Right off of his second loss of the day at the 2016 Olympic Games, Jordan Burroughs graciously agreed to an interview. As a fan of USA Wrestling, this interview was hard to watch. Burroughs definitely did not hold back any emotions, and we truly got to appreciate how much a high level competitor needed to sacrifice in order to be able to compete with the best.
Burroughs talks about how he let his family down and missed a lot of his children’s milestones to pursue wrestling. “I didn’t see my son walk for the first time. I’ve left my wife at home with two kids for long periods of time to go to training camps, to foreign countries. She did that joyfully, not begrudgingly, because she knew on days like these that I would perform. Now I feel like I let her down. I let her down. I let my family down. This was supposed to be my year. This is supposed to be my breakthrough performance that cemented me as a legend in the sport.” For context, the only two-time Olympic gold medalist in American wrestling history is John Smith.
In the interview, Burroughs goes on to talk about how hard he’s worked. Many combat sport practicioners can relate. “I’ve worked hard for four years, man. I’ve done everything right. I’ve spent time away from home. I’ve cut weight, I’ve ran, gotten up early. I sacrificed so much to get here, and I just wanted to show people that. I didn’t want anything from this but for people to understand wrestling’s cool. We work hard….I face the fans, the criticism, the backlash, the trolls. I’ve always made my goals public. The hard thing about being an Olympian is your failures are public, too. At some point, I’ll find out what I did wrong and learn a lesson from this.”
Rising From Defeat
Perhaps as inspiring as Burroughs’ owning up to his losses was his rise from defeat. After this heartbreaking day, Burroughs returned to his winning ways. Having had his technical strategy figured out by his opponents, his opponents also gained confidence knowing that Burroughs was vulnerable. At the World Cup, Burroughs won every one of his matches, but he didn’t win in typical dominant Burroughs fashion. Many of his matches were very close, and fans wondered where his signature double leg takedown was.
The doubt continued as Burroughs proceeded to beat everyone else on American soil, but had a few very close calls along the way. In the best-of-three world team trials finals to determine the US representative at 74 kilos for the World Championships, Burroughs lost the first match of three matches to long time rival and four-time Division 1 NCAA champion Kyle Dake. In round two, Burroughs trailed behind Dake. Commentators wondered if they would witness the first change in USA’s 74kg representative since 2011. In an inspiring performance, Burroughs found a way to win by scoring a takedown and back exposure on Dake, which put him in the lead. Dake tried to take the lead back in the closing seconds, but Burroughs defended the final scoring attempt with seconds left on the clock to force a third match. Finally, in the third match, Burroughs took the lead, kept it, and left no doubt that he would continue to represent the United States in freestyle wrestling.
At the World Championships, Burroughs practically reinvented himself as a champion in one of the most inspiring performances we’ve ever seen. He navigated a brutal bracket where almost every single one of his opponents had placed in the top five of the World Championships in previous years. His first opponent from Azerbaijan went on to win a bronze medal that year. His second opponent from Japan was a former world silver medalist. His third opponent from France finished in fifth place at a previous world championship. His fourth opponent of the day from Uzbekistan had beaten him at the 2016 Olympics and hadn’t given up a single point on the day until their match where Burroughs delivered a clutch performance to win by one point. In his final match of the day, Burroughs defeated a former world champion from 2014 in a back and forth match to take home the gold medal. At the end of it all, one thing was clear.
Success is never guaranteed in sport. Success will never be guaranteed in sport. Knowing that, are you still willing to make the sacrifices necessary in order to reach the highest levels of mastery in your craft?
If your answer is yes, then you are well on your way to making it much farther than the common practitioner in your sport.
What have you had to sacrifice to get to where you are today?
John Smith, the only two-time Olympic gold medalist in USA wrestling history, once talked about his sacrifices too. You can read about them here.
Che is a former collegiate wrestler, member of Thailand’s national freestyle wrestling team, and current combat sport enthusiast. He writes about how to achieve higher physical and mental performance while being on a budget or a busy schedule. You can learn more about Che and his work at: https://chayoot.blog/welcome-to-chayoot-blog/
Wrestling can make or break you in a tournament. If you, like many other want to win the ADCC one day, you better start training wrestling now! This can give you the competitive edge. If you don’t have a place to train wrestling, check out Hudson Taylor’s “Wrestling for BJJ” DVD Set. Hudson was a division 1 all American wrestler and he is a blue belt World Champion.