Jordan Burroughs sprained an MCL in his first-round match at the World Championships, advanced to the semifinals, suffered his first-ever defeat to a foreign opponent and rebounded to win a bronze medal Tuesday.
Burroughs, the reigning Olympic and World champion in the 163-pound freestyle division, said he felt a “pretty good pop” during his victory over his first opponent, Augusto Midana of Guinea-Bissau.
“I just remember in the first period, I kind of tweaked it a little bit, trying to run corners,” Burroughs told reporters in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. “It just limited my mobility a little bit. But that’s what happens. You’ve got to protect yourself. Part of being great is being able to stay injury free.”
Burroughs said Midana apologized to him afterward.
“It wasn’t his fault at all,” Burroughs said. “It’s just the nature of the game.”
After that, Burroughs won two more matches and then lost to Russian Denis Tsargush 9-2 in the semifinals while wrestling with a wrapped left leg (video here). Tsargush went on to win gold.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the same, but Tsargush was well prepared,” Burroughs said of his injury, but said later he didn’t feel pain. “I’m not going to make an excuse as to why I lost today. I don’t want to even go there. I don’t want to say that pain was the terms of why I didn’t compete well in the semifinals.”
He came back to win bronze, pinning Ukraine’s Rustam Dudaiev.
“Jordan couldn’t move like he usually does,” U.S. coach Bruce Burnett said, according to USA Wrestling. “He did the best he could. He showed a lot of character and resolve and guts. … He’s a class act and a great leader for our team. I would’ve liked to have seen him wrestle Tsargush when both guys were 100 percent.”
Burroughs moved to 92-2 in his international career, having suffered his first loss to countryman Nick Marable on Feb. 15.
Tsargush won the 2009 and 2010 World Championships, before Burroughs began his run of three straight global titles in 2011.
Tsargush, 27, was the only man to push Burroughs, 26, to three periods at the 2012 Olympics, in the semifinals. He did the same at the 2011 World Championships in the round of 16. They did not meet at the 2013 Worlds, won by Burroughs four weeks after breaking an ankle.
“I didn’t go home with what I wanted, which was gold, but I still got a bronze, so I’m happy about that,” Burroughs said. “There’s going to be a lot more years to come of great wrestling between us two.”
The U.S.’ other 2012 Olympic wrestling champion, Jake Varner, lost in the second round of the 213-pound division Tuesday and was later eliminated from medal contention.
The 2015 World Championships are in Las Vegas.
“I was real excited going into this year,” Burroughs said. “I’m like, man, I’m injury free, I’m feeling good, I’ve been training hard for a long time. This is it. This is my chance to become legendary. I still think I’ve done a pretty good job in this sport. It’s not over for me yet. I’m going back to the drawing board.”
Burroughs said his goal is still to match two-time Olympic champion John Smith‘s U.S. record of six global championships.
“John, if you’re watching, I’m still coming for you,” Burroughs said. “It’s going to take a couple years longer, maybe, but I’m still going for six.”