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.

 

Dave Schultz Memorial Tournament – Andy Hrovat

Dave Schultz Memorial

The Cliff Keen Wrestling Club was just in Colorado Springs for a national team camp and the Dave Schultz memorial tournament.  This was not a great tournament for our club as we did not have anyone finish in the top three.  There were representatives from China, Japan, Bulgaria, Russia, Kazakhstan, India, Panama, Canada, and the United States.  This is the biggest and toughest international tournament that is held in the United States, so we as a team had to test ourselves to see where we stand against everyone else.  We only had Kellen Russell and Kyle Massey competing, Jimmy Kennedy was just training and getting prepared for the World Cup and Belarus later this month.  Kellen lost in the consolation quarterfinals, and Massey lost in the consolation semi finals.

 I am proud of the way both Kellen and Kyle competed, but if they want to make the US World team they will have to spend a lot of time working on the small areas of their wrestling where they lost points this past weekend.  Wrestling is a sport where you constantly have to make little corrections.  We are not perfect human beings, but we all strive for perfection anyways.  Perfection is not an attainable goal, but the closer we can get to perfect the better chance we have to win when it counts. I want to talk a little about Dave Schultz and his impact on the wrestling world.  Dave was a World Champion in 1983 and an Olympic Champion in 1984.  Throughout the rest of his career Dave never made it back to the top of the podium at the Olympics or the World Championships.  Dave was 2nd three times and 3rd twice at the World Championships.  In today’s internet age Dave probably would have been written off by all the critics sitting behind a monitor and keyboard.  Lucky for us this did not happen and instead we have a lasting legacy of a man that was not just great on the mat, but a man who is revered by everyone in the wrestling community. Dave Schultz was 24 years old when he won the World Championships in 1983.  This is a young age for an American to win the World Championships.  Look at Jordan Burroughs, he is in a very similar situation that Dave Schultz was in.  Both Dave and Jordan won the World Championships, then won the Olympics the very next year.  This is actually a very rare feat to do, and has only been done around ten times since the 1984 Olympics.  Dave loved the sport of wrestling and he continued to try and master a sport that is impossible to master.  Every time you step on the mat you have a different opponent and anything can happen.  This is why we all compete, and Dave was a great example of strapping on the shoes and seeing what was about to happen. In order to be great you have to be willing to dare to be great.  You have to be willing to test your skills against the best wrestlers in the world time and time again.  You can’t hide from anyone if greatness is what you are after, and this is what Dave Schultz taught me.  I wanted to be the best wrestler in the world, and I gave it my all.  I wrestled in all the toughest tournaments in the world and I competed against some very good wrestlers.  I won some matches and I lost some matches, but at the end of the day I know I did everything I could to become a great wrestler.  I still strive to be great in all that I do.  I want to be the best coach in the nation and I want to help young wrestlers win World and Olympic championships.  I gained a lot of knowledge in my pursuit of greatness and I believe I can pass some of that knowledge onto others.  Dave Schultz will always be a legend for what he was able to accomplish on the mat.  His wrestling career was not perfect and he had his share of losses, but like Dave you have to learn from the losses and grow from them so you can come back a better wrestler and a better person. I have been in the same situation both Kyle and Kellen are in.  Just because they failed to place at the Dave Schultz tournament does not mean they are not capable of doing great things.  Our team tested themselves this past weekend and we will take what we learned from our matches and use that moving forward to get better.  I believe in the guys I am coaching and I believe in my own ability to help them as we work towards the US Open and World Team Trials.  We know where we stand at this point in the season, and we know where we want to stand in September during the World Championships. Andy      

Approaching Training to Become the Best – Andy Hrovat

Approaching Training to Become the Best

I was in Guelph, Ontario, this past weekend coaching the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club. We had three wrestlers competing, and when it was all over we came home with two gold medals and one silver. This was our second straight year going to this tournament. As a coach, I cannot stress how important the Guelph Open is to our development as a team. It’s held at a perfect time of the year, and since it is only a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Ann Arbor, it is almost like wrestling at home relative to other international tournaments.

 At the tournament Jimmy Kennedy and Kellen Russell placed first at 60 kg and 66 kg, respectively, while Kyle Massey was second at 120 kg. All three of them did an outstanding job from the time we arrived to the gym until the last match was over. They know exactly how to warm-up properly, get mentally focused for each match, stick to a game plan during the matches and, most importantly, rest between the matches and get good nutrition into their bodies throughout the day. It doesn’t matter which tournament you are wrestling in, you have to approach each one like it is the World Championships. To achieve this, you have to find a routine that works and practice it, tweak it and perfect it. When I run practices for the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club or for the U.S. National Team, I run the same warm up every day. We have a routine where we jog and get limber for five minutes, tumble and do some gymnastics for five minutes and do a dynamic stretch routine for another five minutes. Every one of our CKWC athletes can run this warm-up on his own at this point. When they do the warm-up on their own, they will always know they are ready to wrestle live soon after. Getting a routine down and sticking with it will help get you mentally prepare for the biggest matches. You will have no doubt in your mind that you are ready to rock when the referee blows the whistle to start the match. Habits are formed by doing things on a consistent basis, and our warm-up is consistent every day. Every component has a purpose, not just for that specific day, but it includes aspects that build strength and flexibility over time. I didn’t just throw together random calisthenics and call it a warm-up. I studied the most successful wrestlers in the world, saw them doing this warm up in practice and before tournaments, and applied it to my own wrestling. After the warm-up is complete, you have to drill and wrestle live before you are ready for your first match. Just as with the warm-up, the amount of drilling and live wrestling is consistent in all of my practices. I’m a firm believer that drilling is an extension of the warm-up, and the most important part of the practice is live situations and the live matches. Drilling to learn new moves and to work through situations is very important, but it’s my philosophy that this is better done after the live wrestling and not before. When I run practices, we do just enough drilling so we can get right into the live situations. I do this so we are fresh for live wrestling. We do between 8-16 minutes of situations every day. I vary the time of each situation and the total time of all of the situations depending on the time of year and what tournaments are coming up. If you lose in international wrestling, you have to wait to see if the person who beat you makes the final so you can have a chance to wrestle back. In the majority of my practices, I only do one match. There are some days — Tuesdays and Fridays — where I will have two matches in a practice, but this is only when we have major competitions coming up. I only do it on these two days, because Wednesdays and Saturdays are devoted to cross training and rest. The idea behind only having one match in practice is to teach the guys the importance of approaching every match like it is the only one. If you lose a match in practice, it will be on your mind until the next practice. Over the weekend, all of the CKWC guys approached every match with great focus. My thought is that if we wrestled more than one match each day a practice, they can mentally slack and say to themselves, “I will do better next match.” In international wrestling, we don’t have that luxury to have a bad match and get it back the next one, because there might not be a next match. This is a hard thing to teach, but we practice this every day when we train, so they are used to focusing on the match in front of them and not the one that may come after. After getting a good warm-up and focusing on the first match of the day, the next step is having a game plan and sticking to it throughout the match. A game plan is not something you can come up with on the fly. You have to train yourself daily to have a game plan, and this is the biggest impact a coach can have on an athlete. U.S. National Team coach Zeke Jones has provided me with every imaginable stat from the Olympic Games. It’s my job to know these stats and use them to develop a game plan for wrestling and winning matches. I would be a bad coach if I just threw practices together that did not teach and instill the game plan that is optimal for winning matches. I have the ability to throw together the most physically demanding practice ever, but if there is no purpose behind it, then it is just wasted time. There are drills and situations we do as a team every day that are meant to be embedded in the athletes’ heads so that when they are pushed during a tough match, they can instinctively do the things that need to be done. Having a game plan for matches is built over time with consistent training and sharpening of skills required to win. In order to be prepared, you have to put yourself in the most common situations and learn how to win them. Practice is not about learning moves, it is learning how to use moves and score with them when someone is defending you and vice versa for the defensive aspect of sport. A good game plan for a match is derived from a philosophy of how you want to compete and then applying that philosophy to practice every day. Take a look at the best programs nationally and internationally, and you will see the philosophy of how each program wants to wrestle. I believe this is where a coach can have the biggest impact on his athletes. That philosophy has to be preached every day in a way the athletes can understand, and it must be broken down in small parts that they can master individually. Eventually all the wrestlers will wrestle exactly the way you want them to. This is why they call it training, because it has to be done daily or the skill set will not be developed properly. I was very pleased with how Jimmy, Kellen and Kyle approached each match. They know what it will take to be the best in the world because they do what it takes on a daily basis. We will use the results from the past weekend to identify their weakness and strengths. Wednesday we go to a National Team camp in Colorado Springs, where we will have plenty of time to fine tune our game plan. By the time they wrestle at the Dave Schultz and the overseas tournaments, they will go into each match with confidence that they will win in every position, and most importantly, they will dictate which positions they get in. The final key to having a successful tournament is knowing how to rest, recover and eat between matches. The National Team has a great support staff that helps with this aspect, and although everyone reacts differently to different foods and drinks, you can use the information from this team of experts to find out what will work best. This too has to become habit, and in making it a habit, your body will know exactly how to recover and get back up for the next match. I thought the CKWC guys did a great job at this over the weekend, but we can still improve. This is the hardest part of the sport to perfect, because you have to practice it in real time. It makes every tournament very important, and everything you put in your body should be recorded and tweaked until you find out the best combination for you and make it a habit to do the same thing every time you compete. I am excited for the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club’s upcoming tournaments. The guys are looking sharp, and they know what to expect every time they step on the mat to compete. Stay tuned to my blog as I travel to Colorado Springs and all over Europe for the freestyle season.   Andy Hrovat

National Duals – Andy Hrovat

National Duals

 This past weekend I had the opportunity to go see the National Duals for the first time in about 10 years.  Cliff Keen the event sponsor sent me to represent them at the tournament.  I love going to wrestling tournaments with little to no responsibilities.  Almost all of the tournaments I go to now are to coach, and that can be very hectic and stressful.  Working this tournament for Cliff Keen I was able to enjoy myself, watch some great dual meets, and most importantly talk to some great people.  I consider myself a shy people person.  It is hard for me to go up to people I do not know and just start talking, but when I do I will be able to chat with anyone for a long time about this great sport.

 One of the best conversations I had this past weekend took place in Bennigan’s after the first day of wrestling.  I was by myself eating a quick dinner and watching the football game between the Packers and 49ers.  I was exhausted at this point in the day.  The day before I worked, worked out, and flew to Springfield.  I arrived at the hotel around 11:15pm and after a long day I fell asleep very quickly.  The morning came fast and I was slow to get up and moving.  I finally showered, dressed, and went over to the convention center to set up and get ready for the wrestling to start.  There was not much down time on the first day, the duals ended and started like a revolving door.  I spent most of the time wandering around taking pictures and talking to some coaches who did not have a team wrestling during that particular session.  Before I knew it the day was over and I was sitting at one of the only seats left in Bennigan’s.  Bennigan’s was in the hotel and everyone in the place was there for the wrestling, but let me tell you they were also super fans of football.  I was shocked how many Packers and 49ers jerseys were being worn in the bar area.  I guess I lose track of reality since I am always in the bubble I call wrestling.  I don’t get out much let’s just say that.  After I finished my bowl of New England Clam chowder I waited for the half to end and paid my bill and walked away.

I was ready for bed and it was only about 10pm on a Saturday night.  As I was leaving I happened to walk by a coach from Ithaca College named Dave Auble.  I shook his hand and asked him how his team fared that day.  He quickly ran through the day’s events but then turned the conversation to international wrestling.  This was my first meeting with Dave and I feel silly for not knowing more about him.  I recognized the name from reading the book Wrestlers at the Trials by James V. Moffat.  Dave was in the 1964 Olympics and on the 1962 World Championship team where he placed 4th both times.  I don’t think he was ready for all of the questions I had for him.  I love the sport of wrestling and I love the history of the sport and I study it as much as I can.  Lucky for me I had a lot of downtime over the holidays and I probably spent a good 6 hours looking over the FILA international data base.  I was researching the most accomplished wrestlers of all time and studying the history of the World Cup.  Dave wrestled at a great time in history.  America was becoming very strong on the world scene, Russia was emerging as a powerhouse, Iran was very strong, and Turkey was at their best.  The Olympics were becoming a true gathering of nations from all over the world and they were being broadcasted for the first time in history.   We talked for a long time about some of his matches, his experiences, and some of the greats that wrestled during his time.  He told me about Yojiro Uetake, Osamu Watanabe, Alexander Medved, Ali Aliev, Emam Habibi, and Gholamreza Takhti.  I only know these great wrestlers by name and accolades, Dave knew them from watching them and spending time with them at tournaments.  I was like a little kid listening to all of these stories.

I could have talked to Dave for hours about all of his experiences.  I saw myself in him and I pictured everything I have done in my wrestling career and how I will remember it when I am his age.  I have had the opportunity to spend time with some of the greatest wrestlers of all time and I have picked up so much from everyone I encounter.  This is why I love the sport and meeting Dave was a bonus to all the great dual meets that I was able to watch over the weekend.  I am on a long stretch where I am gone every weekend, but this is my life and I am passionate about what I do.  I am very fortunate to love what I do so stay tuned for more of my journey to come.

Andy Hrovat