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U.S. Hopes for 1st Wresting Gold Rest on Burroughs

By LUKE MEREDITH
|  Friday, Aug 10, 2012  |  Updated 11:12 AM EDT
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Burrough's is the U.S.' best chance at a gold in freestyle wrestling.

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The American wrestlers need someone to give them their swagger back after a disappointing Olympic Games.

Good for them that Jordan Burroughs wrestles on Friday.

The U.S., which has won just one bronze medal in five days of wrestling competition, is hoping that it's men's freestyle team can restore some pride for the wrestling program as a whole.

The Americans likely won't have a better shot at gold than Jordan Burroughs, the defending world champion at 74 kilograms.

Burroughs is so confident about his chances that his Twitter handle is (at)alliseeisgold.

"I feel as if I wrestle my best, there's no one that can beat me in the world. I feel like I'm the best wrestler in the world," Burroughs said.

There's quite a few of his rivals that'll have something to say about that.

Burroughs burst onto the international scene by beating Russia's Denis Tsargush on his way to the world title last year in Istanbul. But Tsargush won the two previous world championships in 2009 and 2010 and has surely spent the past year eager for another shot at the cocky Burroughs.

Iran's Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi, who finished third, second and second at the last three world championships, lost to Burroughs in the 2011 title match but appears to be in good form after winning the recent Asian Championships.

The field at 74 kilograms is quite stacked, with Georgia's Davit Khutsishvili and Canadian Matt Gentry also considered top contenders. But the Americans have won this weight class at the Olympics a record nine times.

The U.S. has qualified a wrestler in every weight class at men's freestyle, which runs through Sunday. The pressure on all of them, not just Burroughs, to bring home medals will be intense. No country has won more freestyle medals than the Americans.

The program has been struggling at these games. Historically, only two U.S. sports have won more medals than wrestling at the Olympics, track and swimming. Wrestling athletes have brought home a total of 125 medals in the 108 years it has been an Olympic sport. As recently as 2000, the American team won seven medals.

If Burroughs can make it No. 10, he will have earned his spot as the unofficial face of American wrestling. That's a lot of pressure for any one wrestler to have on his shoulders, but Burroughs doesn't have a problem with that.

"I have a lot of charisma, a lot of personality. Pretty good looking," Burroughs said. "I think I'm good for the sport."

The U.S. is the defending champion in men's 55 kilograms freestyle, which will also be held on Friday.

But gold medalist Henry Cejudo isn't back to go for another gold.

Cejudo's comeback ended at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, when he was beaten by Nick Simmons in the semifinals. He promptly placed his shoes at the center of the mat — the universal sign for retirement in wrestling.

Sam Hazewinkel upset Simmons in the finals to join his father Dave and his uncle Jim as Olympians, but he isn't thought to be a serious threat for the final.

The favorite in 55 kilograms is Russia's Dzhamal Otarsultanov, if only because he beat fellow countryman and two-time world champion Viktor Lebedev to earn the Russian spot at the weight.

Kazakhstan's Daulet Niyazbekov and Iran's Hassan Rahimi, bronze-medal winners in Istanbul, are also considered strong medal contenders at 55 kilograms.

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