LONDON – A year ago, Jordan Burroughs changed his Twitter handle to @alliseeisgold.
On Thursday, Burroughs promised to tweet a picture of himself holding the Olympic gold medal. He delivered on Friday night – on the mat and on Twitter.
The boastful 24-year-old American backed up all his talk, beating Iran’s Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi 1-0, 1-0 in the men’s freestyle 74-kilogram division to give the U.S. its first wrestling gold medal at the London Games.
“A lot of people call it cocky, people call it over confident,” Burroughs said. “But I knew I was going to win.”
Burroughs beat Denis Tsargush of Russia in a tight semifinal, then got past Goudarzi in a rematch of their world championship bout in 2011.
Burroughs, who grew up in New Jersey, has won 38 straight international freestyle matches and is the first Olympian to claim the $250,000 prize from the Living the Dream Medal Fund, a program designed to support U.S. wrestling.
An hour after beating Goudarzi, the tweet-happy Burroughs made good on his word, posting a shot of himself beaming beside his gold.
He won’t have to change that boastful handle – at least not until the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
“It’s easy to be confident when you put the hard work in that I do,” Burroughs said.
Also, Dzhamal Otarsultanov took the men’s 55-kg freestyle category, beating Vladimer Khinchegashvili of Georgia to give the Russians four wrestling golds at the London Games, tops for any nation.
Burroughs woke up tight on Friday, not surprising considering the expectations he put on himself. He got over his nerves and beat his two biggest rivals for the title.
Burroughs won his first two matches to set up a rematch with Tsargush, a two-time world champion that the U.S. star beat in the 2011 world championships en route to the title.
It turned out to be the most gripping match of the Olympic tournament so far.
Burroughs owned the first period. But Tsargush scored on a takedown in the second and kept himself alive to set up a thrilling final frame.
Burroughs and Tsargush circled the mat cautiously for about 90 seconds before Burroughs – one of the quickest wrestlers in the world – launched himself at Tsargush’s legs for a takedown.
Burroughs opened the scoring in the final when he notched a double-leg takedown of Goudarzi with 9 seconds left in the first period. He clinched the final with a similar move late in the second.
The gold brought a deep sense of relief for the medal-starved Americans.
The U.S. entered the day with just one medal; a bronze won by women’s freestyler Clarissa Chun. Burroughs was by far the best hope the U.S. had for a gold, and the fear was that if he fell short the Americans would go home without one.
They should have just listened to Burroughs all along.
“He can be the face of American wrestling,” U.S. freestyle coach Zeke Jones said. “He’s put himself in a position to become one of the greatest wrestlers ever.”
Otarsultanov, who beat Russian star Viktor Lebedev for his country’s spot at 55 kg, earned his first Olympic gold by downing Khinchegashvili 1-0, 4-3.
“I felt responsible. My family and country were waiting for me to perform,” Otarsultanov said.