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Does Iowa Wrestling have a Cael Sanderson Problem?

May 23rd, 2017 by Tom

The wrestling dynasty at Penn State should look familiar to Hawkeye fans.
by J.P. Scott

I remember sitting in the seats of the Qwest Center (now the CenturyLink Center) in Omaha in 2010, watching as the Iowa wrestling team gathered on the mat at the conclusion of the 2010 NCAA Wrestling Tournament to take a team photo commemorating the national title the Hawkeyes had just won.

It was the third consecutive national title won by the Hawkeyes at the time and the 23rd in program history. That’s 23 national championships in one sport between 1975 and 2010. But there hasn’t been one since.

On the surface, for nearly any other collegiate sports program outside of Storrs, Connecticut, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a seven-year drought without a national championship is not cause for concern. For Iowa wrestling, however, it’s beginning to become an increasingly larger elephant in the room.

That night, as I watched the Hawkeyes pose with their trophy, I remember thinking to myself, “Everything is about to change.”

Cael Sanderson had just finished his first season as the head wrestling coach at Penn State. He didn’t have his own recruits yet, and he had just come from Iowa State – his alma mater – where he had moderate success as a collegiate coach.

Now, however, the seeds were planted. The biggest star in the modern history of the world’s oldest sport had just planted his flag on the campus of the premier school in the state with the most sought-after high-profile wrestling recruits.

That last sentence should look like Deja-vu for those of you familiar with the history of Iowa wrestling. It’s a lot like the scenario that played out when Dan Gable took over in Iowa City in 1976. Gable was, at the time, wrestling’s biggest star, and he was taking over the program that had just won the last two national titles. There was no building an empire. Gable was the empire, and the top wrestlers from around the country flocked to him, in a small college town in the middle of a state full of corn.

That’s the scary part. At Penn State, Sanderson has the same power and attraction Gable once had, but in a state where he could dominate the sport simply by locking down his borders.

Consider this: Of the 320 wrestlers who competed at the 2015 NCAA Tournament, 48 of them hailed from the Keystone State. Don’t pull out your calculator, I got this -- that’s 15 percent. And that’s pretty good. Additionally, since Sanderson took over at Penn State in 2010 through 2016, the state of Pennsylvania produced 87 NCAA Division 1 All-Americans. Nineteen of them walked to the podium in Penn State warm-ups. Seven of those were national champions.

In 2017, Sanderson led the Nittany Lion program to its sixth title in seven years and added five individual champions to the list. During the lone season in that stretch where they failed to take the crown – 2015 – Sanderson redshirted two of his best wrestlers in the middle of their careers.

Basically, outside of UCONN women’s hoops, Penn State wrestling is the most dominant collegiate sports program in the country – just like Iowa used to be. Also like women’s hoops is the fact that there are only a handful of schools every year with a shot at winning the title in wrestling. Yes, Iowa is still in that conversation, but only on a rotational, off-hand basis with the likes of Ohio State and Oklahoma State. When Penn State doesn’t win, it’s still an upset.

Honestly, as long as Cael Sanderson is at Penn State, I don’t see this trend changing. His status, his location and now his ever-improving résumé allow him to essentially have pick of the litter in recruiting – both nationally and in his own talent-heavy state. Like Gable, Sanderson doesn’t need to do much to sell himself or his program to kids. It’s all right there, fresh in their minds, as the only real empire they know.

In the meantime, with every year that passes without Iowa on top of the wrestling mountain, Hawkeye coach Tom Brands must rely less and less on the empire and legacy that Gable built and more on his salesmanship. Those 23 trophies in the case are a thing of beauty and a definite source of pride for Hawkeye Nation. But their recruiting power decreases with every day that passes and every title that Sanderson wins.

What you don’t want to do is start a revolving door of coaches like you might see in football or basketball, in order to get back to where you need to be. That would be silly, as Tom Brands is still one of the elite coaches in the sport and Iowa is still an elite program.

So what can be done? Honestly, not much, outside of a change in mindset. Hawkeye wrestling was once the standard in the sport. That’s simply not the case anymore, and Cael Sanderson is why. That won’t change at least until he’s gone, and that day isn’t coming anytime soon. The answer for Iowa wrestling and its supporters is to keep grinding, yet stay content to a certain degree with the current state of affairs of the program.

Iowa is still a contender and a threat to win the national championship every year. Given the empire that has been built in Happy Valley, that’s as good as its going to get for now.

Does Iowa have a Sanderson problem? Absolutely.

But so does everyone else.

J Robinson Fired As Gophers Wrestling Coach over Xanax Use On The Team

September 8th, 2016 by Tom

J Robinson

University of Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle announced Wednesday that J Robinson has been fired as wrestling coach.

Robinson was terminated, effective immediately. Acting head coach Brandon Eggum is taking over the program in the interim.

Robinson led the Gophers to three national championships and would’ve entered his 30th season as the program’s coach. He was put on administrative leave earlier this year while the school investigated the use and sale of Xanax among wrestlers on the team.

Robinson told WCCO’s Mike Max that he started to get suspicious, reported it to university officials and was told to test the entire team. He said the school would not pay for the testing. He also said he was hoping to continue as wrestling coach when the investigation was complete.

Robinson told his athletes that if they confessed to be involved with drugs, they could turn in the pills for amnesty. A student athlete who came forward says his coach tried to cover it up by making the team turn in the drugs they had. And, he alleges, the coach sat on the information for up to a month and a half, until the wrestling season was over.

A search warrant was executed at the coach’s office. With it, police say they found essays that team members wrote about getting caught and what they learned from it.

One included this statement: “I should have known I would get caught eventually and that my teammates could have gotten in serious trouble or I could have even killed someone if they overdosed.”

Coyle issued a letter to Robinson on Wednesday, notifying him of the immediate dismissal.

The letter states Robinson engaged in multiple acts of serious misconduct. Robinson also repeatedly failed to answer key questions during the course of the Xanax investigation.

The letter states Robinson didn’t disclose information about the drug-related activity, including sales by current members of the team. It also states he disposed of the drugs that were turned over to him by wrestlers, directly impacting the investigation. Coyle said Robinson promised amnesty and confidentiality to wrestlers who turned in drugs, which Robinson didn’t have authorization to do.

According to the letter, Robinson did not refute the findings of the investigation.

“I’m terminating coach Robinson’s contract because he was not forthcoming with his superiors while reporting his suspicions about selling and abusing prescription medication. While he did report drug suspicions, he chose not to share many other important details about what he knew,” Coyle said. “Furthermore, he did not fully cooperate with our investigation into the matter. He did not meet with us for interviews promptly and when he did, he did not answer some of our most critical questions.”

Coyle said he called Robinson twice to let him know if his dismissal, but Robinson didn’t answer and Coyle couldn’t leave a voicemail because his message box was full. He sent Robinson a text, email and got no response.

Coyle said Robinson’s termination was for cause and there was no financial settlement.

The Associated Press left messages for Robinson’s agent and attorney seeking comment.

“I do not intend to address each inaccuracy and/or omission in the report because there are far too many,” Robinson wrote to the university in a response provided by school officials. “For now, suffice it to say that the report sacrifices accuracy to create a narrative to support a pre-determined outcome to find fault with me and exculpate the university and senior employees in the athletic department.”

James C.W. Bock, an attorney and agent for Robinson, said in May that his client did comply with university regulations and informed his superiors, including former interim athletic director Beth Goetz, of the drug issues within his team.

No criminal charges were filed by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in the case. Xanax is not an illegal drug, and it is not a banned substance by the NCAA.

Walk-on Wrestler Becomes First SF State Wrestler to Head to Nationals in 15 Years

March 17th, 2015 by Tom

Wrestlers

SF State Wrestlers Johnny Costa, Jordan Garrola, Andrew Reggi

In his purple SF State wrestling singlet, Johnny Costa knelt to the mat on one knee to attach his ankle band, but inside he was praying in anticipation of his first match at Massari Arena at Colorado State Pueblo University on Feb. 27. It was a tradition his grandfather had taught him to do before every match.

“I’m a really religious guy, I keep everything the same and go out there to wrestle,” Costa said. “I pray before every match, my grandpa told me to do that. I’ve believed in it ever since and never stopped.”

The tradition payed off as Costa became the first non-scholarship wrestler from SF State in 15 years to head to Nationals. This dual however was unlike any other because it occurred at the 2015 NCAA Division II West Super Regional, where Costa became one of three Gators to earn a ticket to St Louis, Missouri.

Costa, a redshirt sophomore from Escalon, Calif., placed fourth in his 184-pound weight class at Regionals and will be joining teammates Andrew Reggi and Jordan Gurrola for the National tournament.

“He doesn’t get any scholarship money at all,” said head coach Lars Jensen. “Here’s a guy going to a national tournament not getting one dime. It’s very rewarding and I’m looking forward to coaching him for two more years.”

Costa improved from where he was last season where he struggled to make his 174-pound weight at times. After countless attempts to convince coaches he was perfect for 184-pounds, he competed at that weight and defeated California Polytechnic State University’s Nick Fiegener in their first match this season. After the match, Assistant Coach Isaiah Jimenez gave him the OK to stay at 184.

“My eyes just glowed right away,” Costa said after Jimenez approved his move up in weight class. “It was probably one of the best decisions ever because I would have died at 174.”

Costa ran into academic trouble last season and lost his starting spot but with the help of his father, Costa was able to steer into the right path and come back to earn his starting position this year.

“It was definitely an eye-opener,” Costa said. “My dad helped me get back on track, told me I needed to get my grades right. I came back got my grades right and I’ve been wrestling well. I’ve got everything back on track.”

Sharing a strong father-son relationship, Costa’s father, Joey introduced him to wrestling at age five and he has loved it ever since.

“I try to be supportive and give him every opportunity to be successful,” Joey said. “Whether that means going to wrestling camps across the country or taking him to national tournaments ever since he was a little kid.”

Costa hopes to become a coach at his former high school, Escalon High School and eventually put his criminal justice major to use after graduation.

That is in the future. Now Costa is headed to Nationals, where he will face off with the number-one-ranked wrestler in the region, Ouachita Baptist’s Dallas Smith, and will have to win his first two matches to place and become an All-American.

Costa said his recent accomplishment has not hit him yet but directly after the qualifying match, he experienced sheer excitement as he turned around and ran to his coaches who were waiting on the sideline to give them all a hug.

“I knew I had to win the right matches,” Costa said. “I knew I had to win the first one right away because that’s really important. I knew if I won that first one I had a really good shot and I won it. Everything wound up falling in place and I wound up going to Nationals.”

Shortly after celebrating with coaches Costa went to call his dad to tell him to book his ticket to Nationals.

His father replied as happy as can be, “I already did.”

The True Value of Sport

November 11th, 2014 by Tom

Eric Morris

Every year, around 400,000 college students sign their name on dense compilations of written rules and regulations issued by the NCAA. These rules essentially state that the NCAA, and in some cases the university for which the students compete, will be the only recipients of any revenue that is produced by the athlete.

To someone who is not familiar with the NCAA, the choice of an athlete to give up these rights in order to compete under a big corporation that limits athletes' freedoms and financial incentives may seem absurd, especially when there is an extremely small margin of individuals that ever get the opportunity to become professional at their sport and compete for money. However, every year, hundreds of thousands of student athletes choose to sacrifice small freedoms and financial opportunities for the satisfaction of competing at the highest level of amateur sports -- and they aren't the only ones.

Millions of people around the world participate in amateur and club sports just for the experience of competing and training. Of course, sports are enjoyable and provide many opportunities for successful athletes, but there has to be a greater driving force that leads competitors who will never be premier athletes to compete and spend significant amounts of time training.

This is the true value of sport: the character built from participating and the experience and rewards of being part of a team. These lessons often serve as a guide and platform for the success of an athlete in the real world. Those who are able to translate what they have learned in sport to real life situations are able to achieve and progress swiftly because of their teachability and experience.

As a wrestler who has been competing at an elite level for 13 years, with state and national titles, and as current Harvard student with a few jobs under my belt, I have certainly reaped the benefits from athletic pursuits. The lessons I have learned from my sport have allowed me to accomplish some of my major goals off the mat and keep me focused in my day-to-day life. So far, wrestling has helped me gain acceptance into an excellent university and even taken me around the world to compete. I can't imagine dealing with the rigors of an academic schedule at an Ivy League institution without the values I have gained through wrestling.

There have been times when I have been in tough courses that require exams that seem as if they were written in another language, and many students panic or shut down because succeeding on the exam may seem like an impossible feat. However, because of my experience as an athlete, I am able to concentrate on my preparation for the test and perform to the best of my ability while understanding that if I don't end up with the grade I want, then I will simply work harder for the next exam.

Perhaps a more relevant and relatable example of how sports have impacted my life can be seen through my experience as an intern, or even my current focus of taking care of my grandfather suffering from Alzheimer's disease. In my time spent as an intern for a Massachusetts-based real estate company, I realized for the first time just how much of an impact wrestling has had on my life.

There were days when I walked into the office and the pile of work in front of me seemed unbearable and simply too much to complete, but when I compared the amount of office work I had to the work I have always put into wrestling it seemed like a breeze. As an intern, I had a lot of tedious work and even some challenging physical labor at times, but it isn't comparable to the work it takes to be a division one wrestler. Are dozens of spreadsheets really as difficult as dozens of partner carries up football stadium sections? I can tell you from experience, the answer is an easy no.

More important than any advantage wrestling has given me in the working world, however, is how wrestling has shaped my character. I've been in California for about a week now looking after my grandfather and spending time with him. I have always looked up to him as a successful businessman and, more importantly, as a man with integrity and a huge heart.

Though his disease causes him to struggle at times and leads to confusion in his daily life, the patience and perseverance I have learned through wrestling help me to aid him and be there for support. In fact, the responsibilities of looking after an Alzheimer's patient are comparable in a lot of ways to the responsibilities of being a camp counselor, a job I have taken on many times. An Alzheimer's patient, much like a young athlete, must constantly be reminded of their current goals. Although the actual goals may be different, the role that the coach or caregiver takes on for each is actually quite similar. It takes patience and understanding, and concepts must be reinforced many times before the individual actually learns them, and sometimes it takes failure or errors to truly learn or arrive at a goal.

The other day, I left my grandfather alone for an hour or two while I went down the street to workout. When I returned, the car had been moved, and I was locked out of the house, as my grandfather had the only key and for whatever reason had left with the car. Instead of panicking in this situation and focusing on the potential negative outcomes, I was patient and made a set of minor goals to help me with my ultimate goal of finding my grandfather and the car. A few calls and about thirty minutes later I was able to find him near the house and together we walked around the blocks surrounding the house until we found the car. Without my experience teaching youth wrestlers and my goal-oriented nature thanks to wrestling, I am sure I would not have handled this situation well. Times like this allow me to realize the real benefits of participating in a sport.

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to have learned from exceptional coaches and teachers in my life, and will continue to utilize the skills they have taught me in real life situations. I am confident that throughout the rest of my college wrestling career I will continue to grow on the mat, but more importantly as a person. Wrestling is a huge part of my life and I cherish the sport and truly enjoy training and competing, but the values it has instilled in me as a person mean much more than any accomplishment the sport has to offer. I will always encourage young people to participate in sports and allow their character to grow from the lessons sport has to offer, and no matter where my life takes me, I will depend on what wrestling has taught me and use it as a guide for success.

via Eric Morris - Student, Harvard University

The Beauty Of It – Minnesota Wrestling

June 14th, 2014 by Tom

Awesome wrestling video featuring the Minnesota Gophers wrestling team. Beautifully put together and one every wrestler should see.

Sanderson leaving quite a legacy with Penn State wrestling.

December 3rd, 2013 by Tom

Wrestling Coach Cael Sanderson

UNIVERSITY PARK — Cael Sanderson has savored the sweet taste of success while leading the Penn State wrestling program to national dominance.

Before big matches, Sanderson will have his wrestlers eat cake to celebrate how well they're going to perform.

It's a practice, borrowed from team counselor and close friend Bonnie Epstein, that Sanderson employs to increase accountability and keep things light, two tenets of his young tenure.

“Anytime you can get kids to really imagine and picture themselves being successful, that's what we want to do,” Sanderson said. “Whether it's having a cupcake or them drawing pictures of themselves, it's really important.”

Penn State has won the past three NCAA Division I wrestling championships and again is ranked No. 1.

There arguably has been no bigger reason than the polite, soft-spoken Sanderson, one of the greatest collegiate wrestlers of all time and an Olympic champion.

Sanderson, 34, has enjoyed a seamless transition from world-class athlete to coach, something even Wayne Gretzky, Ted Williams and Isiah Thomas failed to do.

“It's about being able to put a team together and try to be the best team in the country or the best program you can be,” Sanderson said. “That's exciting to me. I like building stuff.”

What Sanderson has built has changed collegiate wrestling, pushing Penn State into the conversation normally reserved for Iowa and Oklahoma State.

How he's done it has been even more unlikely.

Whether it's celebrating in advance, playing the same song over and over at practice as a way to get his wrestlers to tune out background noise or requiring them to draw pictures of themselves, Sanderson's approach hardly is conventional.

“We do so many things where you think, ‘Why the heck are we doing this?' ” said junior Nico Megaludis, a Franklin Regional graduate. “But it helps.”

COMMANDING RESPECT

Cael Norman Sanderson was born June 20, 1979, in Provo, Utah. Wrestling was what Sanderson boys did. Cael wrestled at Wasatch High School for his father, Steve, compiling a record of 127-3.

Like each of his brothers — Cody, Cole and Cyler, who later transferred to Penn State — Cael went to Iowa State.

Unlike the other three, Cael didn't lose — in 159 matches.

He is the only wrestler in NCAA history to win at least 100 matches and not lose, and he is the only undefeated four-time NCAA champion.

Sanderson appeared on a Wheaties box. Sports Illustrated and ESPN's “SportsCentury” chronicled his career. He won an ESPY.

Yet Sanderson isn't one to brag.

“We have to update résumés from time to time, and Cael got me a résumé that's about half a page long and that didn't speak at all about his wrestling career,” Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. “It talked about his coaching history. He could have had about a 30-page résumé probably, and he had to go create one. It was all accurate, but it was all about his coaching.”

Sanderson reached the pinnacle for amateur wrestlers, winning gold at the 2004 Athens Games. But that hardly guaranteed success as a coach.

A desire to become the best at his profession has led Sanderson to soak up motivational techniques, not only from wrestling minds but also from two of his favorite authors on leadership, John Maxwell and Jack Canfield. Maxwell is an evangelical Christian author, motivational speaker and pastor. Canfield is the co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

“I don't know where it comes from, but I can say that from the time he was young, he's always been motivated to not necessarily be the best but to be as good as he can be in whatever he does,” said Cael's older brother, Cody, who is an assistant coach at Penn State. “That's just how he was from the time that I can remember. Where it comes from I'm not sure, but that's who he is.”

A SEA OF INSPIRATION

Cael Sanderson didn't waste time decorating his office in Penn State's Rec Hall.

His cell phone and a laptop are two of the only items on his desk other than books and a Nittany Lion Wrestling Club program. T-shirts, tucked neatly inside hats commemorating Penn State's accomplishments, sit on top of a bookcase behind Sanderson, who is wearing a straight-brimmed baseball cap and a jacket that fits tight to his muscular frame.

The lone non-wrestling item, outside of pictures of his wife, Kelly, and sons, Tate and Teag, is a Dr. Evil toy Sanderson said a friend gave to him in college. Perhaps, though Sanderson doesn't say this, it was because he doesn't look all that dissimilar to Austin Powers' nemesis.

The most revealing item is a board Sanderson created that crowns Penn State as the 2014 national champions … about four months early. There are drawings Tate and Teag created and pictures of Sanderson's wrestlers having their hands raised after victories.

It also has motivational quotes:

• • •

“Great moments are born from great opportunities.” — Herb Brooks

“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

• • •

The latter defines Sanderson's coaching style perhaps more than anything else.

“I think you have to look at everything in a playful way and with humility of, ‘Is there a better way than what we're doing? Is there a better way to help somebody or reach somebody?' ” Sanderson said. “And that's not easy. It's easier just to say, ‘This is the way, and you do it.'

“It's really easy as a coach to just tell guys what they need to do. Anybody can do that. Anybody can watch our match and work on finishing a single-leg takedown — because that's easy. That's not coaching. Anyone in the stands can do that. Actually getting them to make an adjustment — that's the challenge. That's what you try to figure out.”

KEEPING HIS PROMISE

In addition to cake, Sanderson's unconventional tactics include playing an adjusted version of football before practice or dodgeball after.

He has his wrestlers keep diaries. Occasionally he makes them draw pictures of themselves, a nod to his college major: art and design.

Sanderson, adhering to his belief system, continues the practice alongside his wrestlers.

“You have to do the same things you ask your kids to do,” Sanderson said. “If you're telling your kids they have to believe in themselves, I have to believe in them first. If you're telling them to keep a journal, then I need to keep a journal.

“If I'm telling them to work hard, then I need to work hard. If I'm telling them to live a lifestyle, then I need to live the lifestyle.

“It's real easy to share theory. It's another thing to practice it.”

Sanderson will blast the same song, sometimes for hours, during practice as a way to “drive the kids crazy.” One example — “What does the fox say?” — is worth a trip to YouTube. Two of the more unpopular choices have been He-Man, the cartoon superhero, and square dancing.

“It's a little annoying,” former Derry wrestler Jimmy Gulibon said. “But I guess you get used to it.”

Why does Sanderson do it?

“You don't get to choose the sounds you hear at the national tournament,” he said.

MAKING HIS MARK

Trading the comforts of Iowa State for Penn State worried Cody Sanderson.

Building stuff was one thing, but Penn State was 8-12-2 the year before the Sandersons arrived in April 2009 and hadn't won a national title since 1953.

This wasn't a new roof. Cael Sanderson wanted to remodel the entire house and build a few more around it.

“I was uncertain about what to do,” Cody Sanderson said. “We attended Iowa State. We had a strong connection and tie to the university and team. We had those relationships that you build with guys on the team. It was something we talked about extensively, and we spent a lot of time deciding what would be the best.

“I was a little more uncertain than he was. We decided together with other members of the coaching staff and went for it 100 percent. He went for it 100 percent. You make the decision, you can't look back, and he hasn't.”

A contract extension Cael signed in August 2012 that pays him $175,000 a year until 2017 surely doesn't hurt — he ranks among the highest-paid wrestling coaches in the nation. Neither does Penn State's sparkling Lorenzo Wrestling Complex, with flat-screen TVs, a state-of-the-art weight room and pictures of past national champions hanging on the wall.

“I think he felt it was time for him to make a change,” Cody Sanderson said. “This was a place he could not necessarily start fresh but do some things that he wanted to do differently.”

That Cael Sanderson has done.

And the recipe he's been following has tasted awfully good.

“He's at the top of his game,” Joyner said. “We're going for our fourth consecutive NCAA wrestling championship, and I think we're going to have a really solid team. Having him here has just increased the excitement on campus. And really, in a wrestling hotbed, to have this kind of presence and to have what he's been able to do with the team, has added tremendous excitement to campus.”

Ex-Olympians Herbert, Hrovat to serve as co-directors of Michigan USA Wrestling

December 1st, 2013 by Tom

Jake Herbert and Andy Hrovat, former Big Ten matmen and past U.S. Olympic freestyle team members, have been named co-executive directors of Michigan USA Wrestling, the national governing body for the sport announced Saturday.

Herbert and Hrovat will be directly involved in youth wrestling in the state of Michigan, according to the USA Wrestling announcement.

Wrestler Jake HerbertHerbert, 28, a high school state champ in his native Pennsylvania, is arguably one of the most successful wrestlers in the history of Northwestern University wrestling. Herbert compiled a 149-4 wrestler primarily at 184 pounds, winning three Big Ten conference crowns (2006, 2007, 2009) and two NCAA Division I titles in 2007 and 2009. The product of Pittsburgh was presented with the Hodge Trophy in 2009 as the best college wrestler that year. He competed in freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, placing seventh at 84 kilos/185 pounds.

In addition, Herbert has been an active member of the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW), a go-to guy for media-savvy quotes about the sport. And if that weren't enough, Herbert plays early 1980s Oklahoma State wrestler Mike Sheets in the upcoming Hollywood movie "Foxcatcher" about Olympic gold medal-winning brothers Mark and Dave Schultz.

Wrestler Andy HrovatHrovat, 33, was a two-time Ohio high school state champ before heading north to the University of Michigan. As a Wolverine, the Gates Mills, Ohio native compiled a 139-39 record, earning NCAA All-American honors three times (1999, 2001, 2002) and was a runner-up at 184 at the 2002 Big Ten championships. Hrovat represented the U.S. in freestyle at 84 kilos/185 pounds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2005, he competed in Real Pro Wrestling, a paid form of amateur wrestling, and predecessor to more recent ventures such as Agon Wrestling, Tour ACW (Association of Career Wrestlers), and Victory Wrestling Challenge.

In addition to bringing valuable collegiate and freestyle expertise to their new position, Herbert and Hrovat also offer hands-on experience in conducting clinics for coaches and young wrestlers, and have developed an approach to working with youth.

“Our goal is to increase membership for USA Wrestling in the state, and to make wrestling better at all levels," said Herbert. "After being in the state for the last three years, I am excited to have a fulltime position where I can make an impact here. I enjoy working with coaches and kids across the state.”

“The potential we see is that we are going after the masses within wrestling," according to Hrovat. "We know what it takes to be a World class wrestler. We are confident that we can put young wrestlers on the right path where they can get where they want to be in the sport. We will be dealing with youth wrestlers. We want to make sure they are still treated as kids. We don’t want to make decisions based on the top 1% of wrestlers here. We want the 99%. We want to provide a product and a service which they see value in. We want them to come back for more.”

“It is an awesome resource to have two Olympians here to help in our state,” said Dan Coon, state chairman for Michigan USA Wrestling. “They are doing an outstanding job for us. They are getting to know more people from all across the state. They have gone out there and made many contacts on the high school and youth levels.”

A risky change for college wrestling?

June 14th, 2013 by Tom

IOWA WRESTLING VS IOWA STATE There is an idea being floated for college wrestling to bring together the dual and individual national tournaments.

I have a feeling that the immediate feeling among coaches and fans of the sport would be a negative one. There is something special about the way the national champion is determined now and the years of history -- especially in the state of Iowa -- are too important to mess with in many supporters' eyes.

The idea of having teams earn points that would be added to the individual national tournament through a dual tourney is interesting. The farther a team advances in the tournament the more points it would receive.

The hope is to bring more of Division I programs into the title hunt or at least a higher finish. Only 11 schools have won a national wrestling title in 85 years.

The move is about exposure for a sport that enjoys great success at its March showcase but is limited much the rest of the season. Creating multiple events that lend themselves well to television is seen as a way to create more interest and dollars.

I have a feeling this idea would have had very little chance of passing only a few short months ago, but since wrestling has begun its battle to remain in the Olympics the sport has undergone several changes and is still looking at more to draw as many casual fans as possible.

A 24-team dual tournament with incentive throughout the season to earn as high a seed as possible has a chance to draw that interest. If college basketball has taught us anything it is that fans and viewers love brackets and upsets.

While it might seem hard to believe right now could you image the excitement that could be generated if Northern Iowa squared off with Penn State in the dual tournament and pulled out a win. Not only would it be big in the moment for the Panthers, but it would make the individual national tournament much more compelling with teams potentially entering it with a significantly larger amount of points already on the board than the Nittany Lions.

There are still a good number of details that have to be worked out from selection of the 24 teams to the timing of the event, and a number of coaches have proven to be resistant to change in the past. However, it gives people something to think about and keeps wrestling in the news in a time when there has been a major push to increase the sports popularity.

Magic on the Mat – David Tremblay

March 18th, 2013 by Tom

ConU Olympian David Tremblay Says Goodbye to University Wrestling After Half-Decade in Maroon and Gold

David Tremblay

If you ask any wrestler on Concordia's varsity team about their teammate David Tremblay, the words "leader" and "role model" are never very far from their lips.

Now in his fifth year with the Stingers, Tremblay is one of the most successful wrestlers in the team's storied history.

Last summer, Tremblay represented Canada at the London Olympics, finishing 14th in his weight class after a difficult draw in the tournament.

Earlier this month, Tremblay won his fifth consecutive gold medal at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championships in London, ON"making him only the third wrestler ever to win gold in each year of eligibility for the, CIS. Tremblay was also named Outstanding Male Wrestler of the tournament.

Now, as Tremblay is finishing up his last semester at Concordia and his sparkling Stingers career comes to an end, his teammates and coaches are contemplating life after David.

"We'll have to find another David Tremblay"and that's not easy," said Rob Moore, assistant coach of the Concordia wrestling team.
"There's always a rebuilding period," Moore continued. "That's the nature of university and high school sports."

As it stands, Tremblay plans to take at least a year off competitive wrestling and to look for a job closer to his native Stoney Point, ON.
"It's definitely sad to leave, and I'm only 25 so everybody wants me to stay," Tremblay said. "However, I want to see what I can offer myself in different fields."

Tremblay isn't the only veteran wrestler graduating this year: two-time national champion James Mancini is also weeks away from moving on after a long and successful career with the Stingers.

At this year's, CIS, championships, Mancini came back from a defeat in the first round to snatch a bronze medal in the 65 kg category, scoring points that would help the team finish fourth overall.

Although the varsity team is losing two of its best wrestlers next year, a few of the younger wrestlers coming back look to have the potential to reach similar heights.

Completing his first year with the Stingers, Jordan Steen won every match in the opening rounds of the, CISchampionship"and inflicted a 4-2 and 7-0 bruising on his opponent in the finals.

Asked if he would be ready to fill Tremblay's shoes, Steen, who was named Rookie of the Tournament, replied humbly.

"Fill them? I don't know about that. I'll try. But Dave's great"you can't replace that guy.

"I'll definitely try," he added. "Somebody's going to have to."

A Family Matter

If anyone is feeling the weight of expectations to live up to David Tremblay's success, however, it's probably his younger brother Noël.

Back in form after having surgery on his wrist in June and missing most of the season, Noël won his first match back at the, CIS, tournament, finishing sixth overall.

At the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association's junior national tournament before his injury, Noël just missed out on a place on the podium.

This season, he hopes to win the competition"taking place in Fredericton, NB from March 20 to March 24"which would mean a trip to the world championships.

After attending the Olympics last summer as David's training partner, Noël aspires to return as a competitor.

"It's tough, though," he said. "I realized how hard it is. I still have a lot of work."

Although he shows no sign of struggling under such high expectations, Noël says he feels a lot of hopes are pinned on him.

"My parents don't say there's pressure, but I kind of feel pressure," he said. "Even if not from my parents, but from the rest of the wrestling community. When you see a wrestling family, you say the family's good. And if one person doesn't do too good, he kind of sticks out, you know?"

"We'll have to find another David Tremblay"and that's not easy."
"Rob Moore, Concordia Wrestling Team Assistant Coach

Indeed, Noël and David's father, David Tremblay, Sr., was a nationally ranked wrestler in his day and has been coaching wrestling at L'Essor High School in Tecumseh, ON for 27 years.

Still, Tremblay says it's still too soon to tell who will take his place as the leader of the wrestling team after he graduates.

"It's hard to say who will be the next leader leader," he said. "Everybody's a leader because they all want success. I can't really say who will be a leader"I'd like to say my little brother."

Coaching It Along

In addition to praising David Tremblay's performances on the mat, many of his teammates spoke highly of the guidance he provides them in training.

Linda Morais, the only wrestler from Concordia in the women's, CIS, championship this year and winner of the gold medal in her weight class, said she owed much of her success to her practices with Tremblay.

"All year I've been training with Dave and he's been coaching me completely differently than what I was used to last year," she said. "My practices are a lot more intense. That's all thanks to Dave, because he took me under his wing."

Morais has very high expectations to live up to herself, wrestling in the shadow of national champion Veronica Keefe, as well as Olympian Martine Dugrenier.

Tremblay's graduation won't change too much in the eyes of the varsity team's coaches, whose task has always been to get the most out of each wrestler.

Head coach of the team since he restarted Concordia's wrestling program in 1977, three-time, CIS, Coach of the Year, four-time member of the Canadian Olympic coaching staff and 2008 Canadian Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee Victor Zilberman has seen his fair share of talented athletes come and go"including a number of Olympians.

Alongside Moore, the pair has close to 100 years of coaching experience between them.

"[Moore] started helping me coach [in 1987] and we became best friends. We're the longest surviving coaching partnership in Canada," Zilberman said.

Asked how he would describe his relationship with Moore, Zilberman said, with a hint of a smile, "Annoying."

"Oh, he's a pain in the neck," Moore joked. "No, we have a good relationship."

For decades now, Zilberman and Moore have raised top-level wrestlers at the Snowdon YM-YWHA, athletics club on Westbury Ave. The varsity wrestling team's practice sessions are open to a variety of athletes of different skill levels whose ages range from 12 to 45.

"Here we have people from world-class to beginners," Zilberman said. "That's very rare in the world, even." In addition to Tremblay and Dugrenier, the list of professional athletes who train at the centre includes ultimate fighter Georges St-Pierre, and Team Canada wrestler Cleopas Ncube.

For all they know, Zilberman and Moore could be training the next David Tremblay right now. Even coaches as experienced as they are, however, may find that replacing a wrestler of Tremblay's calibre will be a tough task.

As for Tremblay, he says there's no doubt that Zilberman has been one of the most important influences on his life.

"I say it over and over again: He's the only reason I came to university. He changed my life, and it's pretty crazy to think that somebody can have such an influence on someone else's life. Hopefully, I'll be able to do the same one day."

Ten Steps To Wrestling Greatness

February 9th, 2013 by Tom

wrestling greatness

Want to, succeed, as a wrestler? Here are ten things you should keep in mind.

  1. Make a Commitment
  2. Set Your Goals
  3. Plan Out Your Year
  4. Get On The Mat
  5. No Time To Waste
  6. Build Yourself
  7. Seek Out The Best
  8. Take the Initiative
  9. Represent Yourself
  10. Compete with Intensity

USA Wrestling's Ten Steps to Greatness

1. Make the Commitment

"Wrestling isn't a sport for those that only wish to dream about success. When you are truly ready to take your wrestling to the next level there is only one choice for you. It is time to make the commitment.

Other wrestlers choose to look at the end of high school season as a vacation from wrestling, but the best wrestlers in America don't look for an "off-season". They know that wrestling is a continuous path of growth, and dedication. They aren't willing to wait to get better; there isn't any time to waste.

What others call the "off-season" is your time to pass the competition. Total commitment is your goal. It's easy to talk about it, but talk won't put you at the top of the podium.

Make this off-season tougher on yourself than your high school season. Get better technique. Get stronger physically. Get tougher mentally. Get, yourself ready so that when next year comes everyone will consider you the bad draw.

Don't let yourself just talk the game of greatness. Commitment is action; it is focused on the fight yet to come. Now is your time to take your wrestling to the next level."

2. Set Your Goals

"Without serious, well thought out goals, a wrestler is rudderless. Making the commitment means that you are ready to do everything it takes to pursue excellence. And, the goals that you set will keep you straight on that path to excellence.

Goal setting works best when you write down your goals and share them with the people that can help you get to where you want to be. Your parents, your teammates, your coaches, your siblings all should be aware of the goals you set, the priorities that you are focused on.

Once you set your goals, take an honest look at yourself and decide what you need to do to reach those goals. What things do you most need to improve on? What habits do you have that are getting in the way of your success? Are there times in the day where you are idling away hours that could be used to better yourself?

Goal-setting will give you direction and the support network that you develop will help get you to where you want to be."

3. Plan Out Your Year

"Get hold of a calendar and mark out all of your commitments that you have between now and the next high school season. Include things that aren't wrestling related as well. Have a countdown going to the first day of practice by numbering backwards.

Now get to work making your plan for the year. Mark in the days of your lifting and running workouts. Write in the times that you are going to get on the mats for a good drill or live wrestling. The best wrestlers get on the mat often. They don't wait to get better.

Then, make a plan to get more matches in this spring, summer, and fall. Find the best USA Wrestling tournaments to really challenge yourself. Locate a strong Greco-Roman or Freestyle club so that you really expand what you know about the sport. The more time you spend on the mat the better you will be!

This calendar will serve as your road map to success. Stick to it. Don't let your commitment waver. If you have a lift scheduled throw yourself into it fully and completely. Don't worry that you might be missing out on what your buddies are doing. Really, they are just missing out on what you are doing, getting better----getting tougher---- making sure that you can win the title."

4. Get on the Mat

"How can you expect to be a better wrestler, if you aren't even wrestling? The answer is you can't. Get on the Mat!

Wrestling, like any skill, must be practiced relentlessly. The best wrestlers love their time on the mat. More drilling, more live wrestling---that's what makes a difference!

For real wrestlers there is no such thing as an off-season. There are tournaments year round for the wrestlers that want to be the best to compete in. Stay in shape and be ready to test yourself.

Sometimes your teammates might not be able to match your dedication and intensity. Shame on them! Still it isn't an excuse for you to miss time on the mat.

Even when you are left alone to drill by yourself you can make dramatic strides in how good of a wrestler you are. If your buddies aren't there to push you, push yourself.

Drill hip heists till your guts hurt. Hit level changes till your legs quiver. Nail double legs till your knees are raw. And shadow wrestle till your lungs burn.

The best wrestlers share one thing. They get on the mat to get better whenever they can."

5. No Time To Waste

"A real wrestler, somebody that really is committed to their goals, knows that there is no time to waste. They don't sit back and rest on past accomplishments, that was yesterday's news. And, they don' look for weak-hearted excuses like "I'm feeling burned out". "What are you going to get done now?", that's a question that always has to be on your mind.

The wrestlers that are going to break through and accomplish great things are the ones that feel a sense of urgency in everything they do. They make their plans and they stick to them. They also take a hard look at themselves and decide where they are wasting their time---time that could be used to get better.

Now that doesn't mean that wrestlers should blow off important commitments. School and family are just two very important priorities that wrestlers should keep in mind. But that doesn't mean mastering the newest video game, or seeing re-runs on tv is good use of your time.

You have a lot that you need to get done, and there is no time to waste. If you've truly made the commitment to reaching the next level and your, not just blowing smoke then it is time to get after it.

And the only way to do it is to go 100%- --All-Out! Don't use execuses. Don't be satisfied with cop-outs. There is no time to waste."

6. Build Yourself

"You may be outside of your "normal" wrestling season, but that doesn't mean you should back-slide and return to bad habits or even the lesser shape you were in before the high school season got started.

This is a time to build yourself. For a lot of wrestlers when they hear that they think they've got to get into the weight room more. There is no-doubt that that is true. There probably isn't anybody that's ever wrestled that couldn't use a little more strength.

However, to really build yourself for the upcoming season make things like conditioning, and mental skills a priority as well. Put all three of those things together and make a real effort in each area and you will be on your way to becoming a much tougher opponent.

Lay out a program for each and get after it. If you don't work at it everyday then can you really say that you've made the commitment?

While you are building yourself, try to be a leader that brings other team members up as well. Set your conditioning workouts as a team and get on guys that miss. When you have time alone, work on taking a look at your wrestling style, watch your past matches and analyze them, or start working on visualization and imagery skills.

It's time to build yourself and you have to be willing to put in the effort, if you want to see results."

7. Seek Out the Best

"There is an old addage in the wrestling community that a lot of people are fond of saying. "Iron Sharpens Iron." When you get right down to it, you pick up a lot of your sense of self from the people you surround yourself with.

Iron sharpens iron. It really is something to think about, if you are a wrestler that really wants to reach for accomplishments that right now are beyond your grasp.

For the wrestler that really wants to improve and deeply feels the urgency and commitment necessary to get it done, then it is time to seek out the best.

Find the best coaches and get involved with the toughest and most active wrestling clubs in your area. Look for the most challenging workout partners you can find and get an organized schedule with them so you can bang heads against the best on a regular basis. Find out the schedule for the USA Wrestling meets in your area, and strive to compete in them.

Don't settle for mediocre steps forward this year. Take giant strides forward by seeking out the best. The shy guy won't necessarily be the best guy next year. Don't be afraid to approach new people and ask for help.

If you've never competed in the international styles of Greco-Roman or Freestyle, then this is the year. You won't be, disappointed. Greco-Roman and freestyle will open the doors of the sport even wider to you, and when you are competing with USA Wrestling athletes in the international style tourna- ments, you will be running with the right crowd. Iron sharpens iron---- seek out the best!"

8. Take the Initiative

"You are your own leader. Don't wait for others to tell you what you need to do to succeed. It is time for you to take the initiative and fill your days with tremendous energy---energy that will improve every aspect of your wrestling.

The difference between an average and great wrestler is very simple. The great wrestler feels the need to do whatever he can to succeed; the average wrestler is someone who will unhappily comfort themselves with the regret of things they should have done.

You have the plan to succeed right in your own hands, but you must make the mature decisions to motivate yourself and do everything you can to get better.

Are you going to be the guy that would rather sleep a few extra hours each day instead of getting up early and getting a morning conditioning practice in before school? Are you going to bypass after-school lifts so you can hang out with your friends? Are you going to treat the wrestling room like a distant stranger this spring and summer or are you going to get in there and do the hard work to get better?

Are you going to rest on excuse after excuse instead of finding the tough freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments to really challenge yourself?

Now is the time for you to light the fire within. Take the initiative on your own to do whatever you have to, to make sure you climb to higher levels of success."

9. Represent Yourself

"The tough thing isn't knowing the difference between right and wrong; the tough thing is choosing right over wrong. The best wrestlers aren't willing to sacrifice short-term popularity for the feeling of standing on top of the podium with a gold medal around their neck.

Our society has a sick way of pushing kids down the wrong path, aiming them towards alcohol, drugs, sex, and mediocrity. Young wrestlers need to realize one thing quick if they really want to be a well-respected wrestler; they need to learn that everything they do is a reflection on the strength of their character. They need to learn how to represent themselves.

A lot of time wrestlers get outside their high school season and they fall into the trap of thinking that now is the time to bust loose and party it up. Their grades start to slide, they get hooked in with the wrong environment and the next thing they know they are trying to figure out how they, messed up their lives.

Wrestlers must come to the realization that they need to make sure that people see the best in them. That they are people of character with strong wills that don't have to act like fools to fit in.

Represent yourself with an inner exuberance that pours through your skin. Let everyone you come across see that you are on a path to greatness."

10. Compete with Intensity

"One of the best things I ever learned was to look with enthusiasm on the opportunities you get to compete. Take every chance you have to get on the mat and compete with intensity.

The essence of the sport of wrestling is competition. It is what drives us forward. The more a wrestler takes the step to get in real matches the more motivation he will have to improve.

This spring and summer get on the mat and compete. USA Wrestling offers thousands of wrestling events that will give any young wrestler the opportunities he needs to get better by wrestling opponents from across the country.

Find these tournaments and compete with intensity in them. Get to your state's freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments, be a part of your state dual team, and compete at your USAW regionals. Most importantly make sure that you train and wrestle in the USAW National Championships in Wisconsin for the kids, and Fargo in July, for Cadets and Juniors.

The best way to really build on your potential is to challenge yourself with tough competition often in these coming months. America's best wrestlers love to compete on the mats. It is the path that dedicated wrestlers need to follow."

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