There will be a smattering of Garden State athletes heading to London for the Olympic Games this summer, like Christine Rampone in soccer, Cullen Jones in swimming etc., all with their own strong stories and gold medal dreams, but one of the brightest stars could be Camden native Jordan Burroughs.
From his start as a youth through a checkered career at the University of Nebraska through the international Olympic program with USA Wrestling, Burroughs has kept his dream of Olympic gold in focus while continuing to reach out to young people from the inner city who could follow in his footsteps.
That combination will also come full circle on Thursday, when Jordan meets Kamal Malikov in of all places, Times Square, when Team USA will face Russia in a special event called “Grapple In The Apple.” The program will benefit “Beat The Streets,” a non-profit group that largely funds wrestling and education programs in the inner city. The Americans will face Russia outdoors and live in Times Square for the second straight year, with a gala to follow at the famed Roseland Ballroom.
Burroughs can certainly relate to going from the mean streets of a city to the highest level of performance. He began to gain attention for his wrestling in his senior year at Winslow Township High School after winning a Senior National Championship under Head Coach Rick Koss. During high school, he won three district championships and two regional championships, and in 2006, he captured a state title at 135 pounds. He committed to the University of Nebraska as the seventh ranked 135 pounder in the country and went on to an All-American career with the Cornhuskers, far from the city where he grew up.
He took no breaks after winning his NCAA title and graduating. He jumped into the world freestyle scene winning the U.S. Open at 74 kilograms just three weeks after his last college match, made the United States world team, and won the title at 74 kilograms at the 2011 World Wrestling Championships in Istanbul, becoming only the 4th wrestler ever to win a NCAA championship and World Championship in the same year. He followed up by winning the 74 kg title at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.
We caught up with Burroughs as he prepped for this week’s match.
New Jersey Newsroom: Your mantra is "All I See Is Gold," which can be a metaphor for many things. What would winning a gold medal in London mean to your longer term career goals after wrestling is over?
Jordan Burroughs: It will be a lifestyle changer for sure. I have really been middle class my whole life, and the Olympic experience and a gold medal will give me a chance to make some money for my family and really help make a difference in the community. It is what we will all aspire for in London.
NJNR: Many African-American wrestling success stories recently have gone on to MMA. Is it something you would consider down the road?
JB: Yes I would definitely consider MMA, but I don’t like being punched in the face! It takes a lot of different skills to be successful but it can be very lucrative and is definitely a different lifestyle. I have seen a lot of great athletes make that transition and although my focus right now is on wrestling, I will look at the option should it arise.
NJNR: How did you use growing up in Camden as a springboard for success?
JB: I got to see both sides of the spectrum growing up in Camden and it’s something I take with me everywhere I go. We saw the lowest and we also experienced the middle class. It is still a special place for me and I hope to help out other kids who are there who can learn from what I have done. It definitely keeps me humble, knowing what the streets of Camden are like.
NJNR: So many wrestlers are committed to giving back to the community that helped them. What are some of the things people may not know about that you have and continue to do for young people in south Jersey?
JB: I am always looking to help talk to and when I can, speak to, young people in Camden to let them know there are ways out through academics and athletics. One thing I want to do is make sure everyone who is interested in wrestling can get shoes to help them. It is not easy to make sure you have quality wrestling shoes and it is a goal of mine to get those kids in the youth programs in Camden and at Winslow Township quality shoes so they can compete.