London Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs, 26, the greatest American wrestler of his generation, is quick to admit he's the product of Mark and Dave Schultz, two brothers whose careers ended long before he stepped in a ring. "As a kid, I'd be wearing their shoes and hearing how great their technique was," the three-time world champ explains. "They were trailblazers and champions before I was even born. In training you'd try to replicate them."
The brothers each won gold in freestyle wrestling at the 1984 Games, and became legends in the tight-knit community until Dave's life was tragically cut short in 1996. This fall, Foxcatcher, a new film starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, shines a light on the two great wrestlers and focuses on the relationship with benefactor John du Pont. We spoke with Jordan about growing up in a sport defined by the two greats, how wrestling has changed in recent years, and the legacy the brothers left behind.
Do the Schultz brothers still have a legacy in American wrestling?
They were studs, man. In our eyes, Mark and Dave Schultz are legends.
Foxcatcher covers a dark moment in wrestling, how does the community feel?
We're excited. The story's been whispered about for years, but this is the first time it's being portrayed, recognizing the struggles they went through for their success. What the Schultzs achieved as brothers is unmatched.
The Schultz brothers were Olympic gold medalists but worked hard to support themselves, what are conditions like today?
For a long time I heard that wrestlers aren't financially stable and that I'd need to have other endeavors to survive, but that's changed. I have sponsorships, my own shoe with Asics and headphones with Flips.
What's the state of American wrestling?
It's awesome. Since it was initially dropped from the Olympics [and reinstated] we've seen a huge boost in participation and non-traditional fans. We have a lot of heroes winning and breaking records.
What was the response when the IOC threatened to cut wrestling?
It was extremely sad. A lot of us were in denial that our Olympics dream could be cut. It's the Super Bowl and World Series for us. But it also thrust us into the spotlight and people saw the characters and champions we have.
Amidst its potential exclusion from the Olympics, wrestling made a number of rule changes. What do we need to know?
I think they're great. They make wrestling more appealing to fans by simplifying scoring and rewarding aggressiveness. Before it was more of a chess match, now you're going to see fireworks.
Besides yourself, what American wrestlers should we be excited about?
We have a really tough team, but a couple young guys to watch are Tony Ramos and Brent Metcalf. They were really successful in college and are progressing at a fast rate. They'll be bringing home medals.