Bo Jordan used to wake up every day with a training plan in mind. And whether it was weight lifting, crossfit training or live wrestling, he would not rest until he completed that training.
That philosophy has stopped this season. The second that something doesn’t feel right, he’ll put down the weight. He’ll walk away. He now listens to his body.
Despite being a three-time All-American and a former individual Big Ten champion, the 174-pound Ohio State redshirt senior wrestler has dealt with injuries in each of his four collegiate seasons to date. An individual national championship has eluded him, and he’s making changes in his training regimen with the goal of staying healthy and achieving that title come March — just months after undergoing chemotherapy on his foot.
In preparation for his final season, Jordan has scaled back his live-wrestling time in practice and the level of strain he puts on himself in other forms of training. He’s taking no chances.
“If I’m hurting really bad and my body is beat up and I don’t feel like I can handle 40 minutes live that day, maybe I only do 20, maybe only do 15,” Jordan said. “I’m a lot smarter, you know?”
Multiple lower-body injuries have nagged Jordan dating back to his freshman year when he suffered a high-ankle sprain. He finished a tournament after suffering it and missed extensive time after.
Upon returning for his first season of official competition, Jordan tore a ligament in his big toe and continued to wrestle through the end of the season with it. He underwent what he called a “horrible” surgery during the offseason that did not provide relief. Jordan competed through that pain for another season, his redshirt junior campaign.
Another high-ankle injury and minor neck and back injuries occurred for the All-American. Jordan suffers from a recurring tumor formed by a blood clot in his right foot that came back after being cut out from the arch of his foot at age nine. Doctors noticed it again in his heel when he was 22, and he underwent chemotherapy on it this past offseason.
The tumor could technically be removed again, but it will not be removed because it rests near a nerve, and surgery could cause his leg to go numb from the knee down. Chemotherapy has reduced the tumor in size by 50 percent. It causes Jordan pain while barefoot, and as a result, he wears shoes as often as possible.
He has also refused another surgery on the toe injury, which he says is currently “as good as it’s going to get.”
Jordan, a father of two daughters, has wrestled through each and every one of these injuries. While his success still came in droves, Jordan felt not being able to train while injured was a problem and stepping on the mat with nagging injuries was unwise and, at times, dangerous. He hopes to never feel that way again.
“You’re a little fearful, you know? You’re like, ‘Frick, I’m about to wrestle some of the top guys in the country,’” Jordan said. “There’s always been an element — every once in awhile competing — that I don’t know what I’m capable of right now and where I’m at physically.”
While banged up, Jordan still finished in the top three of the national tournament every year, including a runner-up finish in 2017. Despite that success, he admitted he hasn’t felt right when it counts in March.
“Typically, not very good,” Jordan said. “Usually, I’ve been coming off big injuries that have set me back for a while. The last two national tournaments, I’ve been healthy once it started, but zero training behind it really.”
He has received support from head coach Tom Ryan and the rest of the coaching staff, whom Jordan said often tweet him links to information that could help in his new approach to staying healthy ahead of meets. Ryan said he and his staff take a different approach to each wrestler’s training needs.
“The main thing is, we need him training,” Ryan said. “When you’re not healthy, you can’t train. When you can’t train, you can’t improve. So, he needs to be just feeling good every day so he can continue to get better.”
Jordan being able to train does not mean he’s training thoughtlessly. He leaves that all up to his body, and what it says.
His brother, redshirt junior Micah Jordan, said he and his family have found it tough at times to watch the elder Jordan compete through injuries. Micah prefers to watch his brother when he’s at his best, when he’s feeling his best.
Fear often came over the younger brother when stress was put on one of Bo’s injuries during competition. He could always tell when his brother was in pain while wrestling. Looking back now, Micah said it’s possible his brother’s resume could look more favorable if not for injuries.
“We can never go back and really tell, but I would definitely say it would help him,” Micah said. “It would be in his favor, you know? I’d definitely take Bo being healthy than being injured.”
For this, his fifth and final season of collegiate competition at Ohio State, Bo will do whatever it takes to make sure his body stays healthy. He wants to compete every chance he has. He only has so many of those chances left. The next comes Sunday against Arizona State.
“This is the best me that I’m going to have,” Bo said. “If I get my butt whooped on Sunday, this is as good as I can do. If I whoop some butt on Sunday, then all right, great. But, I can’t do any more training without getting hurt and I can’t do any less without being unprepared.”
*Correction: The original copy of the story has been modified to clarify that the tumor in his toe is not cancer-related