Kyle Dake ended Jordan Burroughs’ decade of dominance in American wrestling, making the Olympics for the first time with a sweep in the men’s freestyle 74kg finals at the US trials Saturday night.
Dake posted 3-0 and 3-2 decisions over the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion who had dominated his weight division.
As time ran out in their second bout, Dake patted a stunned Burroughs on the shoulders and chest and put his arm around his neck.
“I just thanked him,” Dake said. “I told him I appreciated him. He’s pushed me to levels that I did know I had in myself. There were a lot of times I wasn’t coming out with the victory and that was tough. He’s a great champion, and my goal is to bring home an Olympic gold medal. Tokyo, here we come.”
Kyle Snyder will defend his gold medal at 97kg in men’s freestyle after 10-0 and 5-1 decisions over Kollin Moore. As a 20-year-old in 2016, Snyder became the youngest American wrestler to win Olympic gold.
Burroughs, 32, had represented the US at the world championships or Olympics every year since 2011.
“It just sets in that a run is over for me,” he said. “It’s hard. It will be hard for a while. There’s always more things you can do that you reflect on. I’ll lean on my family and God’s grace and move on with confidence and hope the future is bright for me.”
Burroughs gave no indication he planned to retire.
“I’ve got a lot to think about moving forward,” he said. “At this moment you take it all in stride and try to continue to be confident in your abilities.”
Dake was in control throughout both matches. When Burroughs took a shot in the first bout, Dake denied him and scored a takedown of his own. Dake led 3-0 in the second period of the second bout before being penalized a point for passivity and Burroughs scored on a late force-out.
Burroughs had been 7-1 against Dake, beating him in best-of-three finals in the US world trials in 2013, ‘15 and ‘17. Dake had won the first bout in the 2017 world trials before Burroughs came back to earn the spot on the American team.
Dake moved up to win world championships in 2018 and ‘19, but Saturday marked the biggest breakthrough of his career.
Gable Steveson, co-winner of the 2021 Dan Hodge Trophy as the outstanding college wrestler, will go to the Olympics for the first time after outscoring two-time world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski a combined 20-4 at 125 kilograms in men’s freestyle.
With the crowd chanting “Backflip! Backflip!”, Steveson exited the mat with a handspring and backflip just as he did two weeks ago when he won the NCAA heavyweight title for Minnesota.
“People love it, I love it,” he said. “I’m an entertainer, but first I win matches.”
Of the 18 winners Saturday, 15 will be assured of competing in the Olympics. The United States has not qualified at 65kg in freestyle and 77 and 130 kilograms in Greco Roman. To wrestle in Tokyo, the winners at those weights will need to finish first or second in a May 6-9 world qualifier in Bulgaria.
J’den Cox, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world champion, said he was working on an appeal to USA Wrestling after being disqualified from trials for not making weight Friday. He said legal action also was being considered.
Cox told NBC his coach, Kevin Jackson, told him the wrong time for weigh-ins. Cox was to compete in men’s freestyle at 97kg.
“If you’ve ever seen me wrestle or heard about my life,” Cox said, “I’m all about the fight. If you want a brawl, then we can do it.”