I am as an individual, as an athlete,” a tearful Burroughs said. “Anyone who knows me truly understands that.”
Burroughs gave up three first-period takedowns to trail 6-0 at the break in his repechage match with Abdurakhmanov, the native of Uzbekistan who later earned All-American honors at Clarion University and is currently a volunteer assistant coach at Harvard.
Burroughs scored his first point 41 seconds into the second period on a stepout to make the score 6-1. However, Abdurakhmanov added two more takedowns in the last 40 seconds of the match. And Abdurakhmanov was given an additional point when U.S. coach Mark Manning contested protest of a call was denied at 5:42, leading to the final 10-point margin and match termination.
The emotional Burroughs was especially hard on himself after the match as he analyzed what happened. He referenced both the family and personal sacrifices that had been made.
“I feel like I let my family down,” said Burroughs, the father of two children with his wife Lauren in Lincoln, Neb. “I missed a lot of milestones in my children’s lives to do this sport/”
Burroughs, a native of New Jersey, said he recognized how rare today’s sad moment was compared to his nearly perfect career before the start of the Rio Olympics.
“Who knows, I could have gone on and won a gold medal today had something slightly changed,” he said. “I wouldn’t be crying and would be in a different room rather than standing here (with reporters after the loss). This is revealing and it’s necessary. I’m going to be stronger because of it.”
Burroughs appeared tight in the first match against Guinea Bissau’s Augusto Midana, an athletic opponent Burroughs only beat 4-3 in the 2014 Worlds.
In the match-anticipated quarterfinal match with the high-powered Geduev, there was plenty of action in the first 10 seconds when the Russian responded from a Burroughs slap by pushing Burroughs backwards during a timeout.
Burroughs seemed somewhat tentative against the powerful, hard-to-score on Russian the rest of the match. Each wrestler had a takedown, but Geduev had the scoring edge from Burroughs being put on the shot clock.
The former two-time NCAA champion from Nebraska appeared to be a shell of himself in repechage after dealing the idea of falling short in becoming the United States’ first back-to-back gold medalist since John Smith in 1988 and ’92.
“I wanted to win and knew I was capable of winning,” Burroughs said. “But sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I’m a man of faith and something good will come out of this. I lost a lot of things today, but my integrity and my character remain.”