How Drew, Sarah Hildebrandt's passion for wrestling led to college, International success
Drew Hildebrandt has made his name known throughout the Central Michigan wrestling program.
The sophomore has put together a 52-33 record for the Chippewas. Drew won the 2016 Indiana state championship, was named a three-time USA Wrestling High School All-American and a three-time First Team Northern Indiana Conference honoree.
But his first opponent wasn't typical.
It was his sister.
Sarah Hildebrandt has also wrestled her whole life and ascended to a spot on Team USA.
Drew and Sarah were bred into a wrestling family with siblings Cory and Amy. This is the story of the Hildebrandt's wrestling legacy.
Undefeated against the boys
At first, her parents did not want Sarah to wrestle. However, the school wrote them a letter and they were convinced to let Sarah compete.
Not only did she avoid getting pinned, but she won and did not even know that she did.
Sarah was not like most athletes in middle school, their father, Chris said that she would always attend matches and keep score in the stands. Then one day, the middle school wrestling coach pulled her aside and asked her if she wanted to wrestle in the lowest weight class. They were forced to forfeit each match in that class, and all she had to do was avoid getting pinned.
“When I started wrestling, my mom would come in to over watch practices with just me and my coach and I would end up wrestling her,” Sarah said. “This sweet woman let me beat her up at 5:30 in the morning, for the sake of my improvement.”
Against boys, she went undefeated for the rest of the season. Sarah attributes her success to seeing her brothers succeed.
“My brothers were successful almost immediately,” she said. “I think that helped me believe in myself just to even begin wrestling.”
For her success, Drew was the catalyst that inspired her to keep going.
Drew was not the first in the family to discover wrestling. His oldest brother, Cory, first began wrestling after trying a lot of different sports. However, the physicality of wrestling proved to be the deciding factor to stick with wrestling.
Chris, and their mother, Nancy, were both athletes. Chris was a tennis player at Drury University and Nancy was a cheerleader at Southern Indiana University Edwardsville. Chris also played soccer in high school.
“We touched a lot of different things, and we wanted them to try all of the sports,” Chris said. “They were all very physical growing up, and they got bored with swimming and softball. In tee ball, when Drew would run the bases, he would always slide head-first.”
Chris and his wife Nancy found a wrestling club at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Indiana, near their hometown of Granger. Each one of their children participated in it and found success as they continued into high school.
From the start, Chris made it clear this had to be his kids' goal. Every day he would drive them to weight-lifting at 6 a.m. but refused to wake them up.
"They would almost always be up and shake me awake to take them, then Nancy would pick them up,” Chris said.
All of the kids would wrestle in the living room and have endless carpet burns, it was what they did for fun.
Drew, however, struggled to find that fun at first but never quit.
“He wouldn’t win at first, but he would never give up," Chris said. "Then he started learning the technicalities of the sport and he excelled. For Drew and Sarah, you could really see their drive. You could see they were going to be successful right off the bat."
Chris has recently noticed a newfound confidence in Drew – something Sarah achieved while attending King University from 2013 to 2015.
Sarah's Surge to Team USA
At King University, Sarah wrestled for the Tornado in the 125-pound weight class. After her time in Bristol, Tennessee, she hit the international ranks and currently wrestles for Team USA in the 53-kilogram (123-pound) weight class.
For Sarah, she has dreamt about being a professional athlete since she was a little kid. Not only is she living her dream, she has the opportunity to represent her country at the highest level.
“It’s my full-time job,” she said. “Almost every waking moment is dedicated to training, recovery and competing. It’s such an honor really, a dream come true. It adds a special meaning behind everything I do.”
Sarah took a win in her weight-class in Krasnoyarsk, Russia to kick off her season at the Grand Prix Ivan Yariguin Jan. 24-27. It was the first rankings event of the year and the points scored help the seeding for the world championships in Kazakhstan in September.
“She’s such an inspiration to me and other people and it’s so cool to watch her do crazy things,” Drew said of Sarah. “It’s fun whenever I get to see her, talking about our different experiences in wrestling, it’s really unique.”
Sarah is a self-proclaimed bookworm and loves to read. Once her athletic career is over, she wants to be an author and spread the message that “be yourself, love yourself, your quirks and work hard toward whoever that may be.”
As for the personal side of Drew and Sarah, they both said that they are complete opposites of the athlete stereotype.
"It may not seem like it, but I’m a pretty goofy guy," Drew said. "I’m funny when you get to know me.”