Hildebrandt is better than ever after tough conversations and big changes

by | Aug 24, 2018 | USA Wrestling, Women's Wrestling | 0 comments

by Andy Hamilton (Trackwrestling) – 08/23/2018

The conversations were honest and harsh, but they had to happen for Sarah Hildebrandt to get where she is now.

A dislocated elbow in the 2017 World Team Trials finals shattered her hopes of competing on international wrestling’s biggest stage. Another year passed with her goals still unchecked.

The void created by a four-month wait to get back on the mat was filled by a long, hard look in the mirror.

Andy Hamilton-Trackwrestling-08/23/2018
Hamilton: Hildebrandt is better than ever after tough conversations and big changes

“It was definitely a moment in my life where I was like, ‘Dude, you’re running out of time,’” the 24-year-old Indiana native said. “I am still kind of relatively young. I could go a few more quads, but in my head, 2020 was where I wanted to be (on top of my game) and it was very quickly approaching, so in my mind it was like, ‘You’re running out of time, you need to do more, you haven’t accomplished anything that you wanted to do.’”

In the back of her mind, Hildebrandt knew changes needed to be made before the elbow injury wrecked her 2017 hopes. The additional time off the mat drove the point home and gave her an opportunity to stop and be real with herself and admit that she was holding herself back in a few key areas.

“You can point your fingers at anybody and everybody and the bad things that have happened to you,” she said. “But at the end of the day it’s like, ‘Sarah, you’re not putting in the work and you need to.’”

Hildebrandt evaluated everything that tied into her wrestling — how hard she was training, what she was putting into her body, the people she was hanging out with away from the mat. She made a series of changes.

“She’s like a whole different person right now,” USA Wrestling women’s freestyle coach Terry Steiner said. “Her body looks different. Her wrestling is different. Her focus is different. She’s so much more intent on what she’s doing.”

The scale was Hildebrandt’s biggest source of frustration in the past. She battled last year to make 55 kilograms. Now she makes 53 kilos with ease.

Hildebrandt started working with a nutritionist last September. She slashed her sugar intake. She gave up alcohol. She began eating more chicken, fish and vegetables.

By mid-November, she was making scratch weight at 53 kilos. Better yet, her weight was remaining steady rather than yo-yoing like it had in the past.

“How I was cutting weight in the past was so horrible,” she said. “Now I don’t cut weight at all anymore and I can’t imagine (doing) any of the bad things I used to do. They were just so unhealthy and horrible.”

Bad things such as?

“I would start cutting out meals,” she said. “I would cut out water. They dehydration thing was so big. I would just kill myself in the sauna, layering up through practices. Practices became about cutting weight instead of just learning or getting better. Now I don’t get into practice like, ‘How much weight am I going to lose?’ I can just go to practice and be like, ‘What am I going to work on today? How am I going to get better?’”

It’s no coincidence Hildebrandt is having the best year of her career to this point. She took World champ Haruna Okuno of Japan to the wire before dropping a 7-6 decision in March at the World Cup. She won her first U.S. Open title in April, captured a gold at the Pan Am Championships in May and earned a spot on the World Team by winning two straight matches against Haley Augello, a World Team member in 2017 and Olympian in 2016. She grabbed a gold last month at the Grand Prix of Spain.

“She steps on the mat now and she knows she deserves to win — and you have to know that,” Steiner said. “When it comes down to it and it’s only you and one other person out there, you have to know you deserve it more than that other person. If you’re not doing all the right things, you can’t honestly look yourself in the mirror and say that.”

A couple days after securing her spot on the World Team, Hildebrandt returned home to Colorado Springs and stood before a practice room filled with up-and-coming prospects in the United States women’s freestyle system. She shared her story and stressed the importance of being fully committed.

“If I had done that when I was a kid I’d be a lot better off now in my life.”

“If I had done that when I was a kid I’d be a lot better off now in my life,” she said. “The fact that I’m figuring it out now and it’s had almost an instant effect on my wrestling career and my success, imagine what our youth girls could do if they were already starting to think like that and train like that and just live like a champion. We’ll start to see success come so much sooner and for longer and the depth in our teams will just continue to grow. I wanted to stress that to them because I had seen so many results from my own experience.”

This article originally appeared on the Trackwrestling website at: http://www.trackwrestling.com/tw/PortalPost.jsp?postId=722372132


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