IOWA CITY, Iowa — Jordan Burroughs’ wife, Lauren, wrote him a note before his Olympic Team Trials match on Sunday telling him he was destined for greatness.
Burroughs made sure his wife was the first person he thanked after securing his spot in the Rio Games.
Burroughs, a three-time world champion and a defending Olympic gold medalist, rolled past Andrew Howe 9-3 and 10-0 in a best-of-three finals series.
Burroughs, considered by many as the best pound-for-pound freestyle wrestler in the world, will be a heavy favorite to repeat as an Olympic champion in the 74-kilogram class in August.
Burroughs celebrated by embracing his family in the stands and flipping his singlet into the crowd.
“The difference between legends and just great athletes is consistency. I really prepare for these moments,” Burroughs said.
Twenty-year-old Kyle Snyder, the youngest world champion in U.S. history, qualified for his first Olympics at 97 kilograms. Snyder beat Jake Varner, the 2012 London Games gold medalist, 4-4, 4-0 and 6-1.
Women’s 75-kilogram freestyle star Adeline Gray, a three-time world champion, is also headed to Rio after beating Victoria Francis 11-0 and 10-0.
Daniel Dennis (57 kilograms, freestyle), Andy Bisek (75 kilograms, Greco-Roman) and Robby Smith (heavyweight, Greco-Roman) clinched Olympic bids as well on Sunday.
But perhaps only Gray was as impressive as Burroughs, whose unique blend of quickness, athleticism and balance led to a dominant finals performance capped when he won his second match in just 86 seconds.
Burroughs, who was single when he captured his first Olympic title in London four years ago, held year-old son Beacon in his arms after the match and asked him if he wanted pizza.
Dad had a feast planned as well, having already scouted out a 24-hour doughnut shop in Iowa City for a late-night celebration.
“It’s changed everything, but it’s changed nothing,” Burroughs said about becoming a father. “The approach has always been to be the best in the world, one of the best ever.”
Snyder’s stunning run to a world title last summer in Las Vegas served notice that he might join Burroughs as America’s next major wrestling star. Snyder only added to his growing legend by winning the most recent NCAA heavyweight title for Ohio State despite giving up about 40 pounds to his opponent.
Varner, 30, won the first match on criteria after posting two takedowns. But the younger Snyder wore Varner down over the final two matches, outscoring Varner 10-1 in their final two matches.
“I watched the 2012 Olympics and I was like ‘Shoot. If I want to make the Olympics I have to be that guy,’” said Snyder, then just 16. “When you’ve got somebody like that in your class you have to train as hard as you possibly can.”
Gray has been touted for years as America’s best chance for its first women’s Olympic gold medal. She was by far the class of the women’s freestyle division, winning on technical superiority in two straight matches.
“America is so great in so many ways. We need an Olympic gold medal for women’s freestyle wrestling and I’m going to do that,” Gray said.
Dennis completed his comeback to the sport after an absence of more than two years with a stunning 10-0 win over fellow former Iowa Hawkeye Tony Ramos in just 64 seconds.
Bisek, a two-time world bronze medalist who’s arguably the best shot the U.S. has for an Olympic medal in the Greco-Roman discipline, rolled past Geordan Speiller 6-2 and 4-0.
Smith, who was fifth at worlds in 2015, dominated Adam Coon in a two-match sweep highlighted by a five-point throw to open the second match.
“I want to win. I want to throw people on their head and have fun doing it,” Smith said. “This has been my dream my whole life.”
J’Den Cox (86 kilograms, freestyle), Haley Augello (48 kilograms, women’s freestyle) and Helen Maroulis (53 kilograms, freestyle) took first in classes the U.S. has yet to qualify to compete in at the Olympics. All three will try to earn bids for themselves and their country in a pair of last-chances events in Mongolia and Turkey in the next few weeks.