Jordan Burroughs is pushing for the title of best U.S. wrestler of all time. He’s 92-2 in his international career, with two world championships and Olympic gold. (Hence the Twitter handle: @allIseeisgold)
The second of those losses might merit an asterisk, as the headline implies: Jordan Burroughs sprains MCL, wins bronze at World Wrestling Championships | OlympicTalk.
To give credit where it’s due: Russia’s Denis Tsargush, who beat Burroughs, is a former world champion himself and the man who has given Burroughs a couple of tough matches in major events.
But seeing Burroughs lose on a hobbled leg raises a question: Are wrestling and other combat sports better off in the current format of running through an entire weight class in one day?
The format is still relatively new in wrestling. (It’s older in judo.) In 2000 and 2004, wrestlers had two or three days of competition, starting with small round-robin pools before advancing to a knockout bracket. By 2008, they switched to one day per weight class.
Maybe a different format couldn’t have helped Burroughs recover from his injury in time to have another classic match with Tsargush. But what are the advantages to making wrestlers do everything in a day? It doesn’t add any drama. Broadcasters, let alone reporters, have no time to build the story of a wrestler, particularly an underdog, moving through a tournament to the final.
When wrestling was placed on the Olympic chopping block last year, FILA reconsidered its rules but left the one-day format intact. Bloody Elbow’s Mike Riordan sees a better way:
The NCAA Division I wrestling championships stand alone as the true gold standard when it comes to well-attended television-friendly amateur wrestling tournaments. At the NCAAs, all weights compete simultaneously in six sessions spread over a three day period. The semifinals, which determine the match ups for the finals, take place at the end of day two, and the finals take place at the end of the third day. This creates a situation where all of the event’s most anticipated matches fall on a Saturday night, with a whole day left before them to ensure proper coverage, allow for decent marketing, and maximize fan anticipation.
If FILA seeks to eventually optimize the product of its World Championships and Olympics, then it needs to eventually abandon the one-day model, and continue to progress into a format which resembles the NCAA championships.
The NCAA doing something right while the international organizer gets it wrong? Go figure.