Sesker Slant: Talking Clark, Burroughs, National Duals

By Craig Sesker For The Predicament

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – There isn’t a wrestler at the collegiate level who competes any harder than Cory Clark.

The Iowa senior isn’t overly flashy and won’t dazzle you with lights-out speed or silky-smooth technique.

But the hard-nosed Clark, a two-time NCAA runner-up and three-time All-American, will never stop scrapping when he steps on the mat.

As you know, Clark has placed second the last two years at the NCAA tournament. No wrestler is more determined to stand on top of the podium this year than the gritty 133-pounder.

Clark just returned to the Iowa lineup and has a chance to lead the Hawkeyes to their first NCAA title since 2010.

With fellow national runner-up finishers Thomas Gilman and Brandon Sorensen back, along with All-Americans Sammy Brooks and Alex Meyer, Iowa should definitely be in the mix to win it all in March.

Clark will face a tough road at nationals, but he’s the type of guy who won’t wear down in a grueling, three-day tournament. He’s always in superb shape and he can wear opponents down because he is lethal in the top position. Plus, he will keep fighting and battling until the final second goes off the clock.

Clark’s performance could provide the spark that propels the Hawkeyes to another gold trophy at nationals.

THE RETURN OF JB

Jordan Burroughs is back.

He made the announcement on his popular Twitter account – @alliseeisgold – shortly after he rang in the new year.

Burroughs was back at the Olympic Training Center training this month and he’s scheduled to make his return to competition at next month’s Freestyle World Cup in Tehran, Iran.

As many of you remember, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion fell short of medaling at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

He shockingly lost back-to-back matches after winning 130 of the first 132 matches in his brilliant international career.

Burroughs is just too good to go out like that, and it’s great to see him back. He said recently that “one day doesn’t define me” and he couldn’t be more right.

He’s 28, and is still capable of contending for a world title this year in Paris. He only lost by one point at the Olympics to Russia’s Aniuar Geduev, who went on to win a silver medal in Rio.

Burroughs, in my opinion, is among the top five American wrestlers of all-time and is a legend in this sport. He has nothing left to prove.

But knowing how competitive Burroughs is, he definitely has something to prove to himself.

As a fan of wrestling, we should embrace his comeback and feel fortunate we have an opportunity to watch him compete again.

Just making another world team won’t be easy for Burroughs. His weight class could feature Kyle Dake, Alex Dieringer and Aaron Pico this year. Any of those three young studs are capable of winning a world medal as well.

The last time Burroughs lost before Rio, in 2014, he came back strong and won a world medal in 2015.

Kudos to Burroughs for coming back. He’s one of the greatest champions, on and off the mat, this sport has ever seen. He’s wrestled at a tremendously high level and he’s been an incredible ambassador for the sport as well.

NATIONAL DUALS

The Nationals Duals used to be one of my favorite events of the year.

Used to be.

When all divisions of college wrestling took part, including the Division I men and the women’s college teams, it was an awesome event.

I am a little biased because I grew up in that state, but the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa was the perfect venue for the event.

You couldn't beat having the DI finals on one mat, with D2, D3, etc. going on simultaneously on adjacent mats.

That format is long gone now, in part because some teams simply didn’t want to show up, and it is sad to see.

The coaches’ association still hosts a National Duals event, and kudos to that organization for trying to make it work. But it just isn’t the same.

College wrestling needs to get all the divisions back together under one roof for what used to be a very entertaining event. It was a great competition and also fun for the smaller schools to compete side-by-side with the big boys.

I am not in favor of having the National Duals decide the team champion in college wrestling.

The NCAA Championships is the best event in wrestling at every level. And keeping team score is part of what makes it so compelling. Please don’t ever tinker with an event that sells out every year.

But adding a National Duals mid-season, where all divisions take part, would definitely be great to see again.