Husker Insider: Burroughs On Manning Milestones And Memories
Husker Insider: Burroughs On Manning Milestones And Memories
Seven-time World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs reflects on his times with coach Mark Manning and Nebraska's quest to have another NCAA champ.
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Nebraska’s longtime head coach Mark Manning recently hit a career milestone, capturing his 300th dual win with a 24-11 victory over Wisconsin.
Manning is now 302-129-5 for his career. He spent three seasons as the head coach at Northern Iowa before taking over the Husker program in 2000. As the head man in Lincoln, Manning is 279-106-3.
We caught up with Manning’s former star pupil, Jordan Burroughs, to talk about his old coach, this year’s Husker team, and everything in between.
Burroughs is the best to ever come through the Nebraska program. He’s arguably the best to ever represent Team USA with his seven World and Olympic gold medals, more than any American ever.
So what does the two-time NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner from his time as a Husker think about Manning getting to 300 wins?
“It’s really not surprising. I was excited for him because I knew just how much work he puts into his craft. He loves the sport and he loves to win – he’s the ultimate competitor,” Burroughs said. “I really think about all those athletes that helped him compile those wins and the relationships he established in order to get this far, it’s pretty special. Each of those wins tell a story, so when you hear 300 it’s easy to think about the number itself, but I just think about all these amazing teams he was able to assemble.”
After the win over Wisconsin at the end of January, Burroughs called his former coach to congratulate him, but it didn’t stop him from throwing a little shade his way to mess with him.
“I was like man, think about all the close dual meets we lost by a point or a single match. You probably should have been at 300 a year and a half or two years ago,” Burroughs joked. “But honestly, it’s pretty special. He deserves it and he works really hard at his craft and he loves the sport.”
The relationship that Burroughs and Manning have is a special one. They first met in Burroughs’ living room when he was 16 and a lightly-recruited single-time state champion out of Winslow Township High School in New Jersey. After an illustrious college career, Burroughs then went on to have an even better international career in freestyle with Manning coaching him along the way.
“Our relationship has spanned almost two decades, so it’s been pretty incredible to see what we’ve been able to accomplish together,” Burroughs said. “It’s funny because when we first met, we never would have imagined that we’d achieve this level of greatness together.”
To his former pupil, the thing that stands out about Manning is his loyalty. Whatever Burroughs needed, Manning was there.
“Honestly, he is probably the most loyal person that I’ve ever been associated with that I wasn’t related to. There were times when anything that I needed, he did it,” Burroughs said. “There were times when he was willing to fight my opponent on my behalf. Then there were times that I’d be out of town and he’d be picking up mail at my house and cutting my grass when I was on the road. When I was injured, he carried me half a mile to the training room to make sure that I was OK. Staying up late with me, being next to me in surgeries, there really wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do to make sure I was good.”
For Burroughs, his relationship with Manning really evolved during the beginning of his Senior-level career. He can even point to the exact moment that he realized that Manning would literally do anything for him.
During a simulated match in training camp before the 2012 Olympics in London, Burroughs was facing a wrestler from Belarus in a match that “was a little bit of a chippy exhibition match,” according to Burroughs. His opponent had Burroughs in a front headlock and was choking him out, so he bellied out and tried to concede the position and the takedown, but his opponent wouldn’t take the go-behind.
“So Manning runs out and is ready to rumble with this guy. He pushes him off me and he’s like ready to fight,” Burroughs said. “This dude is jumping up and in Manning’s face, Manning’s in his face, and the coaches are like breaking it up. Meanwhile, I’m on my back trying to catch a freaking breath. It was just a wild time. I was like, this dude would fight for me. Up until that point, it had really been a coach-to-athlete relationship, but I think that when I got to the Senior level is when we started to create more of a partnership and a friendship. He ultimately became a mentor of mine that I’ve really trusted.”
For Burroughs, something that really just hammers home what kind of a guy Manning is is how he fought tooth and nail for Kyle Burwick’s eligibility during a months-long eligibility squabble between Nebraska and Wisconsin. It was a perfect example of his loyalty.
“He wanted Kyle bad and he was willing to burn down the establishment to get him,” Burroughs said. “It’s just the kind of guy that Manning is. He’s a fierce competitor and he’s supremely loyal to the people who are loyal to him. He’s just a good dude and he wants to win, but not at the expense of sacrificing integrity. He wants to win the right way and that’s one thing I can appreciate about him.”
Huskers Need An Individual Title
First of all, Burroughs will tell you he’s a Husker through and through, despite his 2021 move from Lincoln to train at the Pennsylvania RTC.
“I’ll never root for another team — I think it’s insincere,” Burroughs said. “My allegiance is always with the Huskers, so even at the University of Pennsylvania, I pour into these guys because it is who I am. But when it comes to rooting for teams, I don’t even wear a Penn shirt. I’ll never root for another college, it’s just not in my DNA. I’ll only ever root for the Huskers.”
As far as this year’s Huskers go, Burroughs has been impressed by a number of guys. He’s spent a significant amount of time wrestling Mikey Labriola and Peyton Robb in the past, but he’s also been impressed with the trio of redshirt freshman starters in Brock Hardy, Lenny Pinto and Silas Allred.
But for this team to take the next step and instill that level of belief that his teams had in college, Burroughs thinks the Huskers need a guy at the top of the podium again. After all, the last Husker to win an NCAA title was Burroughs himself in 2011.
“It’s been too long. Typically, you want your records to stand and you want to see your name in the rafters for as long as you can, but I’m at a point now where I’m like, I just want us to win,” Burroughs said. “Manning deserves it, and the program deserves it. I was the last champion at Nebraska. It’s been 12 years since someone won a title. It’s time. We’re due for one, so I hope that someone makes it happen this year.”
In fact, Burroughs points to seeing his teammate Paul Donahoe win an NCAA title in 2007 as a catalyst for him believing that he could do it too, even after going 1-2 at his first NCAA tournament as a freshman. And that belief that followed flowed throughout the entire roster as the Huskers went from having Donahoe as their only All-American in 2007 to having five All-Americans in 2008, including Burroughs’ third-place finish.
“We were like, ‘Man, it’s possible. I train with this dude, I hang with this dude, I watch him wrestle and compete. And like, if he can do it then I can do it.’ He was the catalyst for belief in our entire program, and it changed the game significantly,” Burroughs said. “We need that (now). I’m gone, and I think a lot of people look at me like this anomaly, like this individual that went on to achieve great things, but it’s not really representative of the program. That I was just really special and I was a generational talent. I think it’s imperative to our culture and our recruiting capabilities moving forward, but also I think it would be a testament to Manning that he get another guy and mold him and cultivate him and he can enhance their abilities and get them on top of the podium because we’ve been close. We’ve lost to some really good guys in the process.”
Nebraska has been close to the top of the podium with NCAA finalists TJ Dudley, Tyler Berger and Ridge Lovett since. Also coming close were four-time All-American James Green and three-timer Robert Kokesh. Dudley fell to two-time champ Gabe Dean, while Berger lost to three-timer Jason Nolf. Then this past season, Lovett lost to (currently) three-time champ Yianni Diakomihalis.
“It’s not for a lack of trying or a lack of effort,” Burroughs said of the lack of champions since his reign. “The skills are there, but we’re losing to guys that are freaking once-in-a-lifetime type of athletes.”
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