INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- On a personal level, U.S. freestyle wrestler Jordan Burroughs continued to dominate to the international field at the 42nd FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup last weekend at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
The Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion won all five of his matches at the world cup. But Team USA lost to Iran in one of the pool sessions and fell into the third-place match against Ukraine on Sunday.
As satisfying as it was for Burroughs to win all his matches, including one over Ezzatollah Akbari Zarinkolaei of Iran, he wants to see his team start winning world championships.
“I understand how great a team they have,” Burroughs said. “I understand how great a team we have. But that’s the reason why we have these matches. I want to go out next year and win this thing.”
Burroughs pinned two of his opponents during the meet. He dominated Zarinkolaei 7-1 in his match against Iran. But Burroughs was one of only three wrestlers from the United States to win matches against Iran. Team USA lost, 5-3.
Despite the loss, Team USA earned the support of the Iran fans in its third-place match against Ukraine. The United States is respected in the international wrestling community, but it is not quite at the level of world champion.
“The good thing about the Iranian people is that they actually respect the sport of wrestling, regardless of race, gender or home country,” Burroughs said. “It’s awesome to see that kind of showmanship out there.”
Burroughs, a two-time NCAA champion at Nebraska, won the gold medal in the 74-kilogram division at the London 2012 Olympic Games. He is undefeated in world cup matches at 15-0. But Team USA coach Zeke Jones said Burroughs has room to improve, and expects to see it in 2014.
“The outcome goals are obviously to be world champion again,” Jones said. “But I think it’s more than that. The key for Jordan is consistently getting better and improving.”
Burroughs was impressive at the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup. In his final match, against Giya Chykladze of the Ukraine, Burroughs won 15-4. It was the biggest margin of victory of all his teammates.
“I think Jordan felt more like he wanted to put on a show,” Jones said. “He picked that guy apart in terms of scoring on him. I think he wanted to do it with a little more flare than what happened out there.”
Jones said that Burroughs can still make the most improvement in his mental approach to wrestling.
As an Olympic champion and world champion, Burroughs has become the target of opponents all over the world. Burroughs needs to remember what it was like climbing to the top, Jones said.
“He needs to still be the hunter,” Jones said. “Now people are after him. But he still shouldn’t lose the mentality of what was it like when he was trying to get on top.”
Even though Burroughs went undefeated at the world cup, Jones noticed some flaws in his matches.
“I’d grade him high. I don’t know if I would grade it a perfect performance,” Jones said. “I’d grade it a good performance. Of course outcome, he won. But I still think there are things he can improve upon.”
If the United States is going to overtake Iran and Russia atop the international wrestling community, Burroughs will be a big part of it, Jones said. The team is improving, and Jones said he needs Burroughs to stay on top of his game to continue to make progress.
“I think we’re knocking on the door of being the best in the world,” Jones said after the final day of competition in Southern California. “We’re not there yet of course. Iran brought their best team here. We felt what that felt like today. We certainly got work to do. We’re on the cusp now. We just got to hammer it home.”
For Burroughs, that means building on an already strong competition this weekend.
“I got more pins today than I’ve had in my whole career,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s a great crowd out there. Everyone’s cheering and everyone’s excited. Just try to keep the ball rolling and hopefully get some more pins.”