Tough road leads to success for MU wrestler

Thursday, February 5, 2009 | 8:51 p.m. CST; updated 10:35 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 5, 2009
MU's Raymond Jordan keeps his eye on his opponent Jesse Strawn of Old Dominion in the 184-pounds final match in Missouri Open 2007. He wrestled three years as a 184-pound wrestler, but this season he has switched to the 174-pound weight class. Both of Jordan's parents died before he was 7 years old, and the road leading to collegiate success has been difficult.

COLUMBIA — When he was a freshman, MU wrestler Raymond Jordan dealt with two-time national champion Ben Askren every day in practice. With all Jordan has dealt with in his lifetime, he says he was thankful for having the opportunity to endure those practices.

Jordan’s parents both died before he was 7. He lived with his grandmother until high school, but then she died. He lived with a friend until high school graduation, and then came to Missouri to join the wrestling team though he only had five years of wrestling experience. Jordan said what he went through was tough, but it made him a much stronger person.

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Missouri at Oklahoma
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Norman, Oklahoma

Missouri at Oklahoma State
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Stillwater, Oklahoma

“I really think it helped with my mindset as far as being strong and able to withstand setbacks and overcome adversity,” Jordan said. “I’m getting my butt kicked by Ben Askren every day, but overcoming having lost both parents by the time your 6 is really tough. In the grand scheme of things, getting your butt beat every day in the practice room, is that as bad as losing your parents at 6? I don’t think so.”

Missouri coach Brian Smith said Jordan’s ability as a wrestler and his attitude as a person amazes him. Smith is vocal about labeling Jordan as the team's leader.

“He’s a quiet kid, but he’s always helping people," Smith said. "He’s almost like the big brother on the team. He’s the one that really cares. You never really ever hear him picking on anybody. He’s had to go through so many struggles in his life that he’s there to help people. He wants to see people succeed because he’s been given the opportunity to succeed.”

Jordan has transitioned from an eager freshman in his first year with the squad to the team leader in his senior season. This season, he is dealing with another transition. He wrestled three years as a 184-pound wrestler, but this season he has switched to the 174-pound weight class, an idea that came from his coach.

“When he was a true freshman, he came in as a 165-pounder, but then we knew he was getting too big," Smith said. "He really grew into a 174-pounder, but we didn’t need a 174-pounder because there was Ben Askren wrestling.”

Jordan has responded well to the transition. He is 25-2 this season and has defeated top-five ranked opponents in his past two matches. He was also named the Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week. Jordan’s ultimate goal is to win a national championship, and both he and Smith say they think Jordan can perform even better.

“He’s talented enough to send a message to these people that he can dominate,” Smith said. “That’s what he’s got to start believing. He doesn’t have to just go out there and win a close match. He can dominate.”

Jordan said, “I want to perform the way I am capable of performing. There have been moments this year where I haven’t performed up to my capabilities. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself.”

The wrestling team has a tough weekend ahead of it. It travels to Oklahoma on Friday and Oklahoma State on Saturday. Both teams are in the top-15 in the USA Today polls. Smith wants Jordan and the whole team to be more focused on offense this weekend.

Jordan is happy to be where he’s at no matter how the rest of the season plays out. He said he is proud of his accomplishments and knows his parents would be too.

“I would love to have my parents here and watch all that I do,” Jordan said. “I’d love for them to be there at my graduation from college. I know they’re watching over me and looking down on me, and I know if they were alive, I’d make them very proud.”

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