Jordan Burroughs has compared his rivalry with Russian Denis Tsargush to that of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, but he might not see Tsargush at the Rio Olympics.
Tsargush, one of only two men to beat Burroughs in senior freestyle competition, lost in the Russian Championships 74kg freestyle finals to reigning World bronze medalist Aniuar Geduev on Friday.
Tsargush could still be named to Russia’s Olympic team, but deciders would have to send him to Rio over Geduev, who is now the two-time reigning Russian champion in the 74kg division. A nation can send no more than one wrestler per division to the Olympics.
Burroughs and Tsargush combined to win all seven Olympic or World Championships in the 74kg division since 2009.
Burroughs beat Tsargush in the 2012 Olympic semifinals, but Tsargush was the only wrestler in London to push Burroughs to the maximum three periods.
Tsargush returned the favor at the 2014 World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, handing Burroughs (who was wrestling on a sprained MCL) his first senior international defeat to a foreign wrestler.
On his phone, Burroughs had this image (or something close to it) of Tsargush celebrating that victory saved for viewing whenever he wanted a little motivation.
They haven’t faced each other since.
In 2015, Tsargush lost in the Russian Championships quarterfinals.
Geduev went on to win the Russian 74kg title last year and earn the Russian spot at the World Championships, where he lost to Burroughs 4-3 in the semifinals Sept. 12 in Las Vegas. Again, Burroughs’ closest match at that competition came against the Russian.