March 07, 2013

Jordan Burroughs emerged from the London Olympics with a gold medal and a reputation as perhaps the world's best wrestler.

Now Burroughs has joined the fight to save his sport's Olympic future.

Burroughs, whose talent and charisma have been crucial for a sport often devoid of flash, has been diligent in his efforts to help reverse the International Olympic Committee's decision to cut the sport from the 2020 Games.

Burroughs is using his notoriety to push the new Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling's agenda. Burroughs, a former NCAA champion at Nebraska, has made numerous public speaking appearances and countless interviews and is using his Twitter handle; (at)alliseeisgold, to promote the cause to his nearly 70,000 followers.

"I'm just doing as much as I can to continue to allow this decision to be in the spotlight. I think Americans, as a nation and culture, once something is recognized for a week or two people kind of forget about," Burroughs told The Associated Press by phone on Thursday. "We need to continue to keep it in the public eye."

The wrestling community has mobilized to fight the IOC's decision, which came as a surprise. Wrestling is now among eight sports seeking to fill one vacancy in 2020. The IOC board will meet in May to recommend a short list of sports for inclusion. The final decision will be made in September.

FILA, wrestling's international governing body, replaced president Raphael Martinetti with interim head Nenad Lalovic of Serbia within days of the IOC vote. USA Wrestling responded by forming the CPOW, comprised of top figures in the American wrestling community such as Burroughs.

Burroughs said he thinks that wrestling, which has been an Olympic sport since the ancient Games, could use some serious tweaks to adapt to modern viewing habits.

According to Burroughs, an overhaul of the Greco-Roman discipline, where a lack of leg holds can often lead to tedious matches, is being discussed. Burroughs also said the international setup of three, 2-minute periods could be changed to one, 5-minute frame. Tweaks to overtime and its controversial ball-clinch rule, which usually gives the offensive wrestler a huge advantage, are also on the table.

"We're definitely going to overhaul the sport. Make some rules changes to hopefully make it more exciting," Burroughs said. "It's tough. But people want to see more action. More points being scored."

Although Burroughs's ease with the spotlight is a major asset for the sport, he knows his platform will diminish unless he keeps winning.

That hasn't been a problem.

Burroughs went 5-0 during the recent World Cup in Iran to lead the United States to a third-place finish in freestyle and improve his international record to 43-0. It was his first action since London, and it cemented Burroughs's status as the wrestler to watch in the years leading up to the 2016 Olympics.

But the lasting image for Burroughs was the camaraderie between the fellow wrestling nations and the support of the Iranian fans, who shared the U.S. outrage over the IOC's move.

"It was sweet. It was awesome. It was probably the best wrestling venue, in terms of fan support and excitement, that I've ever been a part of," Burroughs said. "We're competitors on the mat. But with the decision by the IOC, now everyone is coming together."

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