LINCOLN, Neb. — Jordan Burroughs jumped to his feet, flashed a smile and pumped both fists.
And the crowd erupted.
It’s been more than seven years since Burroughs finished his standout career at the University of Nebraska, but he took full advantage of another opportunity to put on yet another show for Cornhuskers fans.
Burroughs beat young standout Isaiah Martinez 4-1 and 11-1 to win USA Wrestling’s Final X at 74 kg. on Saturday night before 2,916 fans at the Devaney Center. Final X features a best two-of-three format for each weight class.
“It was incredible to wrestle here in front of the Husker fans again — it was electric,” Burroughs said. “It really means a lot for me and James Green to wrestle here and have a chance to make another world team. It’s awesome. I’m very grateful to make another team.”
Burroughs and fellow Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder were among seven freestyle wrestlers who earned victories Saturday to qualify for October’s UWW World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
With the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 just over two years away, Burroughs and Snyder are looking to stockpile momentum as we near the halfway point of this Olympic cycle.
It was another happy homecoming for Burroughs on Saturday. He won two NCAA titles and the Hodge Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate wrestler, during a standout career at Nebraska, where he continues to train.
Burroughs, who turns 30 next month, made his sixth straight world team for the United States.
A 2012 Olympic gold medalist, Burroughs entered the Rio Games as the favorite in 2016. But he stunningly lost back-to-back matches and fell short of the medal podium.
“Losing in Rio, it was shocking and it was devastating for Jordan,” Nebraska coach Mark Manning, also Burroughs’ personal coach, said. “It took a long time for him to get over what happened at the Olympics. It was really rough on him. It wasn’t easy, but he buried that experience and we saw him resurrect himself. And now he’s a better version of Jordan Burroughs than we’ve ever seen before.”
Burroughs bounced back in a huge way last year to win his fourth world title and fifth world medal in Paris.
Burroughs now has a chance to equal John Smith’s American record of six combined Olympic and world titles. It is a record Burroughs has targeted and talked about since he won his first world title in 2011.
“I’m motivated and hungry to have another chance to win a world title,” he said. “I feel like I’m top of my game and I’m wrestling as well as I ever have been.”
Snyder, meanwhile, continues his remarkable run. Coming off his third NCAA title to cap his collegiate career at Ohio State, Snyder defeated Kyven Gadson on Saturday at 97 kg.
The 22-year-old will be shooting for his fourth straight gold medal after earning world titles in 2015 and 2017, and striking Olympic gold in 2016. Snyder has been on a tear since being pinned as a freshman by Gadson in the 2015 NCAA finals.
“I’m really motivated and driven to be the best in the world again. I think our team is still the underdog to win worlds again because I think people thought it was a fluke,” Snyder said, referring to the 2017 U.S. men’s freestyle wrestlers winning the team title for the first time in 22 years. “We’re excited to try to win it again.”
Snyder swept Gadson for the second straight year in the finals of the world qualifier, winning 9-0 and 8-2.
Gadson caught Snyder by surprise in the second match, firing in on a double-leg shot and driving Snyder off the stage.
But Snyder quickly regrouped to take control.
“I’ve been in that situation before and you just have to keep your composure,” he said. “I just had to keep wrestling hard. If he wouldn’t have got that first takedown I would’ve teched him.”
Reigning world silver medalist Thomas Gilman swept junior world champion Daton Fix 6-3 and 2-1 at 57 kg. Green, a two-time world medalist and another former Husker, swept Jason Chamberlain 2-0 and 2-1 in the 70 kg. finals.
Two-time world silver medalist Alli Ragan swept past world team member Jenna Burkert 4-0 and 5-0 in the 59 kg. women’s freestyle. Jacarra Winchester knocked off reigning world bronze medalist Becka Leathers in two straight to prevail in the 55 kg. matches. She won 10-6 and 5-1, while 2017 world team member Tamyra Stock took two straight matches from Randyll Beltz for the 68 kg. spot.
This was the first of three events in the new Final X format that will determine the U.S. men’s and women’s freestyle world team.
Final X events for the remaining men’s and women’s freestyle weight classes will follow in State College, Pennsylvania, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, over the next two weekends.