Recapping the Games – Andy Hrovat

Recapping the Games

I just arrived home from Russia and I am still amazed how big of an event the World University Games are. Russia being the host country wanted to show the world that they are the best sporting nation in the world. The games included more than 10,000 athletes from 162 nations. This event is on par with the Olympic Games, and as a coach I learned a lot about the logistical side of the sport. As an athlete you don’t ever think about transportation, laundry, and where you will get your food. As an athlete you only worry about yourself and getting prepared to do your job. As a coach you are in charge of everyone and everything. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have coached this team and I will use it as a learning experience for my future coaching career.

Our team was filled with NCAA stars and we all had very high expectations going into the tournament. Wrestling has not been included in the World University Games since 2000, and nobody would have known that the level of competition would have rivaled that of the world championships. We could look back and complain that the other countries used their top senior level athletes, or we can thank them for helping us out. When I said we had a team filled with NCAA stars, I was downplaying how great these kids are. We sent a team of wrestlers that will compete for many world and Olympic medals in the future. This event was a great stepping stone for these wrestlers. They were able to experience an overseas training camp and a top level tournament all on one trip. All of these wrestlers are very smart and competitive and will use this trip to figure out how to win at the highest level. Now the next time they make a world or Olympic team they will know exactly how to prepare and get mentally ready to compete against the best.

I want to share a little story about Tyrell Fortune and how this trip helped him. I believe Tyrell is a top 10 heavyweight in the world right now. His only problem is that he has to compete against Tervel Dlagnev who I believe is the best heavyweight in the world right now. Tyrell has every tool imaginable and is very mentally strong, so going into the tournament he believed he was going to win. He lost in the quarterfinals against the Ukrainian wrestlers in a very close match. He was actually a few millimeters away from ending the match with his second 3pt move. So when he came back to the warm up area after losing he was down in the dumps. He didn’t even want to wrestle back at that point, but what he did afterwards was how champions are made. He wrestled some tough wrestlers on his way to a bronze medal and when the day was over he was proud of that bronze medal, but he was hungry for more. What really was inspiring about this performance was on the second day he was helping the other athletes out mentally. He was giving them pep talks before their matches and when they lost he was giving them some great advice on how to get their minds back in the tournament and prepare to wrestle back. He learned how to be a leader on this trip and used the lessons he learned just one day before to help the others guys who were in the same position he was in on the first day. This is just a small example of how important this trip was for all the athletes that competed.

Saying that this trip was a learning experience is not an excuse for how our team fared against some of the world’s best. Everyone knows they could have done better and the only way that this trip will become a learning experience will rely on how each individual uses this trip to prepare for future events, myself included. I am excited for the future of USA Wrestling and I still believe we as a country will win the World Championships as a team in the next three years. We have great senior level athletes and some very good young athletes pushing them and looking to replace them so they can win world and Olympic titles.

The Unexpected Part 2 – Andy Hrovat

The Unexpected, Part 2

        The first blog I wrote for this trip was on Wednesday morning in the AirHotel about a half mile from Domodedovo Airport .  We left America on Sunday and we still had not reached our final destination of Vladikavkaz.  As I mentioned in the first blog, the ticketing agent for Lufthansa promised us the team would have seats on our flight from Moscow to Vladikavkaz the next day since our original flight was cancelled.  This was far from the truth and when we arrived in Moscow, S7 Airlines told us Lufthansa had not rebooked our tickets.  I was in the airport for 8 hours fighting with both airlines trying to figure out how our team was going to get to Vladikavkaz.  S7 eventually ticketed 4 passengers for Wednesday and then USA Wrestling purchased new tickets for the remaining five.  So when I was sitting on my bed writing my first blog I was confident that our team was going to get settled in to Vladikavkaz and resume training for the World University Games.

Nico Megaludis was assigned a seat on a flight that left in the morning.  Seeing as it is his first trip overseas, Cody Sanderson and myself helped him get to the airport and checked in.  The two of us then went back to the hotel and relaxed for a couple of hours before gathering up the team and heading to the airport.  We arrived almost three hours before the flight was supposed to take off.  I figured this was going to give us enough time in case we ran into some trouble along the way.  We went to the S7 check-in counter and when it was our turn we quickly learned that the five tickets USA Wrestling purchased the day before had not shown up in the airline’s computer system.  Both days we had documents that showed we had reservations for the flight and then we were told that they were not valid.  This made me extra mad since I was one of the three that received a ticket.  I wanted one of the athletes to go so they could train.  Myself going was a waste of a seat.  No matter what I did or what I said, I could not get the airline to help us out.  WIth about 30 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off I had to let the situation go and meet David Taylor and James Green at the gate.  When I left I was told by the airline that three of the remaining five would fly the next day, then the other two the day after that.  The last two athletes would have missed the whole week of training.  This trip was quickly becoming the “worst trip in the history of USA Wrestling.”

David Taylor, James Green and myself arrived late to Vladikavkaz with no delays.  Once settled in, we went downstairs for dinner.  After dinner, I made some phone calls, emails, and filled our team leader in on our mess of a trip.  He was happy to see us and was shocked to hear how the trip was going.  It wasn’t until around 11pm that we received word that all the remaining team members were going to get on the flight the next day.  Unfortunately for Tyrell Fortune he did not get on the same flight as the other four.  USA Wrestling had to buy him another plane ticket on UTAir which departed out of another airport.  Cody Sanderson emailed me and asked how to get him to the other airport.  We both agreed that sending him in a taxi was the best option.  I informed Cody of the terrible Moscow traffic and advised that he should leave the hotel at 7am for a 12pm flight.  Moscow traffic is known to be some of the worst in the world.  What should only take an hour could actually take up to three!  While Tyrell Fortune, Cody Sanderson, Tyler Graff, Micah Burak and Ed Ruth were flying to Vladikavkaz; David Taylor, Nico Megaludis, and James Green were practicing for the first time in many days.  I was excited to go to practice and see many of my old training partners and coaches.  The guys were just excited to finally be able to train again.  They lined up partners with no problem and worked their way into practice.  They eventually did two matches.  Nico’s second partner was Besik Kudukhov.  Besik was one of my good friends when I lived here and is also a four time world champion.  The reason we decided to train in Vladikavkaz was to make the most out of one trip to Russia.  This is an all-star team of athletes and if they would have flown all this way to only compete in the tournament, they would have missed out on a great opportunity to train with some of the best wrestlers in the world.  Watching Nico wrestle against Besik took away some of the frustrations of having very difficult travels.

When practice ended the four of us were anxious to see whether or not the other guys would show up.  To our surprise they all arrived safely and on time, only three days late.  Everyone was exhausted, but were happy to be in our final destination together.  The four athletes who just arrived went to the gym for an evening practice.  I thought I was going to have to spar with Tyrell Fortune, but for the first time on this trip I lucked out when a Russian Cadet heavyweight was there to take the beating for me.  Tyrell is a very big and athletic heavyweight and I am too old.  After practice ended, to celebrate everyone being together, and Tyrell’s birthday, we went to a team dinner at Makharbek Khardartsev’s restaurant.  Khardartsev was a 2x Olympic champion, 5x world champion, Olympic silver medalist, 2x world silver medalist, and a world bronze medalist.  He is arguably one of the best wrestlers in the history of the world, but was only the third best wrestler on a Soviet team that included Sergei Beloglazov and Arsen Fadzaev.  The dinner was great and the team was able to relax and finally get to soak up the experience.  We left the restaurant full and happy a little after 10pm.  The language barrier made the dinner a little longer than it should have been, but we used the extra time to get to know one another.

This brings us to Friday, July 5th.  The team had its first practice together and we are getting excited for the competition to start.  We will have a few more days of training here in Vladikavkaz and then we will head to Kazan for the World University Games.  I am very confident in this team and believe we will have a great tournament.  Win or lose, these guys are gaining some very valuable experience for their future wrestling careers.

Andy Hrovat

 

Expect the Unexpected – Andy Hrovat

“Expect the Unexpected”

        I have been traveling a lot lately.  This trip I am coaching the University World team along with Bill Zadick and Cody Sanderson.  We are going over to Vladikavkaz to train, then heading to Kazan where they are hosting the University World Games.  I have a routine before I leave on any trip.  This routine includes doing laundry, cleaning my house, and running last-minute errands.  I love leaving my house in perfect shape before I leave for a trip. This way when I return, everything is perfect and I can take a day to relax.  This routine takes up a whole day.  For this trip I started at 10:30 am and finished at 11 pm.  I am very OCD when it comes to cleaning, so part of the lengthiness is my fault.

I like to be prepared when I leave for a trip, and sometimes I exhaust myself before I travel.  This trip, I was really tired before I even left, preparing for 5 weeks away is tough.  I had to wake up at 6:45 am on Sunday morning so I could make my first flight out of Detroit.  The team all joined up in Washington D.C. before heading over to Frankfurt, then to Moscow, and then Vladikavkaz.  I was really excited to begin this trip!  This was going to be the first time I have been back to Vladikavkaz since I lived there two years ago.  I can’t wait to see all of my friends and catch up with them.

Everything was going smoothly until we boarded our flight in D.C.  Once we were on the plane I fell asleep.  I woke up about 45 minutes later and we were still at the gate.  I wasn’t worried since we had a 4-hour layover in Frankfurt.  We finally pushed back from the gate, but our plane never moved.  The air conditioning was not working properly so we waited on the tarmac for a little over three hours with no AC.  Some parents took the clothes off their children because they were drenched in sweat.  This was very irritating as we watched the layover time get smaller and smaller.  We were dealt a punch to the gut when they finally said our flight was cancelled.  This should not have been a problem at all; they should have rebooked us and sent us on our way.

I used my status on United to go ahead of the long line of angry passengers and get the team rebooked for the next day, get some meal vouchers, and then hotel rooms.  This all worked out great and I was told by the gentleman working there that there would be no more problems with the trip.  By the time we arrived and checked into the hotel it was 9:30 pm.  This was a very long day to only make it to D.C.  We all went right to the restaurant to eat dinner and plan for the following day.  Our flight was at the same time so we did not have to wake up early and rush to the airport.  We left for the airport around 12:30 pm and checked in with no problem.  Our flight was a little late leaving, but nothing that was going to affect us in Frankfurt.  When we arrived in Frankfurt, we headed right to the gate so we could get our tickets to Moscow.  Again, there was no problem!  For most of the guys on this trip, it is their first international wrestling experience and I really wanted them to enjoy it.  They are going to obtain a very valuable experience along the way that will help serve them when they are fighting to become World and Olympic Champions someday.

When we went to check in to our flight from Moscow to Vladikavkaz, our trip took a turn for the worse!  The ticket agent in D.C. never rebooked us for our flight to Vladikavkaz.  Everybody was blaming everyone else, but we were stuck in the Moscow airport for about 7 hours trying to get everything worked out.  Eventually they put Nico Megaludis on a flight this morning by himself.  He is the youngest of the group and it is his first time overseas.  I know he will be fine, but Cody and I helped him check in and then sent him on his way.  They booked three of us on the afternoon flight.  The other members were not scheduled to leave until July 4th and 5th!  This was not going to work for us.  Somehow even though the airline said there were no seats available, USA Wrestling was somehow able to purchase the remaining tickets.  Right now I am sitting in my room with my toes crossed as I type this hoping we all make our flight.

Even though this has been a long 4 days of traveling, I know the guys will enjoy their time here and will learn a lot.  Stay tuned as I keep everyone updated on the team’s progress.

Andy Hrovat

 

 

World Team Trials – Andy Hrovat

World Team Trials

            Over this past weekend USA Wrestling hosted the World Team Trials in Stillwater, Okla. I was in attendance for this competition as a coach for the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club and the New York Athletic Club. All of our athletes that train in Ann Arbor with the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club all wrestle nationally for the New York Athletic Club. We had a great training camp leading up to the trials. The guys were ready to go and were in great shape. Jimmy Kennedy and Kellen Russell both finished second and are now on the U.S. National Team for the first time in their careers. Both Jimmy and Kellen know they are capable of making world teams and being successful on the world stage. They will use their experience at the trials to build on and move forward. Now that they are on the national team, there are some great opportunities for them coming up this summer that they will take advantage of.

When you are coaching you don’t always get to watch all of the matches. You have to be in the back room with the wrestlers making sure they are ready to go and get them what they need in between matches. Jimmy was our club’s only athlete on the first day of the tournament. He has had a great year. He had a disappointing Olympic Trials last year, going 1-2, but he has come on since then, placing at two very tough international tournaments, winning the NYAC tournament, wrestling in the World Cup and now sitting second on the national team. Jimmy has a lot of tools, and I think being on the national team will really help him make the jump to the next level.

On the second day of the trials, we had Kellen Russell and Kyle Massey wrestling. After winning the U.S. Open in April, Kellen was given a bye to the finals of the trials. Brent Metcalf won the mini tournament during the morning session to face Kellen in the best-of-three series that evening. Kellen eventually lost to Brent, but I know Kellen and he will use this to figure out a way to win. He has won on every level, and there is no doubt in his mind that he will continue to win. Kellen is going to have some great opportunities this summer to train and compete overseas. Kyle Massey also wrestled the second day, going 0-2. This was Kyle’s first time wrestling at the trials. He made the semifinals of the U.S. Open this year and ended up 6th at that tournament. He continued to improve throughout the season. Both Jimmy and Kellen went 1-2 at the trials last year and both improved very much. I expect the same from Kyle. He is a hard worker and just needs to get a little more match experience.

Overall, I thought the trials were great. The rules seemed to promote a lot of scoring, but after seeing a lot of matches and a lot of situations over the weekend, there are still a few things I do not like. First, I do not agree with two 3pt moves ending a match. Jimmy wrestled Nick Simmons in a wild match in the challenge tournament, where at the end of the first period Jimmy scored his second 3pt move to pull ahead of Nick, 11-7. This match was back and forth the whole time. There was no need to end the match when Jimmy was only up by four points. Heck, there were 18 points scored in the first three minutes of the match. The fans could have seen some exciting wrestling as these two piled up the points. I am indifferent about the 5pt move since we don’t see many 5pt moves in freestyle.

The other rule that I am strongly against is using criteria to decide a tied match. At the trials, freestyle wrestling elected to use overtime whereas Greco and women stuck with criteria. There are pros and cons of using each. Freestyle wanted to use overtime to show to the fans and to FILA that this is what wrestling needs in order to get the fans back in the seats and excited to watch the sport. Women and Greco believed they needed to select their team based on the rules that will be used at the World Championships. I was able to sit first row alongside Sean Bormet as Andrew Howe and Kyle Dake battled it out in what was almost a 12-minute match to see who would wrestle Jordan Burroughs in the finals. There were times during that match where I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. Overtime is a no brainer for wrestling fans. There is additional drama and excitement in every match that goes overtime. We have to remember the last time we had overtime, there was no pushout rule, so I do not believe this would affect the length of the tournament at all. In order to win in overtime, the athletes must take it upon him or herself to be the first to score or you will lose the match. Overtime does not favor one athlete over another nor one country over another. Overtime resolves matches. Right now we have moves that are worth 1pt, 2pts, 3pts, and 5pts. Every scoring action will have moves that are scored at different values, but once the points are put on the scoreboard they should be of equal value. This is simple to understand — when the match ends in a tie, the next person to score wins the match. Any casual sports fan would tell you that overtime is how tied matches or games should end.

The current criteria system to too difficult to explain. If I can’t properly explain the rules of wrestling to wrestling fans in few sentences, then how are we supposed to attract the casual sports fan? Criteria is anti-climatic. I would love to see a high scoring match in the Olympic finals end while the referees tallied up the scores to see who is declared the winner. Fans can cheer for their athlete when they score in overtime and they can celebrate with them as they just achieved the impossible. I stayed and helped coach at the FILA Jrs on Sunday, the day after the trials ended. I did not see anyone one from FILA in attendance, but there were two great matches that ended on criteria that the fans would have loved to see continue to overtime. FILA Jrs did not use overtime like the Senior trials. Joey Davis and Jordan Rodgers wrestled a great match and in the last second Rodgers scored to tie the match up. The problem is that the wrestlers, coaches, and fans did not know who was going to be the winner. Rodgers wrestles at Oklahoma State and the fans were cheering loud all day for the OSU wrestlers. When this match ended the crowd could barely be heard until Rodgers hand was raised. The other match that comes to mind was Ben Whitford and Zain Retherford. There were two takedowns in the closing seconds, but when the match ended in a tie the fans in attendance and watching on Flowrestling where robbed of two kids putting their skills on the line and digging deep to win a wrestling match.

FILA’s own ad campaign reads “To wrestle is to be human. To struggle.  To overcome.  To Triumph.” This ad campaign is what wrestling is all about. We are a combat sport and it is very difficult to become a champion wrestler. The rules we have in place allow for a lot of points to be scored. The only problem is with the two 3pt moves ending the match and the 7 pt tech fall we are taking away the soul of our sport.  With takedowns now being worth 2pts, i believe a tech fall should be 10-12pts. Wrestling has a fall and a technical fall to end matches early when a competitor shows true superiority. When you allow wrestlers to come back from making mistakes during the match you allow the fans to feel their struggle, the fans can see them overcome a scoring deficit, and then finally cheer them on as they triumph victoriously because they won based on their own merits, not some set of criteria.

I am leaving this weekend for Russia. Stay tuned for more inside access to international wrestling.

Andy Hrovat

2013 World Team Trials – Marcie Van Dusen

2013 World Team Trials

I could not think of a better place to host World Team Trials than Stillwater, Oklahoma.  A town filled with wrestling fans, a place where many of the best wrestlers have trained and still do.  Even our National Wresting Hall of Fame sits next door to the Historic Gallagher-Iba Arena, which has hosted some of the most exciting wrestling matches in our history.

This past weekend for the first time in the history of wrestling, women took the mats at the Historical Gallagher-Iba Arena and showcased their skills for the amazing fans of Stillwater, Oklahoma and the country.  While Women’s wrestling continues to grow on all levels, the opportunity for women to compete on a division I college team doesn’t exist.  Watching these women compete in a college arena along side the men continues to give me hope that someday they will be able to attend a division I school and compete in the sport they have poured their hearts into.

Another first for the weekend was the new FILA rules.  As part of the challenge of securing wrestling in the 2020 Olympics FILA has continued to revamp the rules of international wrestling with an objective of creating more action in the six-minute matches.  I have to say from a personal opinion I could not be happier to see the clinch go, in fact I opened the door and gave it a quick kick in the behind on the way out.   I was skeptical about the use of the stalling call, if there is no score in the first two minutes.  As a wrestler and now a coach we always want the match to be decided by the wrestlers and out of the judgment of the officials but I have to say I was wrong.  On the women’s side it was very rare that the stalling call was even used. In my opinion it never changed the outcome of the match.  With takedowns going from one point to two it made for very quick technical falls in the first few rounds of wrestling and even some finals matches.  I would like to see the technical fall move to ten points to allow for more wrestling, especially with cumulative points throughout the match. Nothing is ever perfect and I’m sure we could all come up with some rules we think would make a big difference, especially for our wrestlers.  I have to take my hat off to FILA and the officials this weekend and say good job. I believe the mission was accomplished. There was definitely more action on the mat this past weekend!

There were lots of firsts this weekend, but when it comes to the four women going to the World Championships this is not their first.  In fact these women have become quite dominant on the National and International level.  All past members of 2012 World Team, let me introduce 2012 World Bronze medalist 48kg Alyssa Lampe, 2012 World Silver medalist 55kg Helen Maroulis, 2012 World Champion Elena P. and 2012 World Champion Adeline Gray.  These women were quite impressive this weekend showing just what it takes to be a World Medalist.  Three of the four weights were decided in two matches, 48kg went to a very exciting third match.  Victoria Anthony wrestled Lampe in the finals and really gave the crowd a show.  Both wrestlers are very technical, quick and quite fun to watch keeping the fans in Gallagher on the edge of their seats.  It was clear that Lampe’s experience and skills were able to out wit Anthony this time but I know I’m looking forward to the next match.

For the women there will be seven weights competing at World Championships this summer in Budapest, Hungary but only four Olympic weights were decided this past weekend. The three non-Olympic weights will have a separate trial in Colorado Springs August 2nd and 3rd.  All the women who qualified for trials at an Olympic weight will have the opportunity to move up or down to try again to make a World Team at 51kg, 59kg and 67kg.

The last first is this blog with many more to come so I will leave you with a quote for the members of the 2013 World Team and the women still training to make that team in early August.  “Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” Author Unknown

Wrestling off the Mat – Jake Herbert

Wrestling off the mat

Why I have dedicated myself to working with Fila and CPOW – to Keep Olympic Wrestling.

By Jake Herbert

Wrestling still has the spot for 2016. I have been blessed to do more than 99% of all wrestlers ever get to do. I am very happy with the chances I have gotten in life because of wresting. Now I am helping the people who gave me the raw deal at the Olympics. Why you ask? Not for them. Not for myself, but because of what wrestling has done for me, what it will do for our children, and who wresting has made me.

 

The children wrestling right now are our future leaders of the world tomorrow. Some may be the next Jordan Burroughs, others may become doctors, teachers, coaches, political activist, world leaders. They will become all these things because of the base skill set learned through wrestling. Wrestling saves lives, gives kids an outlet, and teaches more about hard work and taking pride in ones actions than any other sport. You are forced to learn what struggle and sacrifice is and how to deal with it when it overcomes you. You also feel that feeling unlike any other when that struggle and sacrifice rewards you with a victory.

 

Wrestlers make lifelong friends, get their mind and body pushed to the limit and beyond each practice. Because of this they grow they learn they believe that they can do anything. Take wrestling out of the Olympic games and you start to lose the number of kids who learn all these important life skill sets. Take away a child’s dream and the teaching of how to achieve those dreams and your left with a dark world. No child should ever be without dreams and goals. Children shouldn’t be told no you can’t but YES YOU CAN AND WILL.

 

As long as there is life there will be wrestling, as long as there is wrestling there will be light. The wrestling world has come together and we have already done through sport and the Olympic spirit what others cannot. Over 170 country’s are working together for one common dream one common goal that transcends, religion, race, gender, age, and nationalism. This is what the Olympics are about this is the proof that wrestling belongs. It’s why wrestling has been here since before man, and why it will still be around after we are all gone.

 

Show your support during May, World Wrestling Month. Go to an event, watch and event, support this great sport. Visit KeepOlympicWrestling.com Sign up, Donate. Let the world know you support this sport and all it does for people all over the world.

Show the IOC what sport you want vote for wrestling below

http://www.insidethegames.biz/polls/71-which-sport-do-you-think-the-ioc-should-vote-to-include-on-the-olympic-programme-for-2020

Yours in wrestling

Jake Herbert

Changing Seasons – Andy Hrovat

Changing Seasons

 I started wrestling when I was five years old.  By the time I was eight I was wrestling year round and I loved doing it.  This was the summer of 1988 and in the Olympics Kenny Monday and John Smith won gold medals in Korea.  Meanwhile I was wrestling for the West End YMCA on the east side of Cleveland.  At the time they had produced some of the great Cleveland area wrestlers, most notably the St. John brothers.  During practice I was taught the basics and I learned how to back arch into a bridge, a skill that develops from holding your partners hand to eventually doing it alone with no hands.  I wrestled in the big freestyle tournament that summer at the AAU Nationals, which I believe was held in Indianapolis.  I cannot remember if I won the tournament, I think I might have, but what I do remember is loving how different freestyle seemed to be.  The singlets were a little different, the rules were a little different and the technique to me was free.  I have video of this tournament and I look like a young Randy Lewis with a straight up stance daring kids to shoot on me.

 This past weekend there were three different folkstyle national tournaments taking place.  Jake Herbert and I were at the Cliff Keen/USA Wrestling Folkstyle nationals in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  It was a great tournament and we both loved interacting with the kids and their parents, it brings us back to when we were in their shoes.  This tournament marks the end of one season and the beginning of another.  Folkstyle training usually begins around October and the season starts in November.  For most high schools the season ends in early March, shortly followed by the end of the NCAA season, and now April seems to be the end of the national Folkstyle season.  At the end of this month on Friday April 19th and 20th the U.S. Open will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While high school and collegiate wrestlers across the nation were at the early stages of their training in October, the US National team was already in full competition mode.  Les Sigman placed 3rd at the FILA Golden Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan.  Chase Pami, Max Askren, Keith Gavin, and Les Sigman all placed at the Dmitry Korkin tournament in Yakutsk, Russia.  Jimmy Kennedy placed 3rd at the Ramzan Kadyrov Cup in Grozny, Russia.  This is arguably one of the toughest tournaments during the freestyle season and is wrestled in the Russian wrestling hot bed.

As the NCAA and high school open tournaments start in November the freestylers are still going strong.  Zach Sanders, Kevin LeValley, Nick Marable, Phil Keddy, Dave Zabriskie and Tervel Dlagnev all won the Hargobind International tournament in Burnaby Mountain, Canada.  Jimmy Kennedy, Chase Pami, Austin Trotman, Wynn Michalak and Tervel Dlagnev all won the New York Athletic Club tournament in New York City.  Then to end the calendar year Mark McKnight placed 3rd at the Henri Deglane Challenge in Nice, France.

December is a down time in freestyle wrestling, and for the wrestlers on the senior circuit the rest is much needed.  On the high school level the Ironman and Beast of the East tournaments highlight the nations best competition.  On the NCAA level the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, The Grapple in the Garden and The Midlands are the big events that most of the nation’s top teams compete in.

By January the high school season is in full swing and there are competitions all throughout the USA.  Some of the best colleges wrestle at the Southern Scuffle and across the USA teams are getting ready to begin their conference dual meet season.  At the same time on the freestyle circuit wrestlers from the USA travel the world seeking out the best competition.

This is why Brent Metcalf traveled 13 times zones from Iowa City to Krasnoyarsk, Russia to wrestle in the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix where he placed 2nd in this world renowned competition.  The US had athletes wrestle in Canada, Russia, Colorado, Cuba, Bulgaria, Iran and Belarus between January and March.  During this period we won 14 gold medals, 13 silver medals and 10 bronze medals.

Now that the folkstyle season is over I urge all you wrestling fans out there to support this great sport, the future relies on it.  Coaches, parents, and athletes I cannot express enough how wrestling freestyle during the summer will help any wrestler become better at folkstyle, I saw it myself growing up and now I see it as a coach.  The US national team has had a very successful year in which our team placed 3rd at the Olympics and the World Cup.  You can also see the individual success we have had as a country from the results I listed above.  In our nation there are some of the best wrestlers in the world, and on April 19th and 20th they will fight to become a national champion and put themselves one step closer to representing the USA at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary this September.

In closing I would like to congratulate all the folkstyle national champions and all-americans from this past weekend at all three of the tournaments.  If you didn’t get the results you were looking for or if you won and still want to improve I suggest trying freestyle, the season is just now starting so its not too late.  There are some big freestyle events coming up that every young wrestler should watch.  The U.S. Open and the Beat the Streets dual meets featuring USA, Iran, and Russia in Grand Central Station and Los Angeles.  These events will either be streamed online or shown on television.  Information on how to watch the matches will be available soon on TheMat.com.

I would like to ask a favor from everyone reading this.  Please go to the website keepwrestlingintheolympics.com and sign up to receive updates from the Committee for the Presevation of Olympic Wrestling as well as USA Wrestling.  The highest achievement in the sport of wrestling is winning an Olympic gold medal, so join Vision 2020 as we fight for all the young wrestlers out there who want to one day represent the USA at the Olympic games.

 

World Cup Recap – Andy Hrovat

World Cup Recap

I am sitting here in my living room on this Sunday afternoon getting my life back on track and watching the B1G Wrestling finals. I have been home for exactly one week, but I feel like I have not even come close to getting everything back in order from being away for so long. This might have been one of the longest trips I have been a part of. It consisted of extended stays in three countries over 21 days. The amount of travel and the many different rooms we had to stay in made it seem much longer than it really is. We stay in places that are not very comfortable. Hotels are probably the worst for being comfortable. There is never a good seat and the rooms don’t have a lot of shelving for storing clothes. Wrestlers have to bring a lot of gear since it is winter and we have to get down to weight. We are away from our families and loved ones for long periods of time. We do this because we love the sport, and inside all of us, we want to be champions.

The wrestling community at the highest level is a very close group. We compete against one another throughout the whole year. We also train with each other side by side, USA and the world. I have been all over this planet for wrestling — from Brazil to France to Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China and many other countries. All of these places have very different cultures, and in each place, there are people training to become the best in the world. Wrestling has been around for as long as we know. It appears in one of the oldest known texts ever found in the epic Poem of Gilgamesh. This poem took place in what now is modern day Iraq, which is very close to where we were for the World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling in Tehran, Iran. When I walked into the arena before our semifinal bout with Iran, I could not help but imagine myself back in time 1000s of years ago entering a similar arena for the very same purpose. Ever since the original Olympic Games, men have wrestled and the rules have always been similar. In its purest state, wrestling is all about controlling the other man, and in doing so, a winner is chosen. Wrestling could not have been on a bigger stage than the moment the American team faced off against the Iranian team in that World Cup. Nothing else mattered other than settling a match to see who would advance to the finals. There were no talks about nuclear power or elections; the focus was on who was the best prepared to win a wrestling match. Wrestling brings people together from cultures whose governments couldn’t be farther apart. While we might always be enemies due to race, religion, geography and human nature, wrestlers can become brothers in a sport that supersedes everything else. Through sport, there is a mutual respect for one another, and we can learn from each other.

Every time I attend an international wrestling tournament, I get to see many of the friends that I have met along the way. These are people that without the sport of wrestling I would have never met or even known about. They come from different backgrounds, but each of them has the same goal in life. They all struggle on a daily basis to become the best wrestler or coach they can be. Striving to become the best has been ingrained in my mind, and if I don’t achieve perfection, it is hard to be happy. I learned at a young age that in wrestling, you have to sink or swim. As I get older, I appreciate more and more others that go through the same struggles we go through every single day of our lives. I think this is why I can go to a wrestling tournament in Tehran, Iran, and get a hug from my Russian coach like I was his son he has not seen in 20 years. The two of us grew a bond together from the time I spent with him, and I will forever be grateful for what he taught me. This coach opened up his life to me to teach me the sport of wrestling. To him it didn’t matter if I was American and my last name was Slovenian. I wanted to train to become the best wrestler in the world, and he was willing to help me because he saw something in me. This is why the sport of wrestling will never go away. We don’t need the Olympics to teach us the life skills that wrestling teaches; we are always going to dream bigger than we can achieve anyways. The Olympics needs wrestling because there is no other sport on the planet that can bring different nations together in a more pure form of sport.

We as a sport have to stop apologizing to others who do not understand us. We have to make our own path to secure our future as a relevant sport. We have to come together as brothers — not as separate nations — to pave the way for wrestling’s future. When we bend and change the rules so that outsiders like the IOC can understand a sport they never intend to watch, it is going to kill wrestling. I hope FILA understands this when meet to change the rules. We cannot change the rules just so 15 IOC members can understand the sport. We need to make sure we don’t alienate our fans, because these are the people are the foundation for the sport’s future. Wrestling is a popular sport all over the world; I know because I have been all over the world. FILA and its member nations need to find a way to market the sport so the fans start pouring into the arenas. Once we get the fans then we must create a plan to expand and grow the sport. It is 2013 and there are many ways to build a fan base, but for the world’s oldest sport this has been our biggest challenge to date. We must think outside the box, and we have to stop holding ourselves back by not thinking big enough. In the past, wrestlers were happy if we were simply given a mat and opponent. This can no longer be the case. The ATHLETES and FANS have to step up and demand more — more media coverage throughout the year, better attended events and more prize money for winning. With information today more readily available, it is easy to pinpoint why something was a success or a failure. The U.S. Open is back in Vegas, and we have some of the best wrestlers in the world right now battling for a national title. Will the venue be full? Wrestling is missing something big, and until we find out a way to fix it, we will be blaming the rules every 4-8 years.

So, regarding the rules, I believe they must be simple, but we don’t necessarily have to change the sport to accommodate a changing world. If this were the case, we might as well just make a video game and contest our bouts while playing online against our Russian foes. I believe what we have as a sport should not be changed. What needs to be changed is the way we let the officials influence the match. Here are my suggestions:

Match length: Either 2×3 min or 1×6 min match with cumulative scoring
Points: 1 point for push out, 2 points for a takedown, 2 points for any turn, 3 points for a takedown to the back and 5 points for a throw over the head.  
Par terre: In order to take the official out of the match and to make it fair, there should be a 15- or 20-second clock that counts down after a takedown. A wrestler should also have his choice of par terre or neutral after taking a wrestler out of bounds. When wrestlers are on their feet, there can be difficulty scoring in a double leg/chest lock position, but a turn is almost always black and white, and the fans can see who gets the points with little to no confusion. This will bring back par terre without giving the officials the ability to influence the match. All the officials need to do is score the match. They don’t have to worry about how long someone has on top. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when a wrestler gets a takedown now they don’t know how long the official will give them on top. Having a set time will add an extra dynamic to the sport without compromising the integrity of the sport. Wrestlers will work hard to score within the designated time because it not only is a battle between him and his opponent, it becomes a battle against the clock. The fans would love this and every time someone is on top there is the potential to have an exciting period of wrestling as the time winds down.

The World Cup in Iran was one of the best wrestling experiences of my life. The USA wrestling Iran in Tehran, Iran, for a chance to make the finals of the World Cup was great for the sport. Wrestling has made giant leaps over the past few years to showcase the sport. We have had matches in Times Square and the USS Intrepid. In May, we will wrestle Iran in New York City, either in Times Square again or in another iconic location that will showcase just how big of a stage our sport deserves. In June, the U.S. will wrestle another team on the west coast for Beat the Streets LA. While the venue has not yet been picked, I am sure that L.A. will not be outdone by NYC. Finally, I am hearing things about a match in July against USA and Russia in Red Square, the most iconic symbol of Russia. If they can put down a mat and build a huge stage with St. Basil’s Cathedral in the backdrop, it would be hard to argue against our sport’s relevance. We must keep pushing the envelop to showcase what we already have. Fans and future wrestlers are going to be drawn to the matches that make the sport look larger than life, and right now we are moving in the right direction.

I want to leave you with one of the best quotes I have read since the IOC made the recommendation to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games.                

“Do we destroy our historical sites which are symbols of humanity? No. Then, why should we destroy wrestling?” — Iranian gold medalist Ali Reza Dabir

Wrestling has been around and will always be around. People in the wrestling community have a direct impact on which direction the sport will take. We can either continue to be a sport on the verge of breaking into primetime or we can settle back into the same routine that we’ve done since man held the first wrestling match. Wrestling is embedded into human nature, and to take it out of the Olympics for something new and flashy would be like Egypt tearing down its pyramids to build condos in the shape of a pyramid. The pyramids have a rock solid foundation and will last thousands of more years. I believe wrestling will too. We just need to strengthen our foundation that has brought us this far. We must work on marketing and promoting the sport we all love, and together we can build a rock solid base with all the flashing lights that people love.

Andy

Back in the USA – Jimmy Kennedy

TUESDAY, MARCH 5 | Back in the USA

 So, I just got done shoveling the sidewalk in an attempt at making a long path with no exit. That way, I could watch my dog run up and down confusedly, searching for a way out. Not sure why that seems funny to me, but it does.

 Before I went on this trip, I never imagined that upon my return I would be facing one of the biggest blizzards of the winter. I had hoped I would bypass the snow altogether. Either way, it feels good to be back.

 My apologies for not writing much while overseas, but Wi-Fi was hard to come by, and I couldn’t ever get myself in the mood to blog anything. Looking back on it now, I am so fortunate to be able to travel to these places. I was a bit nervous going to Iran, but that feeling quickly changed upon arrival. The hotel we stayed at was extremely nice from the buffet of food offered at every meal to the spa area that featured both a wet/dry sauna, a cold/hot tub, pool, workout area and so much more. It definitely made making weight a little more enjoyable, although that’s pretty hard to do.

 The Iranian people treated us like celebrities, chasing us from the arena to the bus every time we left. They were mostly interested in Jordan, but they never passed up a chance to just touch our shoulders or shake our hands. One guy, after my match, tried giving me a kiss on the cheek, which I politely declined. During the meet, it was crazy how loud they cheered. Some would bang on drums and others would blow horns all amongst orchestrated chants and cheers that could definitely weaken someone’s knees before a match. I originally thought they were all drunk, because during a four-hour break in which zero teams were competing, they screamed and cheered the entire time. We could hear their stomping from our locker room underground. I thought maybe they served beer or something there, but I was told Iran is a dry country. It was so much fun wrestling in front of that kind of crowd and atmosphere.

 Afterwards on the podium, the Iranian president came by and shook all our hands. That was a cool experience for me since he probably doesn’t shake hands with too many Americans these days.

 Belarus was by far the longest of the legs of the trip. In order to get on the internet you needed to buy Wi-Fi cards that would give you 60 minutes apiece. It wouldn’t have been that bad except that the first several days these cards were hard to come by. When we did find them, we would buy the house.

 I wrestled great during the Medved tournament, giving up just one takedown and registering pins in both the quarters and semis. I dominated in the finals match, controlling just about every position and action, but unfortunately lost the first and third periods in clinch positions, 0-1, 7-0, 0-1. It was a bad way to lose, but I was very happy with how I wrestled throughout the tournament. I am learning a great deal with each tournament and trip, so I am very excited for the direction that this year is headed.

 Thank you for the continued support and taking the time to read my blogs. I’ll do a better job with updates on my next trip.

 Jimmy

Medved Tournament – Andy Hrovat

Medved Tournament
If you want to be the best at anything in life you have to sacrifice a great deal. This old saying is true for about anything in life and wrestling is certainly not an exception. I have seen our national team make many sacrifices over the last five years; these sacrifices have been the catalyst in creating a team mentality of expecting to win every time we go on the mat to compete. The Medved International wrestling tournament in Belarus is a very strong event, and for the USA team to come home with seven medals — 2 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze — is a great achievement. But we are not going to hang our hats on this performance, because I know, as do the rest of the coaches, that winning in the winter means nothing if we cannot duplicate this performance in September. The winter tour season is a time for us to travel overseas, train, make weight, compete and most importantly, come home with ideas and plans that will help future trips be more successful.

I am very proud of how the men competed at the tournament. It was a long trip, and for about half of them, they had to make weight and wrestle two weeks in a row. Throw in the week-long training camp in Azerbaijan prior to the World Cup, and it’s the formula to potentially wear an athlete out. When Zeke started coaching the national team after the 2008 Olympics, part of his plan was to increase the amount of time our team spent overseas. When I was young and competing, there weren’t too many guys who wrestled overseas, let alone regularly trained overseas. Now these men don’t think anything of it, and for the new guys coming into the system, spending weeks overseas is becoming the norm. In my mind, this is where most of our recent success can be traced to. The team is making sacrifices in order to understand and experience what it takes to become the best in the world. In the past, we would fly in, make weight, wrestle then leave the very next day. Now we try to participate in a training camp before every international tournament we compete in. Our national team men know the wrestlers they compete against not just in wrestling, but in regular life as well. We know them at a deeper level than ever before so that when we are training and preparing for the World Championships and Olympics, we can close our eyes and know everything our competitors are doing to get ready for the same tournament. When I was younger, the Russians were a mystery to me and probably the rest of the national team, but now we know them and now we know we can beat them.

On the first day of the Medved tournament, we had nine athletes competing in the first four weight classes. We were ready to win. The coaches and support staff (massage therapist, chiropractor and trainer) arrived early to secure a nice spot in the stands for our team to set up camp. We catered to the guys’ every need. On the day of a tournament athletes should only focus on winning and let the support staff take care of the rest. Our team chiropractor, Dr. Fred Roberto, might have been the most helpful person on the trip. He knows a lot about nutrition and insisted on going shopping to buy the best food for the guys to eat throughout the day. He adjusts them before and after matches, while our massage therapist gave them a quick rub to flush out the lactic acid they built up during matches and our trainer will work on and tape any injury they get throughout the day. These men volunteer their time, and without them our team would have a tougher time winning. It takes a lot of money to bring them all on the trip, but if we want to win and be the best team in the world, we have to continue to fundraise in order to have the support staff that we have.

We won two medals on the first day and just missed out on another. Jimmy Kennedy was silver at 60kg, while Jordan Burroughs won gold at 74kg. Both these wrestlers looked great and have already had quite a bit of success this year. I was lucky to be picked as a coach for this tour, and I was very excited to have Jimmy with me the whole way. I know what he is capable of doing, because I see it every single day, but now the world is starting to take notice what he can do. The Russian he faced in the finals knew going into the match that he would have a difficult time with Jimmy, so he used the rules to his advantage. He ended up winning both ball pulls and both clinches. Jimmy teched him the second period, 7-0, in just a little more than a minute. As a coach, I wasn’t anything I could tell Jimmy that would have cheered him up after the match. He wrestled great, but in the end, he lost on a rule that will likely be eliminated from the sport by the end of the week. As far as Jordan… well he was Jordan. I am not his coach, and since Zeke was on this trip, he was the one who cornered Jordan and I was able to sit back and enjoy the show he put on. From the World Cup and then in Belarus, Jordan wrestled hard, put up a lot of points and did everything he could to make this sport better. The foreign athletes, coaches and fans know that he is something special and that he has paid the price to earn all of his success. He works hard and doesn’t take anything for granted. Zeke could not be happier with the example he sets. When you have a world and Olympic champion living in an outdated hotel room in the middle of the Belarusian woods just to train and compete, it makes it easier for the rest of the guys to do the same and then expect the same results.

The second day of the tournament started out the same as the first day. We set up camp and provided the men with everything they needed in order to perform at their maximum capacity. They responded well, and at the end of the day we had one gold, one silver and three bronze medals. Tervel was our lone champion on the second day. Like Jordan, he sacrifices a lot to be where he’s at. He goes to all the best tournaments in the world and trains overseas every chance he gets. You can tell by the way he competes that he knows what it takes to win and has been there so many times that wrestling a foreign athlete no longer feels foreign to him.

We have some great leadership on the team right now and the men all get along. They push each other and help each other whenever they can. When we are in United States, we are spread across the country at our different training locations, but overseas, we are one nation and the men help each other and push each other to be the best they can be for American wrestling. This attitude will take us far and is the reason I believe we will win the World Championships and World Cup within the next three years. We have great coaches who are willing to do everything they ask their athletes to do, we have great support staff, and most importantly, we have a great group of young men who want to win. Every trip overseas I learn something new, and I can see how to run a successful team. Like the athletes, I use these trips to expand my knowledge of the sport. I am continuing to learn more about nutrition and all the other elements it takes to get an athlete to close the gap on the best wrestlers in the world. The margin between taking silver and gold at the Olympics is a very small and in order to get to that point you have to do everything right at all times. I am learning exactly what this entails with every passing trip.