Sarah Hildebrandt and Brad Harper’s special bond takes them from Penn High School to Tokyo

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:48 PM EDT
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TOKYO (WNDU) - Unfortunately, family members are not allowed travel to Tokyo to cheer on their own at the Olympics.

Penn High School alum Sarah Hildebrandt’s family will be watching at home here in Michiana.

However, she has someone with her in Tokyo who has always been on her side.

“It’s really neat to have somebody like that,” Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt and her personal coach Brad Harper have a special bond on the mat.

“To have somebody that understands my little quirks, my little, what sets me off before competition,” Hildebrandt said. “He understands that.”

The two even have a special handshake that will be seen on the Olympic stage, but for two who are so close, it wasn’t always that way.

“She didn’t like me and I didn’t like her,” Harper said. “It started off that way.”

When Hildebrandt joined the Penn High School wrestling team, Harper thought it was for attention. He even tried to get her off the team.

“I was trying to push her to see if she would quit,” Harper said. “It didn’t break her. She would just get up and smile at me and I would be like, ‘Oh my Gosh. Is this real?’ I was like, “Oh my gosh, she is real.’”

Hildebrandt’s success was real. She became the first girl in Indiana history to wrestle at Semi-State, and, now, with Harper’s help, she’s an Olympian.

“I can totally tell you right now, I would not be on this Olympic team, if it were not for Penn Wrestling and just growing up in that program,” Hildebrandt said.

With Harper by her side, Hildebrandt has grown up from a scrawny freshman at Penn to the World Stage.

“It’s really cool that we’ve gone through so much,” Hildebrandt said. “So many weight cuts, so many losses, so many wins. There’s such an advantage to having such a great relationship with my coach.”

“It’s a dream,” Harper said. “Who knew that this 88 pound freshman would be taking our program and myself to the Olympics. I never knew.”

And Hildebrandt will never truly know how proud Harper is of her Olympic accomplishment.

“She’s at the highest level, and we got to be part of it,” Hildebrandt said. “It’s awesome. Thank you Sarah.”

Hildebrandt will compete in her first event of the 50KG on Thursday night. The match will be shown on the Olympic channel and streamed online at

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