A Year in Review
By: Andy Hrovat
As another year comes to an end, we can all take time to reflect on the great things that have taken place over the last 12 months. For myself, I have a lot of great memories to reflect on. I was blessed with the opportunity to wrestle for 26 years of my life, but I am even more blessed to be in the position I am in now. 2012 was my first full year of retirement from the sport, and it was the first year of my coaching career. I gave everything I had to the sport while I was competing, but it feels great to be able to finally give back. My high school coach Greg Urbas always said “use the sport, don’t let the sport use you.” I took every advantage I was given and I made the most of it. Wrestling is a brutal sport, but if you use the sport for all it is worth it will pay you back with more than money can buy.
Last December I moved back to Ann Arbor, MI. I retired after the 2011 world team trials, and the timing could not have been any worse for someone getting into coaching. I had just spent the better part of a year living and training in Russia, so when I came back to the states I had no place to call home. I spent the summer in Colorado Springs helping the freestyle team get ready for the 2011 world championships and trying to find a job. I choose to work at the Overtime School of Wrestling for three months, but when my time there was up I had no plan. The only place that felt like home was Ann Arbor, MI. I had lived and trained in Ann Arbor from 1998 until 2009. There was no job for me in Ann Arbor, but I knew they had just started a regional training center and the Olympic trials were right around the corner. I made a little money here and there, but my main focus was coaching the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club and getting the guys ready for the trials.
Transitioning from an athlete to a coach was not very difficult for me. When I was training I never really committed a lot of time to coaching, so I did not have a very good base to work on. I knew if I wanted to be the best freestyler I could be, I had to do it full time. It is hard to commit to being a full time freestyle wrestler here in the United States, since we do not get paid well enough to do so. I was lucky to receive a lot of support from the Michigan wrestling team, the NYAC, my coaches, and my sponsors. While I was training, to prepare myself for the future was to be open minded. I was able to learn from some of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the sport, and the best part of it all is that I was able to take something away from each one of them. So by the time I retired I felt comfortable in my ability to train athletes to become great at what they do.
Even though I moved back to Michigan without having a paying job, I knew it was the best option for me. I know in due time I will get a good paying job, but this past year was my time to prove I can coach. The Michigan coaches have a responsibility during the school year to coach the college athletes, so when I arrived in Ann Arbor they let me run the freestyle program. The Olympic year is always very busy and there is a lot of traveling involved. The Cliff Keen Wrestling Club became a team through all of our training sessions and worldly travels. I always say I am a lucky person, but I truly believe that. My first full time coaching position I was able to coach Jimmy Kennedy, Josh Churella, Andrew Howe, Mike Poeta, Jake Herbert, Tyrel Todd, and part of the time Matt Gentry. I could not have asked for better people to have coached before the Olympic trials. I believed every one of these guys had a chance to make the Olympic team. The reason I believed this is because I was an Olympian myself. I am not trying to say since I was an Olympian I can make people Olympians, although I do believe I can and eventually will coach people to do great things. I am saying that if I could do it anyone could do it. Everyone of these guys has what it takes to be world and Olympic champions we just have to figure out the path to get them there.
Coaching is a lot different than competing. When you are competing everything revolves around you. When you are coaching you have to make sure everyone of the athletes is getting what they need. You have to help them on and off the mat. I believed in these guys so much that when they did not all make the Olympic team I was crushed. I wanted them to make the team as much as they wanted themselves to make the team. The whole year I was able to sit back and see how much each and every one of them sacrificed just to have the chance to make the team.
The Cliff Keen Wrestling Club did have Jake Herbert make the Olympic team. WIth Jake making the team, I was able to spend most of the summer in Colorado Springs helping out with the freestyle team again as they prepared for the Games. I was not an official coach of the team and I was not able to corner Jake when he wrestled, but I was able to help where I could and I learned a lot in the process. Right around this time I also started working for Cliff Keen Athletic. Working for Cliff Keen Athletic is something I never thought I would have done. I never thought I would do anything but coach wrestling. Working for them is giving me a ton of experience outside of the wrestling world. I am able to learn some business acumen which will be very useful when I am running a wrestling program someday. Everything always seems to work out for me and I am very thankful that it does.
My life is a whirlwind of traveling and right now I am on my second weekend in a row away from my home. This is the beginning of a stretch of time where I am going to be away 13 out of 14 weekends. Some of the weekends are for coaching and some are for working with Cliff Keen Athletic. WIth January 1st less than a week away, I am excited for what the New Year will bring. I know I had a fantastic 2012 and I know 2013 will be better.
I want to wish all of you out there a happy and prosperous New Year!