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18 Sep

Is Jordan Burroughs the Best Athlete in the World?

I'm one of the best athletes walking on the planet, and you may not even know me

That quote begins a recent Flips Wrestling advertisement featuring the now two time World Champion and 2012 London Olympic Champion at 74 kilograms, Jordan Burroughs. Up to the start of the FILA World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary I would see that advertisement over and over again. It is true that Jordan Burroughs is under appreciated in the athletic community, but his performance today made me consider not if he's one of the best, but possibly the best of all.

When we think about the world's best athletes some common superstars come to mind: Lebron James, Adrian Peterson, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, and even the slightly more unknown Ashton Eaton, but Burroughs is never brought up. The common fan understands that he has won the biggest wrestling tournament in the world in three consecutive years, but what the non-wrestling fan doesn't know is how talented and dominant this young man is.

Burroughs suffered his last loss in December of 2009, at the University of Nebraska. After winning his second NCAA National Title he transitioned to the senior level of freestyle wrestling, which is similar to collegiate wrestling, but has many essential differences. Burroughs has since gone undefeated at the highest level of wrestling in the world, a perfect 65-0. Against the best wrestlers from every corner of the world, Burroughs has yet to lose.

Most people know Cael Sanderson went undefeated in college and is widely considered the greatest American collegiate wrestler in history. Cael failed to make our own olympic in his first attempt and lost to wrestlers in our own country on more than one occasion. Burroughs has yet to do that. 

Burroughs won his first world title by defeating the two time defending world champ, Russia's Denis Tsargush, before the finals, and then Iran's Sadegh Goudarzi in the final, who was second the year prior and third the year before that. Burroughs was a few months removed from winning an NCAA title as a senior. He would repeat the same feat at London in 2012. He holds multiple wins over each man, and it has only been two years since he was wrestling for the University of Nebraska.

Today, Burroughs outscored the best wrestlers in the world at 74 kilograms 34-3 on his way to another gold medal. What is more amazing about this is that Burroughs was 27 days removed from ankle surgery that placed a metal plate and five screws in his ankle. Burroughs and his coaches effectively hid the injury, and he defied the advice of his surgeon by deciding to compete. The injury, due to the surgical procedure, usually takes at least two months to recover from and start lightly getting back into activity. Burroughs not only competed, but dominated less than four weeks after it happened. He only started training on a wrestling mat a week prior to the world's toughest tournament, yet completely obliterated the field.

Burroughs has never been beaten at the international and highest level of wrestling. He has done this in a three year period where the rules have drastically changed, and yet has not missed a beat. In the world of freestyle wrestling one mistake can cost a wrestler a victory, especially with the new rules. Burroughs has failed to make that mistake. Usain Bolt has made that mistake. Ashton Eaton couldn't make an olympic team on his first try. LeBron James came up small in the NBA finals in his second appearance. Burroughs has accomplished so much already, and the scariest part about it is that he consistently gets better and better.

The IOC considered dumping wrestling from the olympics. The crazy thing is, the world's best athlete is quite possibly a wrestler.