This week Noah and Bjorn spoke with USA freestyle wrestling legend Jordan Burroughs and his wife Lauren. Jordan is from Camden, New Jersey and Lauren is from Buffalo, New York. They have been married since 2013 and currently live in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they have three kids together.
Jordan attended the University of Nebraska, where he finished his final three seasons with a record of 111-6, going undefeated his junior and senior years.
Jordan also finished his collegiate career with three Big 12 titles, two national championships and won the Hodge Trophy during his senior season, which is college wrestling’s equivalent to college football’s Heisman Trophy.
Following graduation from UNL in 2011, Jordan won the U.S. Open just three weeks after his final collegiate match. Following that, he won his first World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey, becoming just the fourth wrestler ever to win an NCAA Championship and World Championship in the same year.
Overall, Jordan has won an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, was the #1 ranked wrestler going into the 2016 Olympics, is a four-time World Champion, six-time World Cup Champion, three-time Pan American Games gold medalist, a four-time Pan American Champion, and has a senior level record of 189-9, along with countless other accomplishments. His five world gold medals are just one shy of tying the USA record.
Lauren met Jordan in Philadelphia in 2011 at an NCAA wrestling tournament that her youngest brother was wrestling in. They started communicating over social media, before finally meeting up when Jordan was in Buffalo several months later. This started their official relationship.
Lauren worked at The Buffalo News as a sports and town reporter until moving to Nebraska seven years ago following her engagement to Jordan.
How Did Lauren and Jordan Come to Know Christ?
“People would be worshipping … there was worship music overflowing into the street. It was so new and different to me, and I just knew that I wanted my life to be a reflection of that”- Lauren Burroughs
Lauren says that growing up she didn’t have a relationship with God, and it wasn’t until her time in between college and graduate school that she came to know Him.
On the podcast Lauren talks about working at a training facility run by her uncle, a legendary former Buffalo athlete, over the summer. At this facility, she spent almost every day around a man named Demeris Johnson, who is a former NFL receiver and current biblical scholar and community leader.
Lauren says that Demeris is an amazing guy and describes how being around him every day and seeing the way he treated people and lived his life was an important moment in her faith journey.
Prior to this, Lauren thought that faith was just something people did on Sundays at church. Lauren also explains how the relationships she had with those in her life suffered as a result of her lack of a relationship with God.
Demeris would have Sunday services in his house and he invited Lauren to attend these. She says that when she went there would be worship music pouring out of his house into the street and people all around her would be worshipping.
All of this was new and different to Lauren, but on the podcast, she talks about how she knew she wanted her life to be a reflection of this.
“After the Olympics in 2012 I was like ‘Man, this is supposed to be the best time ever’ and I just felt like it was empty”-- Jordan Burroughs
Jordan says that he dabbled with faith for a long period of time when he was growing up and trying to figure out who he was, where he wanted to go and what he wanted to be.
On the podcast Jordan talks about a serious injury that he suffered during college that caused him to spend a lot of time away from the team. During this tough time, he was around a team chaplain often, and he talks about how he spent time praying to God to help him recover.
However, once Jordan recovered from the injury, he says that he told God “Thank you for helping me recover, but I’m good now. I’ll take things from here,”. It was a shallow relationship.
It wasn’t until after his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics that Jordan started seriously pursuing a relationship with God.
Winning a gold medal is a huge accomplishment and an amazing moment in someone’s life. However, in the episode Jordan describes the emotions he experienced after this and how they weren’t at all what he was expecting. This is really what pushed him to explore his faith.
Two months after the Olympics Jordan coached at an NCAA wrestling camp. Here, the leaders of the camp invited him to a worship service they were going to immediately after the wrestling event.
He decided to go, and similar to Laruen’s experience at Demeris’ house, Jordan was struck by all the people worshipping around him, specifically the high school kids.
Jordan talks about how when he was younger, he would have never had the confidence to sing loudly or raise his hands in worship in front of people his own age. Jordan says that whatever they were feeling, he wanted to feel it too.
The fact that he was the face of USA wrestling also made him want to make a change. Jordan didn’t just want to be a celebrity that young people and those who didn’t know him looked up to. He wanted to be someone that both people who knew him and people who didn’t regarded highly.
All of this caused Jordan to make a transformation in his life.
What Was the Experience After the 2012 Olympics Like Compared to the 2016 Olympics?
“I was the man of the hour. Fast forward four years later to Rio, and no one wanted to see me”- Jordan Burroughs
At the 2012 Olympics in London, Jordan won a gold medal. On the podcast, he describes the whirlwind of attention he received throughout the country and all the different events he attended following this.
Jordan says that all this attention and winning a gold medal at his first Olympics caused a bit of naivety and oblivion to perspective.
Entering the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Jordan was the #1 ranked wrestler. He believed there was no way he wouldn’t win since he put in all the hard work and had seen himself accomplish it before.
However, at these Olympics Jordan failed to meet both his and the world’s expectations.
In contrast to the 2012 Olympics, Jordan says that following Rio nobody wanted to see him or talk to him, save for his family. In the episode Jordan describes how hard this and his own disappointment were to deal with mentally.
However, his family and his relationship with God made this easier.
Jordan’s self-worth and his sense of fulfilment and joy no longer came solely from wrestling and from his accomplishments.
Jordan was able to lean on his family and God’s love. Lauren’s uncle, who suffered his fair share of heartbreaking losses in his career, reached out to offer support and advice.
He was also able to recognize all the blessings he has in his life. Jordan says that he realized that if the 2016 Olympics were the worst thing that has ever happened to him then he has had an extremely blessed life.
“To go into the Olympics, the biggest stage in sports, and for that to happen and for wrestling fans to see it and realize ‘This can happen to anyone’ I think made him much more relatable”- Lauren Burroughs
As hard as it may seem, Lauren believes that the outcome of the Rio Olympics was actually a blessing itself.
Going into Rio, the only matches that Jordan had lost were when he was injured and a criteria loss that he didn’t even know he was losing.
In Lauren’s mind, Rio helped Jordan become more relatable and have a cooler story that people can connect to. While going your whole career without suffering any significant losses is impressive, it’s something that isn’t attainable for nearly anyone.
Jordan is still somebody that young wrestlers will look up to, and he is now someone that they can more aspire to be like. On top of this, Lauren says that if Jordan comes back and wins gold at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo it gives him a great comeback story.
How Have Lauren and Jordan Maintained a Strong Relationship?
“Communication is so important. Not even just when you’re upset - we talk all the time”- Lauren Burroughs
Jordan and Lauren have been married for a little over seven years now and have maintained a strong relationship despite all of the traveling that Jordan does and the time he has to spend training.
One thing that Lauren thinks is vital to maintaining a strong relationship is communication. She says that her and Jordan talk about everything with each other, which helps keep them on the same page. And when they aren’t on the same page it’s because of a lack of communication.
When they’re upset about something or at the other person, Lauren says that it is important to step out of their comfort zones and confront the other person about it in a loving way.
Beyond this, Lauren talks about how they also communicate and share a lot of good times together and have fun. She says they are both each other's best friend and biggest cheerleader and that this is important.
Lauren also thinks that it’s important to surround yourself with Godly counsel. You need to have friendships and community with people who are pouring into you, not just taking out.
In both Lauren and Jordan’s mind, if you want to be good at anything you need to surround yourself with people who are good at what you’re striving for. This applies to relationships too.
“For me it’s been catering my expectations and making sure I know everything I do isn’t for me; it’s for my wife, my family and everyone who views our marriage”- Jordan Burroughs
What Jordan feels is most important is managing expectations.
Jordan says that no one can truly make you happy, and it is unfair to place this burden on them. Instead, he feels that motivation and love have to come from Christ and from within.
Marriage and relationships are also going to be difficult sometimes.
Jordan describes certain expectations he may have that aren’t always going to be met. While the expectations that he talks about may seem trivial, he says that they can progress over time to become triggering moments that build resentment.
What’s important to do, according to Jordan, is to not only communicate this, but to continue to stay dedicated to the relationship. If you do this, the tough times won’t last.
Finally, Jordan also talks about keeping perspective. When an expectation he has or a plan he had isn’t met, he reminds himself that everything he does isn’t for him; it’s for his wife and his family. This makes dealing with certain feelings of disappointment easier.
What is God Teaching You?
Jordan and Lauren, and the experiences they have gone through, serve as great examples of living through Christ.
Both Jordan and Lauren were at points in their life where they were successful and could be expected by most people to be content. However, they both found themselves wanting more.
Lauren had a great job working for The Buffalo News and Jordan accomplished things that many of us would never dream of accomplishing. However, they are both proof that material success can’t bring a person true happiness.
We’ve likely all seen examples of people around us or people in the news who seemingly have everything they could possibly want yet are still not happy.
We could achieve the highest level in our sport, win championships, get into our dream school or get hired at our dream job. However, the feelings of joy and fulfilment that come from these things are temporary. Eventually, something will still feel like it’s missing.
We won’t be able to achieve true satisfaction in our life until we form a connection with God.
This relationship is what is able to leave us spiritually and internally fulfilled.
This can also have a positive benefit on our relationships with others, as Lauren and Jordan talk about. They go into further detail about how their relationship with Christ really impacted their life and their relationships on the podcast.
In addition, as we saw with Jordan, people and recognition will come and go based on how worthy people deem you of attention. However, God will always be there for us and can help us through the lowest moments in our lives.
Without his relationship with God, dealing with the outcome of the 2016 Olympics would have been much more difficult for Jordan.
When we welcome God into our lives, we know that we can rely on always having blessings in our lives, even if it might be difficult to see. We also know that we can lean on God for support and love when dealing with disappointments, as he will always be there for us.
Jordan and Lauren’s discussion of their relationship and managing expectations connects with Mr. Brickster’s discussion from episode 34 about his priorities as it pertains to his wife and family.
There are going to be times when our expectations and our desires don’t line up with reality and the expectations of our spouse or our significant other.
This can be frustrating.
But, as Jordan and Lauren say, we need to communicate when this occurs and keep things in perspective. We compromise because ultimately, we realize that we shouldn’t necessarily be serving ourselves, but those we love.
As Mr. Brickster said in episode 34, it’s not enough to know in our hearts that our wife, child, significant other, or whoever it may be, is our number one priority. We have to treat them in a way that reflects this and makes them feel like they truly are.
This can also apply to the people in our life who are just friends or family. Part of having a good relationship with someone can involve putting their needs over your desires.
And, of course, God should always be the number one priority in our life.
Do you feel fulfilled with your life? Are you chasing material accomplishments or are you pursuing your relationship with God?
Is God the foundation of everything you do? Are you maintaining a relationship with God through the good times, or just the bad times?
Are you putting the needs of loved ones over your desires? Are you dedicated in your relationships?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
To hear the discussion that Noah and Bjorn had with Jordan and Lauren about how they came to know Christ, how they met, what their experiences following the 2012 and 2016 Olympics were like, how they maintain a strong relationship, and more, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” episode 35.