With Northern Michigan-Olympic Training Site head coach Rob Hermann heading over to Sweden next week, the program still needs a coach to be there for the athletes who are staying home. Someone to run practices, dole out advice, and basically, keep the machine running. Fortunately for all involved, there is a two-time World medalist willing to fill in.
2016 Olympian Andy Bisek (Minnesota Storm) is making his way out to his alma mater on Tuesday to begin a week and a half run as the “substitute” head coach for the NMU Greco program. The 30-year old had taken a short respite following Olympics, but has been back on the mats for a while now getting light work in and providing counsel to his OTC teammates. It’s a role he has become increasingly accustomed to and at Northern, he’ll have the chance to reach athletes he doesn’t train with too often.
“Northern Michigan definitely means a lot to me and in the little bit of time I’m there, I have this idea of how it was when I was training and how I believe it should be,” Bisek explains. “So I’d like to try and implement that in the short time I’m there and let these athletes know what they should be doing.”
Bisek’s time in Marquette might be brief, but it is more than enough for him to make a lasting impression on the wrestlers he’ll be taking charge of. Thanks to a stellar reputation both on and off the mat, it is a safe bet that whatever Bisek has to say will be met with enthusiastic ears.
“I am definitely looking forward to having Bisek come in and coach,” says Travis Rice, 66 kg. “You don’t get two World medals just for showing up. Plus, it will be great to have another wrestler coaching us that I can learn from.”
Also joining Bisek for a portion of his stay will be fellow NMU alum and 2012 Olympian Chas Betts. Of course, Betts has gone on to become a star in the pro wrestling world, performing in the WWE under the name “Chad Gable.” Bisek will be meeting up with Chas’ younger brother and current Northern athlete Parker in Wisconsin following a WWE Smackdown telecast. The three will then make the trip to Marquette from there.
Leading by example
One thing those in the room won’t have to worry about is Bisek playing favorites, as he is intent on making sure that his attention is evenly distributed among the group. Because the way he sees it, making the most out of each practice session means everyone gets the chance to pick his brain. It will be especially vital in early November, as the Bill Farrell/NYAC Open will be just days away, an event NMU typically participates in.
“I want to work with all of those guys” assures Bisek. “It’ll be great to do some go’s and give every single guy, regardless of their weight, a good piece of my time. There are some guys up there who have started to establish themselves, but just because someone has done that doesn’t mean they are getting any more of my time or any less.”
Although Bisek will only be at Northern until November 9th, there will be a couple of adjustments to be made. Wrestlers have class all day in between the morning and evening practices. That leaves an allotment of some newfound downtime for the married father of two. He’ll miss his family, undoubtedly. All the same, he wants to find something to do to help encourage the hours before the last practice tick by a little quicker.
“I want to see if any of the guys are studying subjects I’m interested in because maybe I’ll sit in class with them,” laughs Bisek. “I don’t know what I’ll do.”
It is quite an occasion. A current World-caliber wrestler returning to the place where it all started (Bisek attended NMU from 2004-2010) to take the reigns for a couple of weeks is not something you see everyday. Opportunities like this, both for the fill-in coach and the athletes alike, are rare. National Team head coach Matt Lindland agrees and has had a front-row seat for what Bisek’s tutelage is capable of. “It’s so much fun,” Lindland says. “I get to just step back and go, Let this guy show you. He’s going to teach you a lot of the same stuff I am, but he’s going to have more of an impact because they know they are training with a guy who recently won two World medals.”
All in all, Andy Bisek trekking back to Northern, the spot where his development originally flourished and helped propel him to an outstanding Greco Roman career, is something he is expecting to enjoy. You can’t call it full-circle just yet, but there is no denying that the native of Chaska, Minnesota experienced a treasure trove of moments on campus that will likely come flooding back as memories, the overwhelming majority of which he is fond of. He has lived quite the life ever since and what’s more, he knows it. Then again, maybe some of those memories might take some getting used to.
“I was talking with Corey Hope about this, how 12 years ago, it was my first semester at Northern and now I’m going back next week. I’ll be eating in the cafeteria, it’s just going to be so weird.” He can’t help but laugh at the thought. “I’m going from eating at the OTC, which has great food, all the way back to college crud.”
But come on. Who doesn’t miss college?