Daniel Dennis

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WATCH LIVE: Jordan Burroughs, Daniel Dennis aim for USA wrestling gold

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Wrestling rolls into Day 14 of the Olympics off a historic day for USA Wrestling, who saw its first women take gold in dramatic fashion over a 13-time world champion.

Now can Jordan Burroughs follow it up?

WATCH LIVE: Burroughs, Dennis wrestle

Burroughs is the reigning Olympic gold medalist in 74kg freestyle, and looks to ensure his status as an American wrestling legend by picking up back-to-back golds.

He’ll begin his quest to repeat with Round of 16 opponent Augusto Midana of Guinea-Bissau.

Also wrestling for Team USA on Friday is Daniel Dennis, who has a 1/8 final match with Bulgaria’s Vladimir Dubov.

Wrestler goes from living in pickup truck to making Olympic team

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In 2013, Daniel Dennis lived out of a black 1986 Ford F-150 he reportedly bought on Craigslist for $500. The former NCAA All-American had no intention of wrestling competitively again.

On Sunday, he clinched a berth on the U.S. Olympic team.

Dennis, a 29-year-old who came out of a two-year retirement in 2015, beat former University of Iowa teammate Tony Ramos in the U.S. Olympic Trials finals of the freestyle 57kg division.

The triumph fittingly came at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at Iowa City, where Dennis made his name as a two-time All-American.

He was NCAA runner-up in his final collegiate match in 2010, giving up a two-point lead in the final seconds.

By 2013, Dennis quit the sport after failing to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, his battered body no longer wanting to take the punishment.

“Kind of made my way out to California after a long time of not doing much of anything except traveling and [rock] climbing, kind of being a bum a little bit, I guess,” he said.

Dennis didn’t fully disconnect from wrestling while living in a fifth-wheel trailer for two years, after moving out of the pickup truck. He coached for cash and stayed cognizant of the national scene.

Friends and family suggested he test the competitive waters again.

“My mom is a very quiet person,” Dennis said in January. “She’s like, well your dad would’ve really loved to see it.”

Dennis’ father, Tim, introduced his son to wrestling at age 8 and died of a brain tumor in 2014, according to the Des Moines Register.

Dennis took everyone’s advice.

One competition led to another, and he eventually finished second at the 2015 World Championships Team Trials last June, making him an Olympic team contender.

Dennis believed the time off reinvigorated his body and mind.

“Just going and being uncomfortable, leaning how to be happy and keep going, whatever you have in front of you,” he said.

Now, he lives in a house in Iowa City, according to the Des Moines Register.

“I don’t know that I really, necessarily, when I came back, was like, I’m going to be an Olympian,” Dennis told media Sunday night. “Not saying I’m the best, but I think I can beat everybody as long as I wrestle well and solid.”

MORE: Burroughs leads U.S. wrestlers clinching Olympic berths

Jordan Burroughs leads U.S. wrestlers clinching Olympic berths

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Jordan Burroughs planned a special celebration after making his second Olympic team on Sunday night.

“A 24-hour doughnut place,” he said after throwing his singlet into the crowd. “I might go at like 3 a.m.”

Then it’ll be back to work.

The London gold medalist swept Andrew Howe in the best-of-three finals in the freestyle 74kg division at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa City on Sunday night, earning his spot in Rio in August.

Then he darted into the Carver-Hawkeye Arena stands to find his pregnant wife, Lauren, and 1-year-old son, Beacon. Lauren gave her husband a letter before Sunday’s match telling him he was destined for greatness.

“I’m just happy to be going to Rio,” Burroughs said while holding Beacon on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I’ve got to get some mosquito repellent.”

Burroughs is now 124-2 in senior international competition. He’s a different wrestler, a different man, since winning his maiden World title in 2011.

“I was single [in 2011], I was living in an apartment, I had a busted headlight on a Chevy Impala,” he joked.

In Rio, Burroughs can become the third U.S. wrestler to win back-to-back Olympic titles, joining George Mehnert (1904, 1908) and John Smith (1988, 1992).

Burroughs’ long-stated goal is to reach Smith’s American record of six combined Olympic and World titles. The 27-year-old can notch No. 5 on Aug. 19.

“I really look up to the trailblazers,” Burroughs told Smith on Live Extra. “For a lot of my career, I’ve been able to say I’ve been chasing John Smith.”

MORE: List of U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics

Burroughs was joined by five more wrestlers who clinched U.S. Olympic berths Sunday, all first-time Olympians.

“Making the team for a lot of guys is an amazing feat, but for me is customary,” Burroughs said.

He won’t be joined by the other 2012 U.S. Olympic champion, Jake Varner, who lost to reigning World champion Kyle Snyder in the freestyle 97kg finals.

Snyder, 20 and the youngest American to win a World title, will become the first reigning NCAA champion to wrestle on a U.S. Olympic team since 1976. He will also become the youngest American to wrestle freestyle at the Olympics since 1976.

“The Olympics are just a little bit different, everybody knows that,” Snyder said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “All the eyes are on you, and that’s what I like.”

Daniel Dennis is going to the Olympics after giving up the sport and living in a pickup truck three years ago. Dennis upset two-time World team member Tony Ramos in a battle of former Iowa Hawkeyes in the freestyle 57kg finals.

“I’ve got an extra bedroom at my place,” Burroughs joked after learning of Dennis’ background. “He’s going to have to sleep in the same room as my son, Beacon, though.”

Adeline Gray, a two-time reigning World champion in 75kg, will be favored to become the first U.S. woman to take an Olympic title in August. She made quick work of Victoria Francis with tech falls less than halfway through both matches.

Gray is on a 37-match winning streak dating to July 2014.

“It’s awesome to know that I have a lot of titles, and I know I am a great wrestler, but there’s something about being special in that Olympic year, that the world now knows that I’m special,” a teary Gray, who cried for 30 minutes after losing in the 2012 trials finals, said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I get to call myself an Olympian forever, and it’s an amazing feeling.”

Andy Bisek, whose World bronze medals the last two years are the U.S.’ only Greco-Roman Olympic or World medals since 2009, swept Geordan Speiller in the 75kg division.

“Being on the podium two years in a row shows me that I belong,” Bisek said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “There’s no reason I’m not at the top in Rio.”

The first to earn a Rio spot Sunday night was Robby Smith, who swept Adam Coon in the Greco-Roman 130kg finals. The bearded, tattooed Smith then bawled in an NBC Sports Live Extra interview after making his first Olympic team.

Smith made the last three World Championships teams, losing a bronze-medal match last year, and placed third at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I love to throw guys on their head,” Smith said. “That’s what I do.”

Also Sunday, J’Den Cox won the U.S. Olympic Trials one month after winning an NCAA title. Cox, a University of Missouri junior, won the freestyle 86kg finals over Kyle Dake, who in 2013 became the first wrestler to win NCAA titles in four different weight classes.

Cox isn’t qualified for Rio yet. He can do so at an international tournament later this spring.

World champion Helen Maroulis and Haley Augello won the women’s 53kg and 48kg divisions, respectively, and can clinch Olympic berths at an international tournament later this spring.

On Saturday night, three 2012 Olympians became the first members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

MORE: First American born in 2000s to make Olympic team