Sports

USA wrestling adds World Cup gold to recent accomplishments

Team USA tops Azerbaijan in gold-medal dual, cap 4-0 weekend

IOWA CITY — Earlier in the week, Jordan Burroughs said he resembled the dad of Team USA.

The five-time world medalist, who won Olympic gold in 2012, is pushing 30 years old. He is married with two children.

Burroughs also has been the paternal figure for the birth of a new age of USA Wrestling. One that is in its infancy of potential international dominance now that it boasts a World Championships team title and a World Cup crown in the span of eight months.

“All the things that we’ve done,” Burroughs said. “This is more than just an eight-month culmination of building, grinding and certifying individuals, putting them in the right places to be really good at what they were doing.

“We have a lot of young guys. In this building, (Iowa freshman) Spencer Lee is going to be a guy, who I believe is going to be a World (and) Olympic champion at some point in his career. Seeing that and understanding that, you start to realize I’m a lucky guy to be in this for such a long period of time.”

Team USA swept the field, beating Azerbaijan, 6-4, in the gold-medal dual of United World Wrestling’s 2018 World Cup of men’s freestyle Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Burroughs’ pin highlighted the finals victory and Kyle Snyder’s technical fall clinched USA Wrestling’s first World Cup title since 2003.

“This is really meaningful to me,” Burroughs said. “I’ve won every single tournament I’ve ever competed in, except this one.

“I’m undefeated in World Cups. I think I’m 26-0 over the six years that I’ve competed in this tournament, but I’ve never brought home that big Cup. Regardless of how I perform, it’s about how these guys perform.”

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Traditional power Russia and five-time defending World Cup champ Iran did not come to the event. Russia rarely sends its top team and Iran didn’t even qualify originally, getting an invite only when Turkey decided not to wrestle. Azerbaijan fielded a lineup just as tough, if not tougher, than either of those countries. Plus, Team USA proved it was the team to beat anyway.

“For me, I’m looking at it like this,” Burroughs said. “We’re the best team in the world.

“People are like without Iran and Russia. They’re the best teams. We’re the best team. We’re the reigning World champions. We’re the team champs. If they wanted to win a World Cup, they should have prepared and been here to wrestle us.”

Burroughs gave Team USA the lead for good in the finals, posting a pin over Gasjimurad Omarov at 163. After the break, Burroughs scored a takedown and then sucked Omarov back for a rare fall. The “old man” on the team seemed youthful as he ignited the crowd.

“I still feel good,” Burroughs said. “Eight years in and these guys still can’t stop me. They’re still coming out here to just keep the score close and not trying to beat me.

Burroughs is tied for second in USA Wrestling history with five World titles and is one shy of John Smith’s career record. He was at the forefront of Team USA’s resurgence and wants to remain a part of it through the 2020 Olympics at least.

“I’m excited about what I’m able to do right now,” Burroughs said. “I feel good physically. My body feels good. I feel healthy. We’re in a good place right now.”

Burroughs started a three-match win streak for weights that were nearly automatic for Team USA. Burroughs, Kyle Dake and David Taylor went a combined 12-0. Dake (174) scored a 5-3 decision over Olympic and World bronze medalist Jabrayil Hasanov. Taylor (189) added an exclamation mark, scoring twice to turn an easy decision into a technical fall in the final seconds.

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Olympic and World champion Kyle Snyder clinched a previous dual against Japan and won the final bout in August to lock up the World team title. He clinched this title, posting a 14-3 technical fall over Roman Bakirov at 213.

“They are just a group of great guys,” USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Mike Zadick said. “They’re great wrestlers, but they’re better people, so it’s a real joy to work with them.

“They’re intelligent. They work hard. They continue to learn.”

Former Iowa wrestler Thomas Gilman dropped an 8-7 decision to Giorgi Edisherashvili at 125.5, following a victory over Georgia in pool competition. Gilman did close with two takedowns in the final moments, but it wasn’t enough.

Kendric Maple put Team USA on the board with a 6-2 victory over Afgan Khashalov at 134. Maple lost his previous two matches to Japan and Georgia in pool competition. Zadick previously said he was confident in Maple and alternate Joe Colon, but offered a handshake and encouragement, sending Maple out for the final.

“It was tough,” Maple said. “Wrestling is the most humbling sport there is and there’s no one to blame but yourself, so I took it tough.

“I’m glad Coach Zadick gave me the opportunity to come back out here and redeem myself a little bit.”

Logan Stieber gave Team USA a brief 2-1 lead in a battle of World champions at 143. Stieber scored two takedowns off counters and beat three-time World champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Haji Aliyev, 6-3.

“I was happy to be able to wrestle him,” Stieber said. “For the team, it’s pretty simple, right? If each individual does their job then it’s no problem. It was a good win for me. A good win for the team.”

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Team USA snapped two streaks, winning its first World Championships title since 1995. The World Cup gold hasn’t been as long, but long enough. They expect to get everyone’s best in the fall as they try to defend the World title.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Zadick said. “More of the same.

“Last year, it was a barnburner, shootout. It was an epic finish and we hope to be right there again this year. I would expect that. We know the rest of the world is gunning for us, but these guys are training hard.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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