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A 5-foot-8 New Jersey native and Nebraska graduate won the 74-kilogram (163-pound) Olympic gold medal Friday and in the process, he became the first Olympian to claim the $250,000 prize from the Living the Dream Medal Fund, a program designed to support U.S. wrestling. Make no mistake. Jordan Burroughs represented Nebraska every bit as much as he represented America.
"It was super motivating for me to have a whole country behind me, but my biggest motivation was having the tight-knit community I had while training for this moment in Lincoln," Burroughs said. "I had the whole coaching staff of Nebraska behind me. Coach (Mark) Manning was one of our Olympic coaches and Coach (Bryan) Snyder was here, too. I had my entire family and all the Nebraska fans behind me. If I didn't win a gold medal, people would forget me quickly. But I know my coaches, my teammates, my family and all those Nebraska fans would support me, regardless of how I did. That's why I put all of that hard work in this summer - to win this for Nebraska every bit as much as win it for myself."
One of three assistant coaches on the USA Olympic wrestling staff, Manning was both jubilant and relieved when Burroughs' performance matched his vision - a self-named ALL I SEE IS GOLD website - a lofty claim that he strongly backed up.
Burroughs Sees Wrestling as a Profession
"It's about living in the moment, and Jordan is really a master and a professional of doing that," Manning told the N-Sider. "Jordan was an Olympic athlete, but throughout this whole process, he has strived to be a professional athlete, like Lebron James or Michael Jordan or Tim Tebow. At his level, he sees himself just like those guys, always working hard and always striving to be best.
"He sees wrestling as his profession, and he trains like the highest professional," Manning added. "Since wresting is what he does for a living, he trains, he disciplines his body, he works out and he manages himself athletically, nutritionally, psychologically. He avoids the hoopla. He didn't hear the voices or the naysayers about his website. All he saw was gold, and that's the way he dealt with all the distractions and the unbelievers."
Manning said Burroughs, who was recruited only by Nebraska and Indiana out of high school in Sicklerville, N.J., dealt with naysayers throughout his college career as well as throughout his 38-straight international match winning streak.
Trained to Deal with Pressure and Doubters
"We've trained him on how to deal with pressure and handle doubters at the highest level," Manning said. "It's never been easy, but Jordan has always stayed on top of that, and that's why he ended up on top of the medal stand. For Jordan, living in the moment was a daily, weekly, monthly and annual process. He always had great focus, and that focus really paid off for him on a very competitive and historical day."
Burroughs and Manning have been in London since July 25, and Snyder, his almost daily wrestling partner, arrived in Great Britain, on Aug. 6, four days before the grind of his one-day Olympic challenge. Leroy and Janice Burroughs, Jordan's parents, saw their son make history and now lay full claim to being the new face of USA Wrestling. "The Olympics is a huge event for my parents, and without my success in wrestling, they wouldn't be able to see so much of the world."
Burroughs 26-year-old sister, Jeneria, and an aunt were also in London, as well as former Husker wrestler Vince Jones, a former classmate and teammate from Winslow Township High School in Sicklerville, N.J., and Rick Koss, their high school coach. Even though Burroughs had to separate himself from family pressure, he said that having Manning and Snyder by his side "made me feel comfortable because regardless of the country I'm in, they always make me feel like I'm back home."
Confidence: A By-product of Preparation
Despite the grind, Burroughs described the summer as super-fast. "I competed multiple times, so I stayed in good a shape," he said. "I was able to tweak my wrestling style a little bit in the last month, and I just made sure that we left no stone unturned. I knew every time I stepped on the mat, I was ready to compete at the highest level."
Even though there were physically and emotionally draining moments on Friday, Burroughs was prepared to handle all of them. "Coach Manning helped me with some visualization drills where I had to always be in the moment and always mentally prepared," he said. "I envisioned getting that gold medal, and all I had to do was finally go get it. I was able to stay focused and avoid distractions because I was trained to do that. It's what got me to the gold medal stand. I avoided media coverage for a long period of time because I was in the wrestling room grinding as hard as I could. That's what got me to the top and what helped me stay unbeaten."
According to Burroughs, the entire Olympic experience was humbling. "The spiritual side has been real important for me," he said. "I know I didn't do all of this on my own. I was blessed with a great opportunity, blessed to stay healthy, blessed to be put in this situation and blessed to have so many good people around me all the time. All I had to do was work hard. That's the Nebraska Way, and it helped me continue to be me, continue to succeed and continue to do what I needed to do every day - get better."
Returning to Lincoln for Run at Rio in 2016
In a post-match press conference, U.S. freestyle coach Zeke Jones told the Washington Post that Burroughs can be "the face of American wrestling" and added that "he's put himself in a position to become one of the greatest wrestlers ever."
As the face of USA Wrestling, Burroughs will accommodate as many media requests as he can. He also will find a way to ratchet down his relentless pursuit of gold and then chart the timing of his next move. "I'm definitely going for the gold again in 2016 in Rio (de Janeiro, Brazil)," he said. "I've already decided where I'm going to train ... where I feel the most comfortable ... I wouldn't think of training anywhere else but Lincoln."
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