For former Husker Jordan Burroughs, this weekend represents a chance to add to his already lengthy legacy.
Up until this year, Burroughs had made nine straight Olympic and World teams at 74 kg. It was his weight. For a decade.
Then the king got dethroned in April at the Olympic Team Trials when longtime rival Kyle Dake broke through to down Burroughs in two straight matches, including the first shutout loss of Burroughs’ senior level career. Dake then went on to win bronze in Tokyo last month, securing his spot at 74 kg for the World Championships in October.
That left Burroughs with only one option. If he wanted to earn another World gold, he’d have to move up from 74 kg (163 pounds) to 79 kg (174) and compete against a whole new crop of competitors.
Also, with 74 kg already locked up with Dake and 86 kg locked up with Olympic Gold Medalist David Taylor, 79 kg is stocked with guys moving up from 74 or down from 86 in an attempt to earn a World Team spot.
This will undoubtedly be one of Burroughs’ biggest tests of his career, and this is just the tournament that would get him to Oslo, Norway to face the rest of the best in the world.
Like I said. Big opportunity here for Burroughs to elevate his legacy even further. Also a big risk of him tarnishing his legacy with a poor showing.
Many people have pondered the question: Could 79 kg actually be Burroughs’ ideal weight class? Especially this late in his career when men just tend to get bigger and tired of cutting weight all the time, I think that’s a valid point.
While Covid-19 shut down most of the sport in 2020, Burroughs still found a way to compete as he took part in two FloWrestling cards against guys in weight classes well above his own. In November 2020, Burroughs downed Zahid Valencia 8-5 at 185 pounds, then in January of this year lost a razor-thin match 4-4 via criteria to David Taylor at 86 kg (189.6 pounds). That’s the same Taylor who is fresh off winning Olympic gold.
Hell, Burroughs himself has even called this his ideal weight class in recent interviews. I’ll take his word for it.
Burroughs goes into this weekend’s 2021 World Team Trials in Lincoln as the No. 1 seed based on his incredible resume that includes Olympic gold, four World golds and three World bronze medals. He’s also won four Pan American Championships, four US Opens, two NCAA titles and three Big 12 titles, among others.
He’s 197-14 in his senior-level career but has lost his last three matches, a 3-2 loss to Italy’s Frank Chamizo at the Matteo Pellicone and then two to Dake at Olympic Trials.
Burroughs will have a plethora of competition in this bracket, led by his biggest obstacle Alex Dieringer, the 2-seed. Dieringer has been competing at 86 kg exclusively since 2019, so it’s hard to say how the weight cut will affect him. If you didn’t know, Dieringer is a very big man for this weight.
A three-time NCAA champ for Oklahoma State, Dieringer finished runner-up to Dake in 2019 at the World Team Trials. I’m betting on a Burroughs-Dieringer final (all finals are best 2 out of 3).
Another threat to Burroughs here is the 3-seed Isaiah Martinez, one of only five Americans to ever beat Burroughs at the senior level, a 5-5 win by criteria. Burroughs is 4-1 against Martinez.
With a 48-12 career record, Martinez also won the 2019 World Cup and took silver at the 2021 US Open. Martinez struggled in that tournament, falling behind Devin Skatzka 9-0 before coming back to win by pinfall. He then injury defaulted out of the final. But the truth remains that Martinez hasn’t lost a match since 2019.
Then there’s 4-seed Jason Nolf. The former three-time NCAA champ for Penn State, Nolf is one of the best college wrestlers ever and has been pretty good on the senior level since. With a 28-9 career record, Nolf most recently finished second at the Olympic Trials after winning the 2020 Pan American Championships gold.
As good as Nolf is, he’s struggled historically against Martinez, who handed him two of his three total collegiate losses and has beaten him three times at the senior level, most recently a 12-0 tech fall win over Nolf.
After Nolf, the field drops off a little bit, but it’s still full of uber-talented wrestlers. Evan Wick, a two-time All-American who finished third at the Olympic Trials in April at 74 kg, got the 5-seed. Taylor Lujan captured the 2021 Senior National Title at 79 kg and will be seeded No. 6, while former Minnesota All-American Devin Skatzka will be the 7-seed.
At the 8-seed will be Tommy Gant, who beat NCAA champ David Carr 7-1 at the Olympic Trials. The rest of the field is filled with current and recent NCAA stars in 9-seed Chance Marsteller, 10-seed David McFadden, 11-seed Carter Starocci (2021 NCAA champ as a freshman at Penn State), 12-seed Michael O’Malley and 13-seed Pat Downey.
Burroughs’ likely path to a World Team will probably go through Gantt in the quarterfinal round before taking on the winner of Nolf and Wick in the semifinal. Then, in the final, he’ll likely have to beat Dieringer twice in three matches.
James Green and Tyler Berger at 70 kg
After losing his first match and forfeiting out of the back side of the Olympic Trials at 65 kg, Green is back to HIS weight class. The former Husker has been Team USA’s representative at 70 kg every year since 2015, so he deserves the 1-seed until someone beats him out of his spot. He’s won two World medals along the way, a bronze in 2015 and silver in 2017.
With a 131-36 senior-level record, Green has been one of the best in the world for a long time. He’s largely done better against this year’s field historically than they have done against him.
Alec Pantaleo, who beat Green in their most recent meeting, will be the 2-seed this weekend. After falling to Green 8-0 to start the Poland Open in June, Pantaleo came back to down Green 5-3 in the final later that day. Green holds a career 3-1 record against Pantaleo.
Pantaleo also won the Pan American Championships in 2021 and holds career wins over six of the top eight guys in this bracket.
A surprise at the 3-seed, Ryan Deakin has past wins over Pantaleo and Green on his resume, but he was also recently tech-falled by Tyler Berger in just over a minute at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier.
The 4-seed Zain Retherford was a three-time NCAA champ for Penn State and has senior-level wins over both Pantaleo and Jordan Oliver. He’s coming off back-to-back losses to Nick Lee and Joey McKenna however, but Retherford has a chance to make a run at this weight.
The 5-seed, Jordan Oliver, recently won the Olympic Trials at 65 kg but failed to qualify the weight for Team USA and didn’t get to compete in Tokyo.
Nebraska’s Tyler Berger, who finished fourth at Senior Nationals in May after taking third place at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier, will be the 6-seed this weekend. At Last Chance, as I referenced above, Berger thoroughly dominated Deakin with a 10-0 tech fall win in 1:02. He also went on to beat Pantaleo 6-6 via criteria in the consolation semis.
So it’s entirely possible that Berger can make a deep run here, as his likely path based on seeds will pit him against Deakin in the quarters before a possible matchup against Pantaleo in the semis. Considering he’s beaten both of them this year, it’s entirely possible we could see an all-Husker Green-Berger final.
At the 7-seed is Minnesota’s Brayton Lee, the third-place finisher at Senior Nationals in May, while Elroy Perkin is the 8-seed. A pair of current Missouri wrestlers round out the field with 9-seed Brock Mauller and 10-seed Jarrett Jacques.
Tanner Farmer Earns 4-seed
Former Husker offensive lineman and national runner-up in wrestling for Concordia, Tanner Farmer will be seeded No. 4 this weekend at 130 kg in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Farmer has had a solid year on the mat, considering he came out of nowhere to win the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier. He’ll have his hands full with the likes of 1-seed Cohlton Schultz this weekend.
Tim Dudley Earns 8-seed
Another former Husker, Tim Dudley, goes into the weekend seeded No. 8 at 92 kg. The three-time All-American and NCAA finalist for the Huskers, Dudley will draw 1-seed J’den Cox in the first round. Considered to be one of the best wrestlers in America at any weight, Cox will be tough to beat.
If Dudley can down the former Olympic bronze medalist, it would likely be the upset of the tournament.