Olympians Hrovat, Herbert take Co-Executive Director jobs for Michigan USA Wrestling

By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling | Nov. 23, 2013, 4:33 p.m. (ET)

Jake Herbert (left) and Andy Hrovat (right) are bringing their passion and Olympic experience to Michigan USA Wrestling, working with youth wrestlers across the state. 

USA Wrestling’s program in the state of Michigan is being expanded and enhanced with the hiring of respected Olympians Andy Hrovat and Jake Herbert as the new Co-Executive Directors for Michigan USA Wrestling. There is one thing for certain; things will be both interesting and exciting with Hrovat and Herbert getting directly involved in youth wrestling in the state.

“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.”

Andy Hrovat was a star college wrestler for the Univ. of Michigan, and went on to earn a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team in freestyle wrestling. Hrovat retired from competition and became a top Senior-level freestyle coach, working as the international coach for the regional training center at Michigan, the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club. He has also been a top volunteer coach within USA Wrestling’s Senior freestyle program, coaching teams at numerous major events including the recent Senior World Championships.

Jake Herbert was a two-time NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner for Northwestern, and went on to win a 2009 World silver medal in freestyle for the United States. Training at the regional training center at Michigan, Herbert competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He has become a leader in international wrestling, working on the Keep Olympic Wrestling effort. This September, he was elected as one of just seven international wrestlers to serve on the prestigious FILA Athletes Commission.

Hrovat and Herbert are motivated to also turn their focus on working with young athletes and helping the coaches and leaders in the state build the USA Wrestling program in Michigan. As with everything else, Hrovat and Herbert have their own unique perspective about their new challenge.

“The potential we see is that we are going after the masses within wrestling. 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,” said Hrovat.

“Our goal is to increase membership for USA Wrestling in the state, and to make wrestling better at all levels. 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,” said Herbert.

Coon knows that they have the ability to work with the talented and experienced wrestlers in the state, but gets very excited with how they are working with the younger and less experienced athletes and their families.

“They are really looking at the younger-aged kids, the newbies, those fresh into wrestling. They have a strong focus on the grassroots level. Jake has a very unique way of making wrestling fun. They have developed a great system, which they are finalizing and putting into action. They are also making friendships, which is really what wrestling in all about,” said Coon.

Hrovat and Herbert have enjoyed providing clinics for coaches and young wrestlers, where they share their vision about how to succeed in the sport and what is important in a wrestler’s development.

“We have created a whole system which focuses on wrestling skills. It includes the wins and losses in competition, but also has agility and exercise skills included. The biggest challenge we are tackling in wrestling is our retention rate, and focusing on the development process instead of a competition-based model,” said Hrovat.

The feedback so far has been excellent, and the opportunity for learning and growth is already beginning.

“We have had some great feedback at the clinics. I remember being a little kid and seeing Olympic champ Kurt Angle at a clinic. That was fun and exciting. Now that I am on the other side of the ball, I have many little kids who want to be like me, and want to be better wrestlers. It is really rewarding working with them,” said Herbert.

“We have done seven clinics already, and at the clinics, we are gathering emails from coaches and others. So far, we have 30 coaches who want access to our system. They are realizing that teaching wrestling moves is just a small part of being a successful wrestler. We are getting unbelievable feedback, and expect things to get even better as we move forward,” said Hrovat.

Coon knows that the focus on young wrestlers will strengthen wrestling in the state as they move up in age and begin wrestling at higher levels of the sport.

“Here in Michigan, we have looked what we have done at the Cadet and Junior level, and in recent years that has been quite good. We are now looking below that at the Kids level, where we need to increase the numbers and add to the programs there. Jake and Andy are doing that now, and it makes a difference,” said Coon.

Herbert says that they are looking at the longterm impact that wrestling has on young people.

“I want kids to get better in wrestling. I want the United States to bring home all the gold medals. It starts with the youth. I’d like to impact a future Jordan Burroughs or Kyle Dake. If we can find the kids who have those kind of dreams, we can help them. But mostly, I want to have a positive impact on their lives. Just being involved in the sport of wrestling provides a positive impact on their future,” said Herbert.

For more information, visit the Michigan USA Wrestling website at: