Hildebrandt chosen to head wrestling program at Trine

Dane Fuelling
Sports Editor

This winter, Trine University fulfilled a lifelong dream of Amy Hildebrandt when the northeast Indiana school named her the first head coach of its women’s wrestling program.
A graduate of Penn High School, and later Purdue University, Hildebrandt recently described her long and winding journey through the world of wrestling from personal obsession to career in an interview with the DDD.
“I think I’ve always had a passion for it, all the way back to when I was on a wrestling team myself,” Hildebrandt reflected.
The new coach expects to have a couple of girls on her team by the time the season begins in November, but she says she has the support of the university when it comes to building support and momentum with the program. It is not a situation where 12-15 girls will arrive on campus and the program will be competing at full strength immediately.
“I am hoping that we have four girls on the team to help lay that foundation and blaze that trail,” said Hildebrandt. “After that, I think the team will grow very quickly since Trine will have established itself as women’s wrestling school.”
Amy followed in the footsteps of her older brother, Drew, who wrestles at Central Michigan, and older sister, Sarah, one of the top wrestlers in the world.
Wrestling for Penn, one of the top five high school programs in the state at the time, Hildebrandt was asked by head coach Brad Harper to start an all-girls wrestling team.
“He saw the opportunity to help nurture more women like my sister and really became an advocate for high school girls wrestling.”
Eventually, Amy convinced a couple of her friends who had never even been to a match to try it out and they loved it. At that point, she felt like coaching might just be in her future.
After graduating from Penn, she enrolled at Purdue University, which does not currently have a women’s program. Instead, she traveled with the men’s team as a manager, because, as she put it, “I didn’t know anything else but to be part of a wrestling team.”
Once she graduated with her degree from West Lafayette, Harper offered his former wrestler the opportunity to come back and be the head coach of his fledgling girl’s high school wrestling team.
While away at school, along with the help of coach Matt Selis, the number of girls wrestling at Penn had more than doubled.
“I fully embraced the coaching role I was given and I fell more and more in love with both teaching wrestling as well as mentoring student athletes.”
Hildebrandt said that she began running extra workouts for conditioning and early morning practices for anyone who wanted to wrestle before school.
The key transition, though, came when she realized that her program would benefit if they ran completely separate from the boys team.
Realizing her fortunate position at Penn to do what she wanted to do, Hildebrandt grew her squad into the largest in the state. At the north regional this January, she brought 24 girls to the annual opener for the girls state tournament in Indiana.
At state, just a week after Trine’s announcement of intention to start a program, Hildebrandt was approached by someone from the athletic department at Trine.
“The more I talked with them, the more I realized they shared the same values I did. They wanted a program that represented women’s wrestling and they wanted a female head coach.”
Amy had a lot of respect for the message and tone coming from the university, as she thinks the sport is more than just learning to wrestle and compete.
“It’s becoming comfortable in your own skin and nurturing a confidence that goes beyond wrestling.”

What will the first season in Trine women’s wrestling look like?
Any time one starts a program, whether it is in high school or at the college level, there will be challenges. By building up from nothing, Hildebrandt will be faced with the challenge of each of her first three seasons being a little different than the one before.
“It’s very important to build a schedule where the girls will be able to get as much collegiate experience as quickly as possible. Obviously I am going to have a very young team since the freshman class will be my first class.”
Hildebrandt feels that the best way for her girls to elevate themselves in the sport is to experience college-level wrestling firsthand.
“We plan on attending enough tournaments to help acclimate the girls to college wrestling right away.”
Unfortunately with the current landscape in the sport, that may involve a lot of travel. Hildebrandt says she wants to find ways to keep fans and parents and family close and able to watch.
“I have been in contact with other coaches in the state and am prioritizing those over ones halfway across the country.”

Growing the sport is the ultimate goal
Asked what advice she had for a young woman who was contemplating beginning the sport, Hildebrandt encourages every young woman to go after their dreams.
“Try to find a friend to go with you and you can learn together. Wrestling is definitely a sport worth trying. It builds confidence, character, and can help you find your place. It might not seem like it, but there are tons of opportunities for girls who want to wrestle. All you have to do is take that first step and give it a try.”

Photo Credit: Punchwar Sports