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Bormet hits jackpot as coach at Overtime School of Wrestling

One of Donny Pritzlaff's first impressions of Sean Bormet left a lasting impression.

Pritzlaff was a freshman in high school and was sitting in the stands at the 1994 NCAA Tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C., when he watched Bormet step onto the mat for the championship match at 158 pounds.

The Michigan wrestler's opponent in the finals was Oklahoma State senior Pat Smith, who needed a victory in that match to make history by becoming the first four-time champion in NCAA history.

"I picked Sean to win," Pritzlaff said. "He was so intense - he was one of my favorite wrestlers."

Smith won the match 5-3, but Pritzlaff was still sold on Bormet.

Twelve years later, Bormet now is one of Pritzlaff's favorite coaches.

Bormet's influence was evident when he sat in Pritzlaff's corner and coached him to his first U.S. World Team in freestyle wrestling just two weeks ago. Pritzlaff beat Tyrone Lewis in the 74 kg/163 pound finals of the U.S. World Team Trials on May 28 in Sioux City, Iowa. That win earned him a trip to the World Championships in Guangzhou, China.

The same intensity Bormet brought to the mat as a competitor is apparent in the way he coaches. Bormet recruited Pritzlaff, a New Jersey native, to Wisconsin. Pritzlaff went on to win a pair of NCAA titles for the Badgers.

"Sean is so intense and so passionate about all levels of wrestling - he just loves it," Pritzlaff said. "He wanted to be Olympic champion and World champion - he was so close as an athlete to getting to where he wanted to be. As a coach, he wants me to win as bad as I do. He's very motivated, very driven. Knowing that, I don't want to let him down."

The 35-year-old Bormet's impact was fairly widespread on a magical weekend for him and his wrestlers at the U.S. World Team Trials.

Bormet also coached Andy Hrovat to a surprising title at 84 kg/185 pounds and Clint Wattenberg to a runner-up finish in the same division. Pritzlaff, Hrovat and Wattenberg all compete for the New York Athletic Club. They have trained extensively with each other at Bormet's Overtime School of Wrestling in Naperville, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

The fifth-seeded Hrovat's win was the story of the tournament after he stunned top-seeded Mo Lawal of the Gator Wrestling Club in the semifinals. Hrovat caught Lawal with a body lock in the first period and pinned him.

Lawal was seventh in the World Championships last year. Lawal rolled into Sioux City ranked No. 2 in the World after beating reigning World champion Revaz Mindorashvili of Georgia just a couple of months ago. Bormet developed a relationship with Hrovat when he spent a year with him as an assistant coach at Michigan.

In the very next match after Hrovat's big upset, Bormet sat in Wattenberg's corner for his upset win over No. 2 seed Lee Fullhart.

Bormet then sat in Hrovat's corner during his finals win over Wattenberg. He was in Wattenberg's corner for all his other matches.

"All three of those guys are very solid individuals who get along with each other real well," Bormet said. "The chemistry they have is really good. They compete hard against each other, push each other and help each other."

So what makes Bormet a successful coach?

"He's very technical and so knowledgable," Pritzlaff said. "He's probably the best corner guy I've ever had. He can help you make a lot of adjustments in that 30-second break between periods."

Pritzlaff said that was evident when he wrestled Lewis in the 2005 Dave Schultz Memorial International in Colorado Springs.

"Tyrone beat me pretty good in the first period and I was pretty down," Pritzlaff said. "But Sean was able to change my mindset and helped me refocus in a short period. He got me fired up and I ended up controlling him in the next two periods to win the match.

"He's very honest with you - he tells you exactly what you're doing right and exactly what you're doing wrong. He's very much behind you. We believe in our training and what he is teaching us and showing us. He had us prepared for the Trials."

Bormet has a library of video he breaks down to help the wrestlers he coaches.

"Sean watches a lot of video," Hrovat said. "He watches video of my matches and tells me what I need to work on and he scouts opponents for me. Right before the Trials, we watched a video of Lawal wrestling Clint in the quarterfinals at Vegas and set up my match strategy. I know Lawal takes a lot of shots to his knees and I wanted to get him in that position."

The 26-year-old Hrovat's unique style could benefit him as the stakes become higher on the World stage.

"Andy is very dangerous - he is very good in a lot of positions where a lot of wrestlers aren't as familiar," Bormet said. "He is a little bit of an unorthodox wrestler. He could be a bad draw for anybody in the Worlds because he definitely is a hard guy to wrestle. He's beaten some good wrestlers overseas, and he has a lot of time to make gains and improvements between now and September. I think he has a good chance to do very well at the World Championships."

Bormet said the 27-year-old Pritzlaff has developed more consistency with his performances in the last year. Pritzlaff notched a breakthrough win in the finals of the U.S. Nationals on April 15 when he downed two-time World bronze medalist Joe Williams in the finals. He handed Williams his first loss to an American in six years.

"There is an adjustment period after college and Donny went through some of that when he started wrestling internationally," Bormet said. "Donny's always been extremely tough mentally. He won some of those positions on pure will at the Trials. He really kept his poise and was determined to win. It's all coming together for him now. He just needs to keep getting more experience internationally."

Bormet was a high school state champion in Illinois before becoming a two-time All-American at Michigan. He excelled internationally, placing third in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and 1999 World Team Trials.

In addition to coaching his talented trio of Senior level standouts, Bormet also is a frequent workout partner for Pritzlaff, Hrovat and Wattenberg.

"Sean gave me a couple beatings before Vegas," Hrovat said with a laugh. "He can still mix it up pretty good out there."

Bormet was named USA Wrestling Developmental Coach of the Year in 2004 and was the FILA Junior Men's Freestyle World Team Coach in 2005.

He said he works with roughly 120 wrestlers at his club, ranging from the youth level to the Senior level. His club's website can be found at

"I started wrestling at 8 years old and have always been pretty fanatical about it," he said. "There are not many places I would rather be than at a gym or at an event. I love the sport and I love being around it."

Bormet said his club has provided an ideal setting for the Senior level wrestlers.

"We have a real good facility that has everything these guys need," Bormet said. "It allows a small group of guys to get a lot of focused attention on them."

Bormet has assembled a strong coaching staff at his club that includes 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials runner-up Kerry Boumans, NCAA champion John Kading, NCAA All-American Ben Heizer and NCAA qualifier Mike Castillo.

Putting so much time in at his club is not easy when he is trying to raise a young family. Bormet and his wife, Teri, have a 2-year-old daughter, Zoe.

"My wife is very supportive," he said. "She is very unselfish about our time together."

Bormet also has developed a close relationship with the athletes he coaches.

"Sean and I are great friends," Pritzlaff said. "He was at my wedding and we've grown very close. He's a fun guy to be around and I've always been comfortable around Sean. When we wrestle in a tournament, Sean is living and dying right there with us as he coaches us. I've trained with him quite a bit this year, probably about a month and a half total. I've gone to his club and he made a special trip out to New York to train and work out with me. We talk and e-mail every couple of days. He's made a big difference in my career. I owe him a lot."

Hrovat also described his relationship with Bormet as "real close."

"He really cares for us and wants us to do well," Hrovat said. "He is always looking out for us and trying to help us get better. I would do anything for him."

Pritzlaff, Hrovat and Wattenberg were together with Bormet in Chicago for seven-day training cycles just before the U.S. Nationals and the U.S. World Team Trials. The three athletes all work as college assistant coaches - Pritzlaff at Hofstra, Hrovat at Michigan and Wattenberg at Cornell.

Among the wrestlers who also have trained with those three at Bormet's club is Northwestern's Jake Herbert, an NCAA runner-up this past season. Herbert, who has two years of college eligibility left, won the University Nationals at the same 185-pound weight class that Hrovat and Wattenberg compete in.

"It's an hour to an hour and half drive for Jake to our club, depending on the traffic, but you may see him show up here on a Sunday or a Thursday night," Bormet said. "He's very committed to improving and he's always looking for extra training and something that will benefit him. Jake is going to keep excelling."

A couple hours after the finals of the World Team Trials, Bormet sat down at a table in a downtown Sioux City barbecue restaurant and celebrated with Pritzlaff, Hrovat and Wattenberg.

"That whole weekend was a blast," Bormet said. "I really enjoy working with all the wrestlers, but that's the highest level and there was so much at stake. It's always thrilling to see them get the reward after all the hard work they put in. They really pushed themselves. There were a lot of people who were shocked about what they did, but they put in the time to be successful."

Pritzlaff said Bormet had every reason to celebrate.

"Sean couldn't have scripted it any better," Pritzlaff said. "Everything came together perfectly and he worked very closely with me, Andy and Clint. He had a very big role in our success. Our success is his success."

Bormet said he hopes to work with Pritzlaff and Hrovat again before they head to China.

"One way or another, I will be involved with Donny and Andy," Bormet said. "Whatever they need from me, I'm willing to do it. I will try to work with them in conjunction with the training camps and tours USA Wrestling has planned for them. They need some rest too, but I will help supplement their training in any way I can."

Bormet already has made plans to be in China in late September for the World Championships.

"I think it will help us a lot having Sean at the World Championships," Hrovat said. "I am bringing Clint along as my training partner, so having all four of us over in China will be great. We're real comfortable with each other. Even though we will be in another country, the comfort level will still be there."

Pritzlaff wouldn't trade the time he has spent with Bormet for anything.

"When I first came to Wisconsin, he would give me the first takedown when we wrestled and then he would just demolish me," Pritzlaff said with a laugh. "I thought he was the toughest guy in the World - I still do. I love having him in my corner."
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