All families put pressure on their children to succeed, especially when the son or daughter is following in the family’s footsteps and pursuing the same sport. But not all kids are continually reminded of their family’s accomplishments in the form of six wrestling All-American honors and two national championships on the history books.
Redshirt freshman Isaac Jordan may have a legendary family history, but he is shaping his own destiny as part of the latest generation of Jordans to thrive as Badger wrestlers.
In his first season competing for Wisconsin, he has notched a perfect 17-0 dual record, a 7-0 Big Ten conference record and has taken out five ranked opponents, including the top two wrestlers in his 157-pound weight class.
Now, Jordan is ranked as the No. 2 wrestler in the country and is established as the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held at the Kohl Center this Saturday and Sunday.
Jordan doesn’t face the pressure to immediately succeed in the Big Ten Tournament as a freshman and has all four years of postseason endeavors ahead of him. He said, however, he feels a combination of inspiration and pressure from his family’s wrestling achievements.
“People expect a lot out of me,” Jordan said. “In the same way, I’m still motivated to do well.”
His father, Jim Jordan, was a two-time national champion and three-time All-American at Wisconsin in the 1980s, and is currently a U.S. Representative for an Ohio congressional district that includes Jordan’s hometown of Urbana.
Isaac’s uncle, Jeff Jordan, was a two-time All-American for the Badgers and is the head wrestling coach at Graham High School, where he, Jim and Isaac combined for 11 Ohio state championships. Jordan’s brother, Ben, was an All-American for the Badgers his senior year in 2012.
With a laundry list of achievements from his family and being around high-level wrestling his whole life, Jordan’s strength is his intuitive knowledge of the sport, head coach Barry Davis said.
“[He] understands the sport, the dynamics of it, the way it works, the angles and the [body] pressures,” Davis said. “That’s what separates him from everybody else.”
Growing up in a household of wrestlers, Jordan said by the ripe old age of 5, he had already found a love for the sport. Jordan said he has always felt a passion for wrestling and never believed it was an unspoken obligation from his family.
Even with his son at Wisconsin, Jim Jordan doesn’t impose any will on Isaac regarding wrestling. Davis said by giving his son enough space, Isaac has been allowed to grow and learn mistakes on his own, without the ominous shadow of his father following him during his years of wrestling.
But Jordan said he sees his father in the stands at every match.
“He’s kind of hands off,” Jordan said. “He lets the coaches do the coaching. But he sits in the stands and cheers and supports me.”
Jordan has received some coaching from his older brother. As his coach for one season, Ben gave Isaac some off-the-mat advice, like how to manage a busy schedule of school and wrestling.
Davis said that Jordan’s wrestling IQ is off the charts—Jordan rarely makes mental errors and never makes the same mistake twice.
Davis said in his wins over the nation’s top-ranked wrestler from Nebraska, and defending national champion from Iowa last month, Jordan only made one mistake in 18 minutes.
“He’s consistent in what he does,” he said. “He’s able to hold position and be disciplined throughout the match. Some people cannot do that, but he can.”
Three-time All-American Tyler Graff said when it comes to practice and competition, Jordan is all business. He also said Jordan has been strengthened by the lifelong wrestling experience gained from his family, and expects him to be more than prepared for the Big Ten tournament this weekend.
“[He’s a] hardworking guy, he’s a good role model for kids, very patient in his positions,” Graff said. “I think he’s confident and is just getting progressively better each time.”
If you walk in the doors of the Jordan household in Urbana, you won’t see trophies acknowledging the glory of the Jordan wrestlers. You won’t find any banners celebrating any of the family championships. And you won’t find a framed picture of Isaac suited up in a fierce wrestling position.
The Jordan family has no need to boast about the incredible Wisconsin wrestling feats it has achieved for 41 years. Isaac Jordan is modestly making his way through the Badger wrestling program, overcoming historic family pressure, and is on pace to follow in his family’s footsteps and become a Wisconsin wrestling legend.