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Best Husker Wrestlers Ever: No. 1 Jordan Burroughs

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Burroughs won two NCAA titles at Nebraska while putting together the most impressive career in a Husker singlet

Olympics Day 14 - Wrestling
LONDON, ENGLAND - Jordan Burroughs celebrates his Olympic gold medal in the Men’s Freestyle 74 kg at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

We have reached the conclusion of our list of the best Huskers to ever step on the mat, and quite honestly, the top spot was the easiest to pin down considering one of the greatest American wrestlers ever went through Lincoln.

In case you missed it, here’s the list so far.

No. 2 Bill Scherr

No. 3 Bryan Snyder

No. 4 Tolly Thompson

No. 5 Brad Vering

No. 6 Robert Kokesh

No. 7 James Green

No. 8 Jason Powell

No. 9 Jason Kelber

No. 10 Rulon Gardner

Honorable mentions: Jim Scherr, Mike Nissen and Corey Olson

No. 1 Jordan Burroughs (2006-11)

NCAA Photos Archive Getty Images

Jordan Burroughs put together a Husker career that was head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. In fact, naming the greatest Husker wrestler ever was similar to naming the greatest basketball player ever for the Chicago Bulls. Easy answer.

As a Husker, Burroughs finished with a 128-20 career record, winning two NCAA titles and three conference titles while earning All-American honors three times. Burroughs won the 2011 Hodge Trophy, given to the nation’s most outstanding college wrestler. He’s the only Husker to ever win the award, which is like the Heisman Trophy for college wrestling. Burroughs is sixth on the all-time win list at Nebraska and holds the sixth-best win percentage (.865). As an upperclassman, Burroughs put together the only two undefeated seasons ever by a Husker.

Despite where he’s at now, Burroughs wasn’t always considered the best. In fact, he wasn’t all that highly recruited out of high school. The 2006 New Jersey state champion, Burroughs was sort of a late addition to the Husker recruiting class.

As a freshman, Burroughs cracked the starting lineup midway through the season after moving from 141 pounds to 149. Burroughs finished the year with a third-place finish at the Big 12 Championships to qualify for the NCAA tournament. At nationals, Burroughs lost a first-round matchup 3-1 to top-seed Dustin Schlatter of Minnesota. He then won his second match 8-2 before a four-overtime 6-1 loss. Burroughs finished the year with a 16-13 record.

Burroughs improved mightily as a sophomore at 149 pounds, going 34-6 on the year. He showed off his offense and penchant for takedowns as he set a school record for dual takedowns in a season with 98, finishing with a 14-3 dual record. He surrendered just seven takedowns in duals. The sophomore led the team with 12 major decisions and eight tech fall victories.

At the Big 12 Championships, the top-seeded Burroughs won both of his matches to win his first conference title. Burroughs recorded 10 takedowns in a 24-9 tech fall win over Oklahoma’s Will Rowe before scoring a 15-6 major decision against Iowa State’s Mitch Mueller. At the NCAA tournament, Burroughs won his first three matches before falling in the semifinal round to Iowa’s Brent Metcalf, the eventual national champion (video below). It was a moment that Burroughs has acknowledged he wasn’t ready for and it really pushed him to improve. Burroughs battled back with two wins to finish in third place, earning All-American honors.

As a junior, Burroughs moved up to 157 pounds and put together the best season Nebraska had ever seen, as he went 35-0 to win the NCAA title. Early in the season, Burroughs put the whole weight class on notice when he beat the defending NCAA champion Jordan Leen of Cornell at the Midlands Final. During the dual season, Burroughs re-set the school record for dual takedowns with 117 in 19 duals while just giving up one takedown (to Missouri’s Michael Chandler). Again, Burroughs led the team in tech falls (5) and major decisions (15).

At the 2009 Big 12 Championships, Burroughs again went 2-0 to win conference gold, beating Chandler 6-4 in the final. At the NCAA tournament, Burroughs went 5-0 to win Nebraska’s 10th individual national title. Burroughs won every match leading up to the final by bonus points, winning by 23-7 tech fall, pinfall, 14-6 major decision and a 12-4 major decision win in the semifinal round against Iowa State’s Cyler Sanderson. In the final, Burroughs defeated undefeated Michael Poeta of Illinois 5-1.

In what would have been Burroughs’ senior season in 2009-10, the defending national champion started the season winning his first seven matches, but his season was cut short when he tore his PCL and LCL in his knee against 13th-ranked Steve Brown of Central Michigan. Burroughs still found a way to finish the match, but lost 3-2 in overtime, ending his 44-match win streak.

Burroughs was granted a medical redshirt, so he was able to compete in 2010-11 for his senior season. Burroughs again went up a weight class to 165 pounds. The senior put together another season for the ages, as he went 36-0, won another NCAA title and won the Hodge Trophy.

Burroughs was a terror to open his senior campaign, winning his first 17 matches with bonus points. His streak was snapped in a 10-7 win over defending NCAA champion Andrew Howe of Wisconsin at the Midlands Final. In another undefeated dual season, Burroughs again re-set the Husker record for dual takedowns in a season with 132 over 19 matches. Burroughs didn’t give up a single takedown in dual competition.

At the Big 12 Championship, Burroughs again went 2-0 to win the title, this time defeating Oklahoma’s Tyler Caldwell 2-1 in the final after winning a 16-8 major decision in the semis.

In his final NCAA tournament, Burroughs solidified himself as one of the best wrestlers ever. He went 5-0 to win the 165-pound weight class with all five wins coming with bonus points. In the final, Burroughs defeated Caldwell 11-3.

As impressive as his collegiate career was, Burroughs continued to improve when he hit the senior level. In fact, he’s been the face of U.S.A. Wrestling for nearly a decade now, building a resume as one of the best to ever step foot on a wrestling mat. Burroughs currently holds a 189-8 record at the senior level. Burroughs won an Olympic gold medal at 74kg in 2012 and is a four-time World Champion (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017). Burroughs also won bronze medals at the World Championships in 2014, 2018 and 2019. A six-time World Cup Champion (2012-15, 2017-18), Burroughs has also won three Pan American Games gold medals and four gold medals at the Pan American Championships. On top of that, Burroughs has won five US Open titles. His 69-match win streak to start his career is the longest win streak ever by an American wrestler.

Burroughs wasted no time transitioning from folkstyle wrestling (college) to freestyle wrestling. In fact, less than a month after winning his second NCAA title, Burroughs competed in and won the US Open (video below). He then beat former NCAA champ Andrew Howe in a best-of-three at the US World Team Trials to make the World Team. Burroughs went 5-0 at the World Championships to win his first world title, making him just the fourth wrestler ever to win an NCAA title and a World Championship in the same year.

Here’s Burroughs winning his first World Championship.

In 2012, Burroughs again won the US Open before beating Howe at the US Olympic Team Trials. He also won the World Cup Championship that year.

But it was in London that Burroughs picked up his most serious hardware. At the 2012 Olympic Games, Burroughs defeated Francisco Soler of Puerto Rico in the first round before downing Canada’s Matt Gentry in the quarterfinal round. In the semifinal round, Burroughs beat Denis Tsargush of Russia before facing Iran’s Sadegh Goudarzi in the final. Burroughs beat Goudarzi 1-0, 1-0 to win Olympic gold.

In 2013, Burroughs again won the US Open and the World Cup while also downing four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake at the US World Trials. It was at the 2013 World Championships that Burroughs may have pulled off his most impressive feat of his career. With less than a month before the World Championships, Burroughs broke his ankle. He got surgery the next day to insert a metal plate with five screws and his team kept things quiet about the injury leading up until the World Championships. Burroughs couldn’t even walk for two weeks.

With the World Championships coming up, Burroughs decided to give it a go and launched himself into legendary status when he went 5-0 to win his second World Championship.

In 2014, Burroughs won the US Open, World Cup and Pan America Champioinship. But he also saw his undefeated streak to start his career come to an end at 69 wins after losing to America’s Nick Marable, a 4-4 loss on criteria at the Marable Yashur Dogu Grand Prix. He then fell short in his bid for his third World Championship due to a knee injury. Burroughs beat 3-time NCAA Champion David Taylor at the US World Team Trials, but he suffered a sprained MCL in his first match at the World Championships. Burroughs went on to win his first two matches despite the injury, but he suffered a 9-2 loss to Tsargush of Russia in the semifinal round. Burroughs went on to win the bronze medal, his first time not winning gold at a World Championship or the Olympics.

The next year, Burroughs again won the World Cup before defeating Dake 6-3, 14-4 at the World Team Trials. At the Pan Am Games, Burroughs recorded three tech falls to win gold. Also, looking for redemption for his 2014 bronze medal, Burroughs won another World Gold Medal in 2015. Burroughs went 6-0 with three wins by tech fall, including a 10-0 win in the final to earn his third World Championship gold medal.

In 2016, Burroughs again tech-falled his way to another Pan American Championship gold medal before defeating Andrew Howe at the Olympic Team Trials.

In what is the first tournament Burroughs has been in that he didn’t earn any hardware, the 2016 Olympics were the low point of his career. The heavy favorite to repeat at 74kg, Burroughs won his first match before a stunning 3-2 defeat to Russia’s Aniuar Geduev. He then lost 11-1 by tech fall to Uzbekistan’s Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, heading home without a medal.

In 2017, Burroughs got back to his winning ways with US Open and World Cup titles. He again beat Dake at the World Team Trials to punch his ticket to represent the U.S.A. at the World Championships. Again, Burroughs went 5-0 through the bracket to win his fourth World Championship, giving him five world gold medals (1 Olympic, 4 World) just one gold medal shy of the US record holder John Smith’s record of six gold medals.

Burroughs beat another multiple-time NCAA champ at the World Team Trials in 2018, beating Isaiah Martinez 4-1, 11-1 in Lincoln. At the World Championships, Burroughs dropped a match 6-5 in the quarterfinal round but bounced back with two wins to earn another bronze medal. He won a hard-fought 4-4 match by criteria over Italy’s Frank Chamizo in the bronze medal match.

In 2019, Burroughs won yet another Pan Am gold medal before beating Martinez at the World Team Trials, qualifying for his seventh US World Team. At the World Championships, Burroughs again fell short of the gold medal, going 4-1 to win the bronze medal.

To begin 2020, Burroughs went 3-0 at the Pan Am Championships for his seventh Pan Am gold medal. And he was setting up for possibly the biggest year in his career when Covid-19 shut down the sports community and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo were postponed until 2021. With there only being six Olympic weight classes compared to the 10 during non-Olympic years, that means that Burroughs was setting up for another round in his ongoing rivalry with Kyle Dake, who has won two world championships since moving up to 79kg (not an Olympic weight class). With Dake improving all the time and Burroughs seemingly on the decline, this was supposed to be the match to watch at the US Olympic Trials. Look for them to continue their rivalry in 2021 as they battle for the right to represent Team U.S.A. in Tokyo.

Going forward, Burroughs recently announced that he will be leaving the Nebraska Wrestling Training Center (NWTC) after the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. He will be joining the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center (PRTC), which is located just 23 miles away from his hometown of Sickerville, N.J. He wants to compete through the Olympic Games in 2024.