Jordan Burroughs says Mark Manning "develops you up" as both a man and a wrestler.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Burroughs Battled the Best to Become the Best

By NU Athletic Communications

  Randy York’s N-Sider

   (Second of a 3-Part Series)

With NCAA wrestling power and No. 3-ranked Iowa in Lincoln Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. dual against No. 8 Nebraska, now is an appropriate time to publish the second of a 3-part series on Jordan Burroughs.  Part 1 recounted Burroughs’ easy recruitment to Nebraska, and Part 2 cements the decision he made to be a Husker. His meteoric rise to become the Face of USA Wrestling is intriguing. He is an iconic, ironic figure who believes landing in Lincoln was the greatest thing that could happen.

In Burroughs’ eyes, Mark Manning was the perfect athlete-to-coaching connection because Nebraska’s head wrestling coach has the kind of competitive fire he can pass on and the kind of toughness that he can teach.

The Burroughs’ Way Reflects the Nebraska Way

How lucky can a two-time NCAA Champion, a two-time World Champion and an Olympic Gold Medalist get?  Burroughs represented Nebraska every bit as much as he represented America. Every time he stepped on the mat in college, “I wanted to win for Nebraska almost more than I wanted to win for myself,” he said. “Once I got to college, all I had to do was work hard and listen to my coaches. That’s the Nebraska Way – work hard every day, get better every day and climb your way to the top.  People ask me how I did it, and I tell them I just came to the right place…Lincoln, Nebraska.”

Lincoln was the college home of Olympic Gold Medalist Rulon Gardner, who pulled off the biggest individual upset in Olympic history… in any sport. Lincoln is the permanent home of the recently married Burroughs, who produced his own Olympic miracle before returning to Nebraska.  “The difference between Nebraska and so many others,” Burroughs said, “is our coaches are concerned about winning, but they’re even more concerned about establishing a positive lifestyle.  When we’re freshmen, they’re preparing us for life after college.  It’s a winning tradition here.  We produce champions, but we also produce young men who want to be the best they can be on and off the mat.”

28 Collegiate Matches against NCAA Finalists

If there’s one pervasive theme about Burroughs’ collegiate career, it is the way he prepared himself to compete and his intense desire to battle the best to be the best. “You know the most amazing thing about Jordan’s wrestling career at Nebraska?” Manning asked me Friday afternoon.  “When he was a sophomore here, he finished third in the NCAA’s 149-pound class that had four national champions.  It was one of the hardest weight classes in the history of college wrestling.  Want to know something else?  Of the 149 collegiate matches Jordan competed in, 28 of them were against guys who reached the NCAA’s championship match.  That’s unheard of.”

Especially when that benchmark is compared to others who may have equally incredible records and postseason credentials, but have never faced the consistent caliber of competition Burroughs took on.  It was a hard grind, but it paved the way for the New Jersey native to carve a unique niche collegiately and internationally.

A Constant Challenge = Mental Toughness

Burroughs’ two unbeaten national championship seasons are interwoven with one championship quality match after another.  “That challenge and that constant adversity allowed Jordan to transition from being a great college wrestler to being a great international wrestler," Manning said.  "The proof is in the pudding.  He faced a lot of really good, really tough guys who challenged him not only physically, but mentally.  That’s why Jordan is what he is now and does what he does now.  He had a big target on him in college and has an even bigger target on him now all over the world. He has great mental toughness.  He knows he wears a target, and he trains with that in mind. He’s been able to handle it.  He’s the best in the world, so he has to be better than everyone else.  He has to train harder than they do.”

Burroughs shares Manning’s synopsis. “That’s why I came back to Lincoln to live and to train, so I could keep the same habits I learned here,” he said. At Nebraska, winning became a mantra for Burroughs – a focus he needed to lay the foundation in his never-ending pursuit of athletic excellence.  "He wanted to win. He just needed someone to show him how," Manning said. "When I watched him in high school, I could see he had a real quiet determination. He didn't understand the minute aspects of being at the top level and winning the tough matches. But once he figured that out, he just blossomed and became the best wrestler in America and maybe even the best in the world."

Jordan: Lincoln an Awesome Place to Live

Talk about the ripple effect Burroughs has on recruiting. “Lincoln is just an awesome place to live,” he said. “Our facilities are amazing. Our fans are amazing. I came here as a boy and became a man because of everything and everybody around me. When you wrestle for someone you trust, it’s a lot easier for you to compete. When I step out there on that mat, I know that Coach Manning has taught me everything I need to win, and he’s given me everything necessary to be at my best. Nebraska is the best place in the world to become a man because Coach Manning doesn’t try to take away from what you already have or who you already are. He just complements what’s there and develops you a man and as a wrestler.”

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