Olympic Wrestling Star Jordan Burroughs Loses for the First Time in International Career

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

Jordan Burroughs, American Olympic gold medalist and double World champion, lost a wrestling match for the first time in his international career this past weekend at Turkey's Yasar Dogu International, falling in a close match to American Nick Marable.

Since Jordan Burroughs embarked on his international freestyle wrestling career after finishing his wrestling tenure at the University of Nebraska with two undefeated NCAA championship seasons, the young man from New Jersey has not tasted defeat. In the last three years, Burroughs has won gold at two World Championships and the Olympics, while becoming the closest thing American wrestling has to a crossover star. In total, Burroughs has enjoyed a 69 match winning streak.

This past weekend, Burroughs's streak came to an end as he lost to fellow American wrestler Nick Marable in the quarterfinals of the Yasar Dogu International in Istanbul, Turkey. Marable went on to take first in the tournament, while Burroughs battled back for third.

[I recap the entirety of the 2014 Yasar Dogu here]

Marable is currently the seventh ranked 74 kg wrestler in the USA, placing third at last year's US Open. While a college wrestler at the University of Missouri, where he wrestled in the same lineup as former Bellator champion Ben Askren, Marable finished as an All American twice, placing third and seventh at the NCAA tournament.

To put the magnitude of this upset in perspective, imagine if the UFC's heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, lost by split decision to Stipe Miocic.

The video of the match appears below

For the ease of the audience, I will explain the key points of the match using the marker on the graphical clock in the top right corner.

1:06- The ref warns Marable for passivity

2:00- The ref puts Marable on the 30 second "shot clock" for his second passivity warning. The time elapses without Marable scoring and Burroughs receives a point.

3:25- Some Japanese wrestler and his coach stand in front of the camera for a while. Say what you want, but you can't deny the Japanese always come correct with sweet singlet designs.

4:43- Marable, down 1-0, drops in a snatch single and finishes it cleanly to go up 2-1.

5:32- Burroughs rushes the finish on a single leg, and Marable counters, finishing his own takedown to take a 4-1 lead.

5:40- Burroughs earns a point for a push out.

5:50- Burroughs achieves a 4-4 score with a takedown.

The match ends tied 4-4, but Marable wins by pre-established criteria, scoring two two-point moves to Burroughs's one two-point move.

A few observations about the match:

  • It's boring, I know it. Not much happens until the end, but that's what you get sometimes with Marable. Burroughs needs to get to the legs to win, but Marable possesses the build of a cast-iron wood stove, and doesn't have much in the way of legs.
  • I wouldn't be worried about Burroughs in the future. I think in this match he made the mistake of not pushing the pace early, and when he did, he was able to score on Marable fairly easy. International wrestling is unpredictable; even the very best in the world have one-off performances.
  • Burroughs has not lost a wrestling match in six years including freestyle and college. Here he drops a razor thin result in a rather sizable upset without a single moan, complaint or protest; he shows the class of a true champion simply walking calmly off the mat.
Members of the wrestling community have taken this as an opportunity to criticize FILA's use of a criteria system to determine the winner of matches ending in a tie. I understand why FILA, wrestling's governing body (whom, I, admittedly, write for on occasion) resists the idea of overtime in matches, as the potential of extending the time of a wrestling bout can decrease the competitor's sense of urgency, placing a chill on the action on the mat.

On the other hand, I think two arguments in favor of overtime should win out over FILA's position. First, all points awarded in a wrestling match should have the same value, regardless of when and how wrestlers score them. Second, wrestling must keep progressing to a rule set more accessible to the casual fan, and when the match above ended 4-4, I'm not even certain the two participants knew who was winning, much less any potential audience members viewing wrestling from a perspective outside the sport.

Bloody Elbow will keep providing updates on Jordan Burroughs and the rest of the international wrestling scene as the season continues to the World Championships in the fall.
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