LINCOLN – Jordan Burroughs first came to Lincoln, Nebraska as a student-athlete in 2006.
He’s traveled all across the globe since then, picking up four world championships and an Olympic gold medal along the way.
The road has always led him back, not to his home state of New Jersey, but to where his career first took off.
Burroughs has called Lincoln home for the past dozen years.
“The people are so nice,” Burroughs said. “The cost of living is relatively inexpensive. It takes me eight minutes to get back and forth to practice. The food is good. This is a great city to raise a family. It’s safe, the schools are great, I’m happy here.”
Since graduating from the University of Nebraska in 2010, Burroughs has competed in Istanbul, Paris, Budapest, Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Mexico City and beyond.
Though living in Lincoln is nothing new, competing there as a professional athlete is uncharted territory for Burroughs.
“Being able to compete here is very rare,” he said. “I compete domestically once or twice a year, and then to be able to do it in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska is absolutely incredible.”
Burroughs was born in Sicklerville, N.J. He’s only the second-ever state champion wrestler at Winslow Township High School, and the only one in his family to pursue wrestling.
“Guys from my neighborhood weren’t even getting scholarships to go to college,” Burroughs said. “When I look back I’m like, ‘Wow. I got an opportunity to wrestle at a division-one program.’ To be a part of something that was bigger than myself and to help establish this program as one of the premiere wrestling clubs in the entire country.”
When Nebraska fully immersed itself into the Big Ten Conference in the 2011-12 season, many examined the transition into football, basketball, and baseball. Big Ten volleyball has also shown its prowess over the last seven years.
Not all Nebraska fans looked at wrestling the same way. The Huskers fared well in the sport while in the Big 12. From 1997-2011, the program won three regular-season and four Big 12 tournament titles.
Wrestling became an NCAA-sponsored sport in 1928. The Big 12 has won more national championships (49) than any other conference – 34 of those by Oklahoma State.
The Big Ten comes in second with 37 titles – 23 of them won by Iowa.
Burroughs never saw Big Ten competition in college. Nebraska head coach Mark Manning knew after Burroughs left the program in 2011, the Huskers were ready to shift to another tough conference, thanks to the program’s wrestling reputation which Burroughs helped strengthen.
“He’s a great ambassador for our program,” Manning said. “He means a lot to Nebraska, and Nebraska means a lot to Jordan and his wife Lauren. He competed where he trains, Lincoln’s his home, and he’s been here 12 years. He’s 29 years old, so that’s a big part of his life and Nebraska is a special place in his heart.”
A special place with special memories.
Burroughs hopes to add one more Saturday night when he competes in the Final X event at the Bob Devaney Sports Center – a competition put on by USA Wrestling and FloSports.
According to FloSports.tv, “the top American wrestlers will be at their best to compete for a spot on the World Team.”
The Devaney Center, which hosted the World Team Trials for USA Wrestling in 2017, will put on the Final X event at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Burroughs, along with fellow former Husker and four-time All-American James Green, will be in the eight-man field for the men’s freestyle.
The top two contenders in the men’s and women’s freestyle will face off in a best-of-three series to determine the starting team for USA Wrestling in 2018.
Those best-of-three series will all take place on the same day, with the 20 weight class series being spread out over three weekends.
The Final X also stops in State College, PA on June 16 and in Bethlehem, PA on June 23.
Lincoln will host the 126, 154 (Green), 163 (Burroughs) and 214-pound weight class series for the men. The women’s 121, 130 and 150-pound weight classes will also compete.
The winner in each series will earn a spot on the U.S. Senior World Team to compete at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Oct. 20-28. A full list of the pairings in Lincoln can be viewed here.
Burroughs won the World Championships in Paris last year and in Las Vegas two years before that. The ultimate goal is getting to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Final X event, nor the 2018 World Championships, will have any official bearing on the Olympics. Yet, Burroughs thinks of every competition from now until the Olympic wrestling trials in March 2020 as an important building block toward getting back to Olympic gold status – a status he hasn’t reached in six years.
“So, every time I get a chance to compete, it’s an opportunity to not only put on a show and showcase my skills,” Burroughs explained, “but to also just realize where I’m at in that particular moment, reflect off of that, and hopefully get better.”
Between World Championship and Olympic matches, Burroughs is a remarkable 30-3. At Nebraska, he finished with the fifth-most wins in school history at 128-20.
The 2016 Rio Olympics, where he finished ninth, was a moment of disappointment for Burroughs.
“At some point I’ll find out why, what I did wrong, learn a lesson from this,” he said at the time.
Burroughs meant it. He went a perfect 5-0 at the World Championships in Paris last year, beating his opponents by a combined score of 47-20. This past April, he was a perfect 4-0 at the United World Wrestling Freestyle World Cup in Iowa City.
Burroughs is a combined 27-0 in six career World Cups.
There’s still time until the next Olympics, but Coach Manning acknowledges the great opportunity fans will have this Saturday to see Jordan Burroughs up close; a chance to see him up close in a city where he has lived for 12 years, but hasn’t competed in for more than seven.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to watch a guy of Jordan Burroughs’ stature as far as his accomplishments,” Manning said, “just put his work ethic and humbleness out there on the mat this Saturday night.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.