NCAA champion Jordan Burroughs back on the mat ready for big year in 2011

By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling | Aug. 08, 2010, 1:03 p.m. (ET)
Nebraska's Jordan Burroughs wins the 2009 NCAA title in St. Louis. Larry Slater photo.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Jordan Burroughs was rolling around on the U.S. Olympic Training Center wrestling mats on Monday afternoon.

But not in the role he expected to be in.

The 2009 NCAA champion for Nebraska figured he would win his second straight national title for the Huskers in 2010 and then make his first U.S. World Team in freestyle wrestling a few months later.

But Burroughs suffered a knee injury last December that ended his season.

Fortunately for Nebraska, Burroughs was granted a medical redshirt and will return as a senior during the 2010-11 college season. He is looking to become the first Husker to win two NCAA titles.

Burroughs has just been cleared to wrestle live and was taking part in the U.S. World Team Camp this week in Colorado Springs.

Burroughs, a past U.S. Junior World Team member, placed third in the NCAAs as a sophomore at 149 pounds in 2008. He bumped up a weight class to win the NCAA title at 157 in 2009. He was competing at 157 before being injured this past season.

The New Jersey native is seriously considering a move up to 165 for his senior season. Wisconsin's Andrew Howe, another top prospect in freestyle wrestling, won the NCAA title at 165 as a sophomore this past season.

Burroughs recently turned 22. He stands just 10 credits shy from earning his sociology degree from the University of Nebraska.

Burroughs sat down with USA Wrestling communications manager Craig Sesker for an interview following Monday afternoon's practice.

How long has it been since you've wrestled live?

December 19, 2009. I was wrestling Steve Brown of Central Michigan in a dual meet. He's a pretty tough wrestler who is pretty athletic. We just got into a scramble. He grabbed my foot and it just rolled. I got caught in a funky position where my (left) knee was caught between his legs. I heard it crack a couple of times, and I knew I was pretty messed up.

What was the extent of your injury?

I tore my PCL and LCL ligaments. The doctors told me it was going to take me a long time to come back, maybe even as long as a year. It was surreal, to see all your hopes and dreams you had for the next year be flushed down the drain. It was kind of a scary moment.

Did you know right away you had a shot at getting a medical redshirt?

I was scared at first, but then I was told I was under the 30 percent rule by one match. The crazy thing was my grandfather had passed away the week before I had gotten hurt. I had to miss the dual to go to his funeral. If I would've wrestled in that dual, I would have wrestled too many matches to qualify for a medical redshirt.

Having to sit out for so long, how difficult was that for you?

It's been real tough, it's been difficult. I just had to continue to work hard and persevere through the hard times. I have a golden opportunity to come back and wrestle for Nebraska for one more season, and win another national title. I'm very excited about that.

How serious are you about moving up to 165 for your final college season?

I'm weighing about 175 right now. I've been hitting the weights real hard, and I worked hard on my upper body after I injured my knee. I had never even lifted weights until I got to college. My left leg is actually stronger than my right leg now after all the rehab I've done on it.

How much are you looking forward to battling Andrew Howe, a two-time NCAA finalist, during the upcoming college season?

Every weight class is tough. Everyone is talking about the matchup between me and Howe. He's a great wrestler. We're both national champs. He's the No. 1 guy right now. I'm looking forward to the challenge of facing him. It will be fun.

How excited are you about jumping into freestyle wrestling full-time?

That's one of the reasons I'm considering moving up to 165 in college. My freestyle weight class will be 74 kilos, which is 163 pounds. I know I need to get bigger and stronger to face guys like Travis and Trent Paulson, and Andrew Howe. Those guys are huge.

What goals have you set for your international career?

I want to win an Olympic gold medal. I expected to be on the World Team this year - that was the plan. Things got pushed back a year now because of my injury. I want to make the World Team next year and then make a run at the Olympics in 2012. I'm planning to wrestle at least through the next Olympic cycle in 2016.

How long have the Olympics been a goal for you?

It's been a goal since I was a kid. I would love the opportunity to represent my country on a big stage like that. I would love to win it. There is a lot of money involved if you win it now, too. But the biggest thing for me would be representing your country and winning the gold for the United States.

What would you do if you won the $250,000 Living the Dream medal bonus for earning an Olympic gold medal?

It would be pretty amazing. I would probably just save it. I am thinking about starting my own wrestling club at some point. I would probably eventually use it to start a club back on the East Coast.