Andy Bisek is off the road and back at the OTC

By Chris Casper | May 21, 2014, 10:03 a.m. (ET)
Photos of Andy Bisek at the 2014 Greco-Roman World Cup in Iran by T.R. Foley

Greco-Roman star Andy Bisek is back at home at the Olympic Training Center after a grueling multi-month schedule of travel and meets.

In February, two-time U.S. World Team member Bisek traveled to Havana, Cuba, where he picked up gold at the Cerro Pelado International at 75 kg/165 lbs. with his win over Carlos Munoz from Colombia by a technical fall, 8-0 in the finals.

Prior to that trip, Bisek took the gold medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial International in Colorado Springs

Next on Bisek’s itinerary was the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, where he won the national title. He just returned from a May trip to Tehran, Iran, where the U.S. Greco-Roman team competed in the Greco-Roman World Cup.

The U.S. team came in ninth in the event, well short of its goals. As tough as the experience was, U.S. Coach Steve Fraser feels the U.S. Greco-Roman team “has the heart to keep moving forward toward the Olympic Games.”

What was Bisek’s take-away from the World Cup, where he won three of his five matches?

“I felt I wrestled well — I could have done better. There were some things I need to work on when on my feet. I didn’t really feel like I was out of every match, but I need to figure out ways to score on the feet more: that’s where I take the next step,” Bisek said.

“I had one match against Laszlo Szabo of Hungary that I was close, by one point—I could have won that match any other day. The other one which made me feel like I really need to become more comfortable and have a more solid attack on my feet was the match against the Russian Evgeny Saleev. I did alright on bottom — there was a moment when he did get me — but I still was moving good,” Bisek continued.

Bisek’s game plan going in was pretty specific.

“I wanted to focus on working my two-on-one arms first, rather than dig-under hooks right away. I usually tend to get myself over-extended, reaching too much. Foreign wrestlers are usually good at getting me with arm-throws and headlocks, so I didn’t want to go out there dry and sticky. I tried to hand fight a little more and then start gaining position,” he said.

Bisek’s travels have taken him to countries not on the itineraries of most Americans, visiting Cuba and Iran within a few months. There are real difficulties between those countries, but when it comes to wrestling, politics is not a factor. For instance, Bisek found Iran to be welcoming to the U.S. Team.

“The environment was pretty intense, but not in an intense hostile way. They are huge wrestling fans over there—they just appreciate good hard wrestling. That’s what they love to see, everyone leaving it all out on the mat. Everyone outside the tournament was friendly, too. They just wanted us to feel welcome, and that was very nice,” Bisek said.

Iran is a long way from Chaska, Minnesota, where Bisek began his wrestling career. For the Bisek clan, wrestling was a family affair.

“I have been wrestling since I was five-years-old. My dad wrestled, my older brother wrestled, my uncle and my cousins wrestled. We would practice at home,” Bisek said.

Bisek’s choice of Greco-Roman over freestyle came in high school.

“By the time I was in my senior year of high school, I had been leaning toward Greco. I began to think that I enjoyed it more. It was different and it seemed that the Greco guys were odder and seemed to fit together. Any Greco trip I had been on seemed like a lot more fun than any freestyle trip I had been on,” Bisek said.

Bisek was lucky enough to have been coached by some of the greats growing up in Minnesota, and remembers World Team member Marty Morgan and 1996 Olympic silver medalist Brandon Paulson as important early influences.

“When I was in my kids’ club growing up, the coaches were Marty Morgan and Brandon Paulson. Both of those guys had made World teams and were doing things. I remember Brandon coaching us until the 1996 Olympics and then following him through his medal win there. So I definitely knew what kind of goals I should be setting,” Bisek said.

Bisek finetuned his Greco skills as a member of the U.S. Olympic Education program at Northern Michigan where he attended college. He has since moved to Colorado Springs as a resident athlete at the USOTC.

Going forward, Bisek is focusing on “trying to be more aware and more developed,” but there is one thing he won’t be changing: his mustache. He admits it has become a kind of good-luck charm.

“That’s part of why I took on the mustache—I mean it’s got to help right?” Bisek laughed.

Between competing internationally and practice at home, Bisek’s free time is limited. He is also a new father, with an almost one-year-old son. Downtime pleasures for Bisek are pretty simple.

“I enjoy spending time at home. I would like to get out fishing more, but it doesn’t always happen,” Bisek said.

Favorite food, maybe one not training-friendly?

“My favorite food would have to be chicken wings! I do tend to gravitate towards them when they are around,” Bisek said.

After traveling all around the world, Bisek’s choice for a home base would eventually circle him back to his native Minnesota.

“I have traveled a lot and am definitely glad I live in the U.S. My wife Ashley Suggs Bisek has put her foot down and would like to move to Texas, but I still hold hope that she’ll say we can go to Minnesota, where I’m from. But I doubt it,” Bisek said.

When all is said and done, Bisek says that it is all about the work he puts in, and what defines him is how he balances wrestling and family and his love for both.

“I just put in everything I have. I get to practice every morning, then go to work at Cheers Liquor Mart for six hours a day, then come right back to practice. Then I go home. My son just turned one, so it has been busy with him this past year, It’s been hard. I do it because I love it. I’m definitely in it for the desire and love of wrestling,” said Bisek.

Bisek will soon be on the road again, hopefully on his way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the 2016 Olympics, where he hopes the difficult balancing act and hard work will have the ultimate pay-off.