September 11, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) American Jordan Burroughs is still the biggest star in wrestling.

But after getting beat at last year's world championships, Burroughs is intent on proving he is also still the best pound-for-pound athlete in the sport. The expectations - and the pressure - couldn't be any higher for Burroughs entering Saturday's 74-kilogram freestyle competition at the world championships in Las Vegas.

Burroughs had won every world title he wrestled for until a sprained MCL in his left knee doomed him to a bronze in 2014 in Uzbekistan.

He's healthy now and focused on winning a third world title at home ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

''I always want to win when I step on the biggest platform of the world,'' Burroughs said. `I had the same dream last year, wasn't able to accomplish those goals. So, I re-evaluated, went back to the drawing board and improved as a wrestler.''

Burroughs became so good so quickly it sometimes seemed as though he would never lose.

Last year's slipup in Tashkent was proof that even Burroughs is susceptible to defeat.

Burroughs was a relatively non-descript recruit from New Jersey when he signed with Nebraska in 2006. After a middling freshman season, Burroughs piled up 71 consecutive wins and two NCAA titles to end his collegiate career.

Burroughs made the wrestling community take notice when he earned a spot on the U.S. world team mere months after winning the NCAA title. He won worlds in Istanbul later that season, becoming just the fourth wrestler to win an NCAA and a world title in the same year.

Burroughs became the breakout star of the sport at the 2012 London Olympics, winning gold and winning over fans by joking that he'd ''double-leg the Queen'' to win a match. The myth that Burroughs was infallible gained traction in 2013, when he won another world title less than a month after breaking his ankle.

But adversity in Uzbekistan finally brought Burroughs down to earth.

Burroughs sprained his knee in his opening match, which he won. But according to Nebraska coach Mark Manning, who still works with Burroughs, the injury put doubt into Burroughs' mind throughout the event.

Burroughs lost in the semifinals, but he rallied to win a bronze medal - injured knee and all.

''In the back of his mind, it just played with him,'' Manning said. ''He thought he needed to be 100 percent and he wasn't 100 percent. It got away from him.''

The lesson for Burroughs was that, at the international level, a proper mindset is more important than pure skill. Still, Burroughs changed his diet and his strength training this offseason, and three weeks ago the social-media savvy Burroughs logged off Twitter until after Saturday's matches.

''He just continues to improve. That's what's impressive,'' Manning said. ''He's worked his tail off. He's ready.''

Saturday's finals are also huge for Burroughs because it'll be the first time his father Leroy will get to watch him wrestle in a big international event.

Leroy doesn't even own a passport, so Las Vegas might represent the first and only shot for Jordan to win a world title with his dad in the stands.

`I'm a three-time world champion and my dad has never been in the stands to see me win those championships,'' Burroughs said. ''He'll be in the stands watching his son competing in the highest level of the world. Hopefully I won't squander that opportunity. This is big for me.''

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP and Facebook at www.facebook.com/LukeMeredithAP

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