Kyle Dake

J’den Cox, Kyle Dake earn first wrestling world titles

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J’den Cox had enough of bronze. Kyle Dake, an NCAA wrestling legend, considered quitting after finishing second at U.S. trials year after year.

Both Cox and Dake broke through for their first wrestling world titles in Budapest on Monday, giving the U.S. three male world champions in one year for the first time since 1995.

Cox, bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics and 2017 Worlds, dumped Belarusian Ivan Yankouski 4-1 in the 92kg final. A half-hour earlier, Dake completed an unscored upon run through the 79kg division, beating Olympic bronze medalist Jabrayil Hasanov of Azerbaijan 2-0.

Both Cox and Dake won their titles at non-Olympic weights. It’s likely that Cox drops back down to 86kg, where David Taylor just won the world title, for the Tokyo 2020 trials. Dake’s road might be even tougher if he goes down to 74kg, land of five-time Olympic and world champion Jordan Burroughs.

Since Rio, Cox underwent surgery for the torn meniscus that he competed on at the Olympics, won his third NCAA title, mulled and ruled out playing college football for Missouri, moved up from 86kg to 92kg, relocated to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and shaved his head.

“I expected this outcome,” Cox said. “I did the work.”

Dake, 27, reached the pinnacle of international wrestling five years after completing an unrivaled NCAA career at Cornell. Dake, nicknamed “Kid Dynamite,” is the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt.

From 2013-17, Dake was runner-up at Olympic or world championships trials four times. Three times, he ran into Burroughs in world trials finals. He considered retiring after losing in the 2016 Olympic Trials 86kg final to Cox.

Dake made his first world team this year, helped some by the tournament moving from eight weight classes to 10. He didn’t have to face Burroughs or Cox at trials.

“Motivating, having guys like that who are just half a step, quarter of a step, eighth of a step ahead of you, that you need to go catch puts a fire under your belly,” Dake said. “I challenge [Olympic and world 97kg champion] Kyle Snyder [in practice]. I challenge J’den. I challenge those guys. I go down [in weight]. I’ll wrestle Jordan.”

And Dake proved he belonged in Budapest as the first U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in at least 30 years. Helen Maroulis, who wrestles later this week, also notched the feat at the 2015 and 2017 Worlds.

Worlds continue Tuesday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with the most anticipated match of the tournament — Snyder versus Russian Olympic champ Abdulrashid Sadulaev in the 97kg final, a rematch of the 2017 final dubbed the “Match of the Century” won by Snyder.

Also Monday, 2017 World silver medalist Thomas Gilman dropped his 57kg bronze-medal match 5-4 to Süleyman Atlı of Turkey.

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MORE: Wrestling worlds TV schedule

Jordan Burroughs suffers first U.S. loss since 2009 at world trials

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Jordan Burroughs lost on U.S. soil for the first time since 2009 but rallied to make the world championships team on Saturday night.

Burroughs, a 2012 Olympic champion and three-time world champion, beat Kyle Dake 2-1 in the best-of-three 74kg freestyle finals at the world team trials in his hometown of Lincoln, Neb.

“After leaving Rio de Janeiro with no medal, I promised myself I’d never let a man feel like that again,” said Burroughs, who had not competed in Lincoln since 2011. “My wife thinks I’m a whole lot sexier when I’m winning, so it’s going to be a good night for me.”

Burroughs lost the opener to Dake on a 2-2 tiebreaker but rallied to win the second and third matches 8-4 and 6-2. He joins Rio gold medalists Helen Maroulis and Kyle Snyder headlining the U.S. team for worlds in Paris in August.

“I don’t even want to be the leader anymore,” Burroughs said. “I think this is Kyle Snyder’s time.”

Burroughs, 29, moved to 142-5 in his senior international freestyle career dating to 2011. The opening loss to Dake marked his second pro defeat to an American (Nick Marable, 2014) and first on U.S. soil since 2009, when he wrestled folkstyle at the University of Nebraska.

Dake is one of only four men to win four NCAA wrestling titles, doing so from 2010-13. He’s the only one to do so in four different weight classes or without a redshirt year. But Dake, 26, has struggled against the older Burroughs, getting swept at the world team trials in 2013 and 2015.

Last year, Dake moved up one weight class in part to avoid Burroughs at the Olympic Trials, where only one wrestler per weight class advanced to the Games.

But Dake lost in the 86kg finals at Olympic Trials to Missouri’s J’den Cox, who went on to take bronze in Rio before his senior NCAA season.

Dake returned to 74kg this year and pushed Burroughs to a 2-2 affair at the U.S. Open in April, but lost on a tiebreaker.

Dake had to win two matches earlier Saturday just to face Burroughs, who earned a bye into the finals via that U.S. Open victory.

“I had to sleep in the same house with two toddlers all week, so I say we’re even,” Burroughs joked of his two kids. “I’m getting older, a little bit slower. It’s a little bit harder to get up in the morning and go to practice.”

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MORE: Snyder savors matchup with Russian Tank

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