LIMA, Peru -- Twelve years. That’s how long it’s been since a wrestler not named Jordan Burroughs won gold in the men’s 74 kg. finals at the Pan American Games. Burroughs claimed his third consecutive Pan American Games gold medal and Kyle Snyder, 97 kg., his second straight in another successful evening for USA Wrestling in Lima.
Patrick Downey also won bronze in the men’s 86 kg., and Nick Gwiazdowski added a gold medal in the men’s 125 kg.
Burroughs, a 2012 Olympic champion and four-time world champion, kicked off the evening for Team USA. He came into his final match having won his first match against Abel Herrera of Peru by a score of 10-0 and then defeated Geandry Garzon of Cuba 15-4. He went on to defeat Franklin Gomez of Puerto Rico 4-1 in the final contest
While the score was far closer than Burroughs’ previously matches, he appeared comfortable and in control of his bout for the duration. After the first period, Burroughs led 1-0. Burroughs was then penalized for fleeing the mat, which tied the score at 1-1. He took back over the lead with a step out and concluded the match with a takedown with 30 seconds left.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for [Gomez] as a wrestler and an athlete,” Burrough said. “I know it’s not going to be easy anytime I step out there. As I get older, it gets harder. I just try to refine myself more when I get out there and be more prepared when I step onto the mat.”
Burroughs, 31, talked about the differences between winning his first Pan American Games gold medal and his third.
“Your physical body starts to deteriorate, but your mind can stay sharp a lot longer than your body can stay fit,” he said. “I’m not going to say I lost a step from when I was 22 or 23 [years old], but it becomes harder to get up in the morning.”
While Burroughs continues to compete at a high level, he is a very different person than who he was when he first took the mat with USA Wrestling. He has a wife, Lauren, and two children, Beacon and Ora, which means obligations outside of the wrestling room. It also means physical changes that require he adjust his strategy in order to stay at the top of his game – and the top of the podium.
“When I lace up my shoes, I’m going to do my best to get my hand raised. Fortunately for me, Team USA has a lot of young wrestlers who are setting the world on fire, and those guys motivate me and inspire me daily.”
Burroughs knows that even if he’d like to, he can’t continue wrestling forever. He views this next year of competition, with the Pan American Games Lima 2019, 2019 Wrestling World Championships and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, through a new lens.
“I’m trying to stay in the moment, focus on the process, trust my coaching staff, my training partners. This might be the last time I get the chance to do this,” Burroughs said, “This might be my last go-around. I want to treat this of a victory lap of sorts for this cool legacy I’ve created for myself.”
Snyder, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, defeated Jose Diaz of Venezuela in a very different way than he, admittedly, anticipated. Diaz took an early 3-0 lead in the match, surprising Snyder and the spectators, who grew wildly in the underdog’s favor.
“I was surprised,” Snyder said. “I didn’t expect to be down by any points at all. He did a good job in the first period and shut my offense down a little bit. It was good to be able to score some points in the second period.”
Snyder then went on a 9-0 run to easily win the match 9-3.
While the start of the bout didn’t go the way Snyder had planned, he spoke fondly of what the experience provides for him going into the competitions ahead.
“In practice, I put myself in those situations [where I am down] to try and make it as real as I can,” he described. “When I shot the double and he threw me by, it was surprising because… normally guys can’t do that. It seemed like he was prepared for it. I need to be a little more stingy in that position. It’s good to experience all types of situations to prepare you for your future matches.”
In total, USA Wrestling won 15 medals – six in men’s freestyle, five in women’s freestyle and four in Greco-Roman. The U.S. men’s freestyle team, specifically, took home a medal in every weight class.
The 2019 World Wrestling Championships begin on September 14 in Kazakhstan.