When it comes to freestyle wrestling, Jordan Burroughs is the man to beat. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Champion from New Jersey has a winning streak of 67 straight matches to prove it. The last time the 5-foot-8-inch, 163-pound ASICS athlete lost was in 2009, after a season-ending knee injury sidelined him out for nine months (he tore both his LCL and PCL).
STACK caught up with Burroughs, 25, to get the scoop on his undefeated run.
STACK: What’s your winning secret?
JORDAN BURROUGHS: My main focus has always been to keep it all in perspective and just wrestle one match at a time. If I start thinking about the streak and what I have to lose, I’ll just build up anxiety and unwanted pressure. I need to stay relaxed to compete at a high level.
STACK: When did you realize that you had a streak going?
JB: I don’t know. The streak just accumulated. Every match is equally important to me, whether it’s the Olympics, World Championships or U.S. Open. I go out there to score as many points as I can and try to dominate my opponent.
STACK: You basically have to one-up yourself every match.
JB: Yeah, it’s tough, but I know what’s gotten me to this point: sacrifice, commitment and a lot of hard work. I know I’ve got a target on my back at all times. It keeps me sharp and on my toes. I go out there with something to defend.
STACK: You broke your left ankle while running sprints a month before you won your second World Championship in September. How did you rehab so quickly?
JB: I was at the gym twice a day every day. I hated it; it really stung. I’d ride the stationary bike with my leg up on a pillar. I’d also rope climb, lift weights, and do Pull-Ups, Push-Ups and Sit-Ups. I basically worked every body part besides my ankle for two weeks—that’s when I ditched the crutches. I was about 75% healed by the time I went to Worlds. I felt like I could compete, plus I didn’t want to see anyone wrestle in my place.
STACK: How do you deal with the pressure?
JB: I eat right. I treat people well. I go to bed on time. I cut weight the right way. I’m confident that I’ve done everything that I can to put myself in the best position. Also, I try to relax as much as possible. I know that if I’m afraid, then the guy across from me is scared as well. He’s about to wrestle someone who is 67-0, so if I’m nervous, he’s gotta be, too.
STACK: Do you have any pre-competition rituals that help you stay calm?
JB: I try to think as little as possible about wrestling before an actual match. Off the mat, I try to make jokes and be as light as possible. If you put too much pressure on yourself, it can be a drag. I try not to think, “I need to win,” but rather, “it would be cool if I could win another gold medal.”
STACK: What are some of your favorite distractions?
JB: My wife is pretty cool. I love to eat. I love to play video games, specifically . Also, I love to shop at H&M. I’m kinda muscular, so it’s hard for me to find shirts and pants that actually fit me really well. I’m super impatient when I shop, so I buy things without trying stuff on, and that’s gotten me in trouble a few times. I’ve gotten caught wearing really tight pants at parties a couple of times.
Start Your Own Streak
Think you can keep pace with the champ? Test yourself with these moves from Burroughs’ gold-medal-winning workout.
“Grip strength and strong hands, wrists and forearms are crucial for wrestlers,” says Burroughs, who maxes out at 42 Pull-Ups.
Do it: Hang with straight arms from a pull-up bar using an overhand grip (hands shoulder-width apart). Pull yourself up until your chin rises above the bar, or as high as you can without moving your lower body. Return to the start. Do 3 sets until muscle failure twice a week.
“A strong lower half is key for defending takedowns. These also help keep me explosive,” says Burroughs, who trains on a 54-inch box (watch him nail it).
Do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a sturdy box. Slightly squat, then jump onto the box with bent knees and a soft landing. Do 3 sets of 8 reps twice a week.
Like Box Jumps, Burroughs uses these to condition his leg muscles.
Do it: Set up a 100-yard marker and hop to it on one leg in as few jumps as possible. Return to the start on the opposite leg, trying to make each leap as long as you can. Do 3 sets twice a week.