BELLEVILLE — Belleville East junior Matt Striegel has never met 2012 Olympic 163-pound wrestling gold medal winner Jordan Burroughs.
But when Striegel takes the mat for his first round 170-pound match at the Class 3A state wrestling tournament on Thursday at the State Farm Center in Champaign, he too will be wearing gold.
Burroughs' Asics JB Elite gold wrestling shoes.
"I saw them online one day and liked them,'' Striegel said. "I've always admired him (Burroughs) and he's a guy I can learn more from watching than any other athlete wrestle.
"Just his style. The way he just goes at his opponent from the opening whistle. He's non-stop aggression. That's kind of the way I like to wrestle. I don't like to hold anything back.''
Ranked seventh in Class 3A's 170-pound weight class by Illinois Best Weekly, the 36-3 Striegel hasn't held anything back during a 2013-14 season which has seen him win three tournaments and place second three other times.
Two of Striegel's three losses have come against elite wrestlers. Striegel lost by a point to the No. 1 ranked wrestler in Iowa in the finals of the Quincy Tournament. Then this past Saturday, he dropped a 6-5 decision to undefeated and second-ranked Bryce Gorman of (New Lenox) Lincoln-Way Central in the title match of the Normal West Sectional.
"He (Gorman) took me down three times in the first period and that shouldn't have happened,'' Striegel said. "The third period I was able to turn him with like four or five seconds left.
"I've lost three matches this year and it's because my opponent has wrestled smarter matches than I have. But I feel like I've learned from all three of those losses and now I'm a better wrestler.''
Striegel, the son of Kurt and Pam Striegel, was introduced to the sport by his father, who also wrestled in high school.
Not in love with sport at the time, Striegel stayed with it while growing up, but didn't really take it seriously until the summer of his sophomore season, when he attended the J Robinson Camp.
Robinson is a highly successful coach for NCAA Division I power Minnesota.
"I had wrestled for a long time and had put a lot of time into it. But I didn't really see it (wrestling) as something that I could really do. Then I went to some camps and started wrestling some high-level guys. That gave me confidence,'' Striegel said. "I wouldn't really say I learned a lot of technique at those camps. Actually East coach (Maurice) Brown is the one who has taught me a lot of the actual technique.
"What those camps did was teach me how to compete. What it took to be successful. It taught me the level of work ethic I would need to develop if I wanted to be successful in this sport.''
Brown, a former All-American at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, said he saw potential from Striegel as a freshman, then again last year when he won 37 matches and advanced to state.
"He went 1-2 at state last year and for a sophomore, we didn't think that was bad,'' Brown said. "The big improvement in Matt has been in the neutral position and on his feet. He's always been a great mat wrestler and he's always been a scrambler and very tough to score on.
"But what makes Matt so good is that he lives the lifestyle of a wrestler. He takes care of his body and watches what he eats. Weight has never been an issue for him.''
What could be an issue for Striegel this weekend in Champaign is his bracket.
If Striegel does win the state title he will have earned it.
A win over Patrick Brucki (36-14) of (Orland Park) Sandburg on Thursday will likely move Striegel into a Friday quarterfinal against third-ranked Kayne McCallum of Libertyville (39-1).
A probable semifinal against top-ranked Davonte Mahomes (40-2) of Oak Park-River Forest would follow with a possible rematch with Bryce Gorman (41-0) of Lincoln-Way Central for the state title Saturday.
Despite the tough road, Striegel's goal is still a lofty one.
"My goal all year has been to win the state title and I feel it's a realistic goal if I wrestle like I can,'' Striegel said. "At the least I want to be in the top four.''