IOWA CITY, Iowa — Hawkeye fans won’t be happy about it, but it’s not a stretch to think chants of “Go Big Red” might be heard here this weekend.
Three wrestlers with ties to Nebraska will be competing at this weekend's United World Wrestling's Freestyle World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Former Huskers Jordan Burroughs (163 pounds) and James Green (154 pounds) will represent Team USA along with current Husker wrestling assistant coach and former Oklahoma wrestler Kendric Maple (134 pounds).
Burroughs, a three-time All-American, three-time Big 12 champion and two-time national champion while at Nebraska from 2007-11, is coming off a win at the world championships in Paris last summer. He’s been training with the Nebraska wrestling team in Lincoln over the winter, and NU coach Mark Manning says he’s as fit as ever.
“I can kind of tell when he’s feeling good because he’s free-flowing, doing more than one thing in a row and combination attacks,” Manning said. “That’s when I know he’s loose and he’s really focused. I’ve been seeing that a lot lately.”
U.S. coach Bill Zadick echoed Manning’s thoughts when he visited Lincoln for three days in March to watch Burroughs, Green and Maple train.
“Jordan has grown a lot, and that shows in his consistency and his maturity on the mat,” Zadick said. “And he’s been a great leader for our team on top of what he does in competition. He’s had a big influence on a lot of the guys and his presence in the room gives others confidence.”
This will be Burroughs’ sixth appearance in the event, and he’s 23-0 in his previous five World Cups (2012, ’13, ’14, ’15 and ’17). The United States finished second in 2015 and 2017 but has not won the event since 2003.
Green, who won a Big Ten championship in 2014 and was a four-time All-American at Nebraska from 2012-15, could also give the U.S. team a spark. He was a bronze medalist at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas before taking silver last year in Paris.
“I really think this is the best team we’ve had since I've been around,” Burroughs said. “James is getting better all the time, and I think we’re strong up and down the roster. I’ve never won the World Cup as a team, but I think we’ve got a really good chance this year.”
Circumstances have worked in the U.S. team’s favor as the World Cup schedule has taken shape. Iran, which has won the event the past six years, dropped out of the event in March seemingly because of a scheduling dispute with UWW. Then last week, USA Wrestling announced that Russia, another world wrestling power, would not compete because the team encountered visa problems while trying to make the trip.
Mongolia and India have replaced Iran and Russia, and the U.S. team will open against India in Session I at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Americans will then face Japan at 2:30 p.m. in Session II.