Catching Up with Andy Hrovat

Wolverine volunteer coach Andy Hrovat is just five months removed from a trip to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and, not surprisingly, he is already in full preparation for the next quadrennial event. Hrovat was one of the big success stories from the trials in July -- the consummate underdog who paid his dues and rallied from several deficits to knock off favored Mo Lawal in the best-of-three championship series at 84 kg/185 pounds. His Olympic experience was somewhat bittersweet after a first-round loss to Cuba's Reineris Salas in the closing seconds of the third and final period left his ultimate lifelong goal still unfulfilled. But for Hrovat, it's simply back to the grindstone. Its back to training, traveling and competing -- the same things that ultimately landed him in Beijing. It's back to the wrestlers life -- the only life that he knows.

Fresh off his two-week training camp in Russia and with the U-M team approaching the Big Ten dual season and the final stretch of the 2008-09 campaign, Andy sat down to discuss his life since the Beijing Games, his coaching role with the Wolverines and his plans for the next several months.

On not settling down after the Olympics ...
"Before the Olympics, I was planning on settling down a bit. Over the last two-three years, I've been traveling like crazy, competing, training and just going to a lot of different places just to get to that point. But after I lost in the Olympics, my mind changed because I knew I was capable of doing better. I feel like I have to prove myself that I am better. If I'm going to keep wrestling, I'm not going to do it halfway. You cant have one foot in and one foot out. So, I made up my mind that I was going to keep wrestling, and, in order to do so, I have to put myself in the best situations, like going to Russia for two weeks of training, setting up future trips there, wrestling in tournaments, getting as many matches in and just doing everything possible so I can win a world title."

On setting additional goals between now and the next Olympic Games ...
"That's what I'm doing. I'm not even thinking about the Olympics four years from now. I obviously want to win an Olympic gold medal, but that's the farthest goal down the line right now. I still have three world titles I'm capable of winning. I'm right up there with the best wrestlers in the world. From me being one of the top-eight wrestlers in the world to the No. 1 wrestler in the world, it's such a small margin. But it's a hard margin to get past-- that little extra percentage that I need to improve. I'm focused on that as my goal."

On his Olympic experience ...
"I had a great time at the Olympics. It was awesome. I lost with three seconds left, but I can't take that one match and say, 'The Olympics were awful.' It was great being there, the training was great and just being around all those guys. Even before that, just making the team and the process with Ryan and Josh [Churella] and Tyrel [Todd], that whole summer was a great experience. Now I'm able to take that experience and achieve more."

On experiencing a post-Olympic letdown ...
"It was horrible getting back to it. You're so regimented before with the training and just your whole life. I basically put my whole life on hold for the last year, so when you get back to it, it is a letdown. But I'm slowly coming back. I started training again after a month, but then I'm right back to putting my life on the backburner."

On his coaching role with the Wolverines ...
"It's been great. I love working with the guys. I'm always traveling and learning, so I'm able to bring a lot back to them. They get a good variety of techniques, strategies and positioning. So, I'm enjoying it. I just like being around wrestling. I just injured myself, so I'll be able to be here from now until the NCAAs. Once I'm ready to make that transition to full-time coaching, then I'll be able to commit 100 percent of my time to the daily coaching requirements. I'm still able to contribute."

On his recent training camp in Russia ...
"I went to Russia for two weeks by myself to train in Vladikavkaz in the Republic of South Ossentia/Alaina. It was a great opportunity and something I've wanted to do forever. I finally sucked it up and put myself in a bit of an uncomfortable situation -- by myself with no translators -- for the opportunity to learn from the best. In their wrestling room, they had more than six world champions and a handful of Olympic medalists training every day. Those guys were helping me and working out with me. I was able to learn so much. That's what is going to make me a better coach when I'm done competing. I'm open to learn and bring back solid technique, positioning, drills and workouts."

On putting himself in the best position to improve and serving as a model for other U.S. wrestlers ...
"I think others have seen what I've done and seen how its helped me. Steve Mocco, for example, has probably wrestled twice as much as I have since the Olympics. He said the other day that that's his job. He's a wrestler, and, to be able to call yourself a wrestler, you have to wrestle. You can't just show up twice a year for the U.S. Open and the trials and say that you're a full-time wrestler. That's what he's doing, thats what I've done, and that's what a lot of the younger guys are doing. It's going to make our team a lot stronger. When I first entered the scene, nobody was wrestling in all these tournaments. But if you're not wrestling overseas and in all these tournaments, you're not committed to being the best in the world."

On Michigan's growing stable of freestyle wrestlers ...
"Its been great. It was awesome to have Ryan [Churella] around last year. He just pushes you in a different way, and we've been able to feed off each other. I have the experience and the strategies, and he's young and has a great work ethic. Josh [Churella] is a little fireplug, and he intimidates me and Ryan because he's like a father. He's engaged and getting married, so he thinks he's more of an adult than us, which is 100 percent accurate."

On his upcoming plans ...
"Well, I'll probably be out all of next week, maybe start drilling the next after that. So, somewhere in the middle of February, I'll start going live again. After NCAAs, well probably have one to twocamps in Naperville and I might go to Colorado or Iowa to train. We'll just be getting ready for the U.S. Open, then well have another six weeks before the trials. So, we'll probably head to a few training camps during that time, getting workouts in and preparing to make the team."


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