Adam Andrasko was outside his house on a recent weekend in Colorado Springs when the father of a local high school wrestling star ran by on a jog. Andrasko, the chief executive officer of USA Artistic Swimming, was wearing a Team USA hoodie, the kind many national governing body leaders tend to have multitudes of in their wardrobe.
“His dad just stopped on the street while I was washing the car and said, ‘Hey, you’re the wrestling official,’” Andrasko recalled. “I was wearing this jacket and everything. I was like yeah, sure, to you that’s exactly who I am.”
For those who know Andrasko from his work at USA Artistic Swimming and previous stops at USA Field Hockey and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, that he is also one of the top high school wrestling officials in Colorado may come as a surprise. But he’s not the only NGB executive who has found a second calling in the sport.
At USA Triathlon, Tim Yount is the organization’s longest-serving employee, filling different executive roles over 32 years including his current position as chief sport development officer. But for nearly 30 years, he’s also been the operator of On the Mat Rankings, an online ranking service he founded with his brother that is the go-to place to research the top Colorado high school wrestlers at all classifications.
Yount’s brother has long bowed out of the business, but Yount continues, recently working the CHSAA Colorado State Wrestling Championships from the press area of Ball Arena in Denver, watching Andrasko referee matches below as he kept notes on multiple sets of competition brackets.
“I look back at it now and my brother just shakes his head and he’s like, ‘You’re crazy to still do this stuff’ because my real work schedule is so insane,” Yount said. “And this never touches my real work stuff.”
Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling, has been aware of the work Andrasko and Yount have put in and the respect they have earned in his own sport’s community. More than that, the work they do represents a philosophy the U.S. Olympic movement tries to embody about giving back to the community and setting an example for those around you, said Bender, who also serves as a board member for the USOPC.
“One of the things that’s really cool about it is here are a couple of leaders within the Olympic movement that are really embodying and living that idea of giving back,” he said.
Andrasko Earns Statewide Recognition
For Andrasko, the love of wrestling began in high school, where he competed in the sport, along with football and baseball. “By far wrestling was my least favorite,” he said. “It really wasn’t even close. I loved baseball the most, football next and then wrestling.”
But a spinal injury cut his competitive wrestling career short. Still interested in being around the sport, he became a team manager, which meant traveling to competitions and gaining a deeper appreciation for the sport. Even though he received a college scholarship to play football, when Andrasko turned 18, a mentor who saw his deep understanding of wrestling suggested he could make a side career by becoming an official.
Over time, he continued to perfect that craft. Now during wrestling season, starting the first weekend of December, Andrasko is on the road across Colorado on most weekends until the state championships, which were held February 17–19. Only 33 officials are selected for the state tournament, and Andrasko was one of 17 picked by a judging panel that included two out-of-state officiating evaluators to work the dramatic finals.
Andrasko has advanced so far in his officiating craft, Bender said, that he deserves the spot at the highest stage. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Adam has progressed to maybe the top referee in the state of Colorado and one of the better folkstyle referees in the country,” he said.
Like other state championships, the Colorado tournament is alive with drama on and off the mat. An estimated 30,000 spectators attend the three-day meet in the arena that is home to the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche, making it one of the largest state finals in the country.
“Something about being in a professional sports venue like Ball Arena makes everything feel that much bigger,” Andrasko said. “You have a Jumbotron with people’s names where it’s usually just projected onto a wall at your average high school. That alone — that moment makes it tremendously bigger.”
Also bigger is the pressure. In one of four finals which Andrasko was on the whistle, he officiated a match with a junior who was already a two-time state champion going for his third title, a sign of Andrasko’s status among officials. “That was a big deal that they let me do that match because you screw that one up and you screw up the opportunity for him to (potentially) become a four-timer, which is a really big deal.” (The athlete won a close match to defend his titles.)
Andrasko also feeds off the crowd, especially from the smaller towns like the ones where he grew up where wrestling is everything and hundreds of people travel to support athletes. At the state championship, that included the small town of Wray in eastern Colorado, which won its fifth 2A state title in six years and 16th overall.
“I’m pretty confident the entire town of Wray was there,” he said, noting that fans of all teams are right on top of the action. “Everybody can hear me verbalize all the calls. So, you know that every time that you’re stepping out on the mat, you better do good.”
Artistic Swimming Judges Benefit
One notable benefit of Andrasko’s work in wrestling has been his appreciation for officials in his own day-to-day sport of artistic swimming, where athletes are judged both on technical and artistic elements. When Andrasko became CEO in 2018, he immediately recognized his sport’s officials — many of whom have other day jobs much like his own when he officiates wrestling — were not being compensated enough for the amount of time they put into the sport.
“There is a commonality across natural governing bodies because people want to have that cachet,” he said of officials. “They volunteer their time and their energy and really spend a lot of their own money to be judges. When I came in, our judges weren’t even getting full flights and hotel rooms covered. I said that’s got to change right now. And it has, and it’s made them happier.”
“When I came in, our judges weren’t even getting full flights and hotel rooms covered. I said that’s got to change right now.”
—Adam Andrasko, USA Artistic Swimming
Many officials, much like Andrasko, have families at home as well that have to sacrifice when their loved ones go off to judge a sport, often traveling on weekends and holidays.
“They’re asking for enough to make sure that their spouse allows them to continue to do it and they remain happy in that space,” he said. “We’ve done some really good things and it’s really been very much based on my experience as a wrestling official that has spurred me to say, wait, we’ve got to do more for these judges.”
From Triathlon to Wrestling
Tim Yount knows about the family sacrifice as well from his decades of being involved from a different angle of Colorado high school wrestling. At the recent state high school championship, his days began by 8 a.m. and ended after midnight as he sought to update his rankings as the tournament proceeded. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“At the end of the tournament I’ll be absolutely just dead to the world,” he said. “I’ll tell my wife, ‘Don’t wake me up in the morning to feed the dog or put the cats out because I’m not going to be there to do it.’ I’ll be in my own world asleep.”
Yount grew up in Kansas surrounded by wrestling. When he moved to Colorado as an adult, he got immersed in the high school scene, launching what started as a publication with his brother to rank student-athletes and provide features on up-and-comers.
“It was a really modest publication,” he said, “but it was one that a lot of the college coaches used to figure out who the Colorado kids were.”
Today, OnTheMatRankings.com continues as an online resource and remains the go-to source for high school wrestlers and coaches to see how athletes rank against others leading into the state championships.
At the state tournament, Yount makes predictions going in and adjusts as he’s watching competition on as many as 10 mats at once, constantly checking scoreboards and scribbling notes as he goes. While he travels across the state during wrestling season taking in as many weekend tournaments as he can across all classifications, the state championships remain the top-tier event.
“I’m always talking about this being the greatest high school spectacle that I’ve ever been to,” he said. “You know, state football is fun, state track is fun, but the energy you get here is just unmatched.”
Yount’s work has also been noticed by others, including Andrasko, who says he sees Yount maybe six times a year at wrestling tournaments, knowing that Yount travels even more than he does for wrestling events.
“It’s pretty wild and pretty impressive and he is very proud of it,” Andrasko said. “He’ll go on a Friday and he’ll hit two tournaments and then on a Saturday he’ll hit two tournaments and he’ll see as many rankable kids as he possibly can in that weekend.”
Ranking Kids of the Formerly Ranked
Andrasko said Yount’s commitment to the sport is evident.
“He knows more about any wrestler in the state than anybody and it’s not even close,” he said. “I do it to perfect my craft and to give back and to make sure the kids are getting the fairest shake they can. He does it because he’s a junkie.”
Yount said he’s enjoyed what has essentially become a second career and one that has passed the test of time.
“The scary thing is you know you’re getting old when you start looking now at kids of the kids that you ranked 20 years ago,” he said. “They’re now having kids who are in high school and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I ranked his dad.’”
Bender said that Yount’s name has become its own legend around Colorado high school wrestling circles to the point that Bender has to tell people in the wrestling community that Yount is involved in triathlon as well.
“I would put his rankings up against anybody in the country in terms of his understanding of the high school community especially,” Bender said. “I mean, he knows the Colorado high school community as good as anybody in the state.”
Special Bond On and Off the Mat
One other noteworthy footnote on Andrasko’s participation in wrestling is the importance he places on never having specialized in one sport himself as a youth.
“I officiate wrestling at a very high level now and somehow became the CEO of USA Artistic Swimming,” he said. “We talk about specialization. If I had specialized at any one point in my my life, there’s no way I’m doing any of these things. I don’t know that I would’ve been diverse enough in my thought processes to be artistically creative in artistic swimming and ruggedly unique to be a wrestler.”
Bender agreed, noting that he, too, tries to emphasize the importance of not specializing in a sport, even though he oversees a specific sport that many aspire to perfect. Bender himself is involved in rodeo in his non-wrestling time and played other sports growing up as well. “This multi-sport experience for our youth is so valuable,” he said. “Adam’s a great example of how you never know where that comes back to you.”
For Yount, the opportunity to remain around wrestling, a sport he has loved since childhood, is an important way to stretch his overall sports interest as well. He also enjoys the connection with Andrasko, and experiencing his love of wrestling with another non-wrestling NGB executive.
“He and I will sit down, we’re going to talk about real work when we’re here,” Yount said during the state championship. “But it’s a lot of fun because he and I both know this is our outlet. It’s a bond that we have between us and this sport that we love, which is really cool.”