Wrestling isn’t modern enough for the Olympics. The sentence sounds outdated, perhaps snobbish, but that’s the main reason why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has chosen to eliminate the sport from the 2020 Olympic Games.
Forget that wrestling has been in all but one Olympics since 1896. It’s not viewer friendly. It doesn’t entertain fans. It’s old news.
“It’s saddening, disheartening, frustrating,” said Jordan Burroughs, who won a gold medal at the 2012 London Games, in an interview with Metro. “It’s sad because it’s a sport I’ve grown to love since I was 5 — taking that away, the chance to win a gold medal, that’s the pinnacle of any wrestler’s career.”
Burroughs, a Sicklerville, N.J. native, has every right to protest the decision, maybe even turn in his gold medal, like some fellow Olympians have threatened. He won’t. In fact, Burroughs refuses to take pot shots at the more suspect events staying. The IOC is actually considering eight new sports, including roller derby.
“I’ve never been one to underestimate the other Olympic sports,” Burroughs said. “I want people to understand the amount of commitment we put in, all the Olympic athletes. Roller derby, modern pentathlon … these people put in the same commitment we do [as wrestlers]. Instead of removing sports, they should add them. The more sports the better.”
Burroughs, along with USA Wrestling, has taken the fight viral with the website, Keep Wrestling In The Olympics. The Facebook page has almost 100,000 likes. Burroughs is doing his part, supporting the movement on social media and obliging every media request he can. Still, he admits that he is only one man.
“We need support from non-traditional wrestling fans,” he said. “I’m trying to do my best, but it’s hard to do it on my own.”
Until then, Burroughs will continue to train. He just returned from the Wrestling World Cup in Iran, where he went 5-0 and Team USA placed third, and he’ll compete in the Wrestling World Championships in Budapest, Hungary taking place in September. Burroughs also plans to pursue a second gold medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s not just about winning championships anymore,” Burroughs said. “I love to wrestle, I love to train, I love to compete. When I step out on the mat, it’s not about winning gold medals anymore. I just want to perform at the highest level and show people the commitment I have for the sport.”
And, speaking of gold medals, where is that shiny piece of validation at these days?
“I keep it at home on my dresser. It’s just sitting there, just hanging out [not in a trophy case],” Burroughs said. “The memory of being an Olympic champion, and the pursuit of that dream, is a lot more memorable than the medal.”
Quest for gold started in Jersey
Jordan Burroughs got into wrestling after watching WWE, then he picked up a flier in his elementary school [Winslow Township Elementary School] and began his journey, one cultivated and encouraged strongly by his parents. His mother, Janice, was one of the first people he embraced after winning gold in London.
“I didn’t know if there would be tight ropes or chairs in the ring, but I wanted to experience it [wrestling],” Burroughs said, referring to his elementary school days. “I got into it, my parents got into it and I just stuck with it.”
Would he ever consider joining WWE?
“Probably not now. I loved it as a kid but not anymore,” he said.
And while Burroughs lives in Nebraska, where he attended college, he never forgets his Philly roots.
“I love Wawa. I wish they had it here in Nebraska,” he said. “Jersey is definitely close to my heart, even if I never return there. It helped mold me into the man I am today.”
The ‘golden’ moment
Burroughs can still recall fondly the moment he pinned Sadegh Goudarszi of Iran in the 163-pound weight class to strike gold. He rushed into the stands immediately after and was mobbed by friends and family.
“Awesome, exhilarating, complete euphoria,” Burroughs said. “It was the best moment in my entire life, not just athletically, in my entire life.”
Burroughs had drawn some criticism from his peers after he guaranteed that he would win gold on Twitter. It was tough to trash the guy after he backed up his brag.
“Some people thought I was arrogant, conceited,” Burroughs said. “I realized what I needed to do to be the best. To each his own, I don’t shun anyone from having their own opinion and ideas on my social media network. I knew what I needed to do to be the best.”
When Burroughs went back to Iran in February for the Wrestling World Cup, he was surprised by the reception he received. He was greeted like nothing happened, despite beating one of their own in the Olympic final.
“There were no hard feelings, very accepting,” Burroughs said. “Politically, with the government, nothing [animosity] existed. It was all about wrestling and it was really, really awesome.”