Talk about a role model!
Michigan's Eric Tannenbaum displays 'amazing commitment' as model student-athlete
Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
The news arrived via text message early Tuesday night.
And Michigan wrestling coach Joe McFarland couldn?t have been happier when the words flashed across the screen of his cell phone.
Wolverines senior Eric Tannenbaum notified his coach that he had been accepted to Rush Medical School in Chicago.
Five years ago, McFarland sat in Tannenbaum?s house on a recruiting visit and listened as the multi-talented young athlete outlined his goals.
?Eric told me he wanted to be a doctor,? McFarland said. ?He always had this goal beyond wrestling and never wavered from that. And now just look at his resume, wow, it?s really something. Everything he does, he does it the best way he possibly can. Look at the time commitment it takes just to compete in wrestling. And then look at the time commitment it takes to compete in the classroom. What he?s done is pretty amazing.?
The neuroscience major who carries a 3.84 grade-point average also can mix it up on the mat. Tannenbaum is off to a 10-0 start and is ranked No. 1 in the country at 165 pounds this season.
Anybody on the Michigan wrestling team who needs a tip on how to manage their time know exactly where to turn.
When you?re aspiring to not only become an NCAA champion, but also looking to become a doctor, squeezing the most out of every minute of every day becomes a huge priority.
Just consider a typical day during the college wrestling career for Tannenbaum, an All-American on the mat and an Academic All-American off it:
His alarm rings before sunrise, so Tannenbaum can start the day with an early-morning workout on the Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Mich.
He follows with a busy day in the classroom, which includes challenging courses like organic chemistry, biochemistry and genetics.
A full-scale wrestling practice with the entire Michigan team follows late in the afternoon.
After grabbing something to eat, he?s headed to the library to study around 7 p.m. Most nights he?s there until around midnight.
Welcome to the world of your model student-athlete. The 22-year-old Tannenbaum is a three-time All-American for the Wolverines after placing fourth, sixth and fourth in the NCAA tournament.
His feats in the classroom are equally as impressive. The lowest grade he?s received in college was a B-plus.
Talk with Tannebaum for a few minutes and you can sense the drive he has to be the best athletically and academically.
That first B-plus he received in college, in a philosophy class, still gnaws at him a little bit.
?I wasn?t very happy about it,? he said. ?I needed an 85 on my final, which was an essay, and they gave me an 84.?
A three-time Illinois state champion and two-time Junior Nationals champion, Tannenbaum could have wrestled virtually anywhere he wanted after also posting a 4.3 GPA (with honors classes) in high school.
He chose Michigan, a place he calls ?a perfect match.?
?I almost went to Harvard because it was Harvard ? but I didn?t really feel like I fit in there,? he said. ?The best advice I got was you have to trust your gut instinct and see where you might fit in. I wanted a school with the best combination of academics and a strong wrestling team, and Michigan was by far the best choice for me. It?s an awesome school.?
Tannenbaum has been busy this fall interviewing with a number of medical schools that are considering him. He hopes to eventually work in orthopedics or plastics.
In addition to Rush Medical School, Tannenbaum said he also has interviewed with medical schools at Missouri, Georgetown, Boston and Indiana.
When Tannenbaum arrived back in Detroit earlier this season after winning the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, he stayed in the airport while his teammates headed back to nearby Ann Arbor. Tannenbaum had to catch a flight to Chicago for an interview at Rush Medical School.
He has an interview scheduled with the University of Michigan?s medical school on Friday. He said around 7,000 people applied for medical school at Michigan, 500 people are interviewed and 150 are accepted.
As you can imagine, education was a big priority in the Tannenbaum home. His father, Mitchell, is a physical therapist, and his mother, Michele, is a speech and language pathologist.
?Education has always come first,? Tannenbaum said. ?Wrestling was important too, but my dad told me if my grades ever started slipping he would pull me out of wrestling.?
Even with all his success in wrestling and being known around the country, the Eric Tannenbaum who wrestles for Michigan may not be the most famous person named Eric Tannenbaum.
The executive producer for the CBS sitcom ?Two and a half Men? is named Eric Tannenbaum.
?Yeah, my parents pointed that out to me,? the Tannenbaum who wrestles said. ?He?s not related, but I wish he was.?
The man who will be Tannenbaum?s toughest challenger on the mat is expected to be returning NCAA champion and second-ranked Mark Perry of Iowa. Tannenbaum beat Perry in a dual meet last season before Perry downed Tannenbaum in the Big Ten finals.
Perry knocked off two-time NCAA champion Johny Hendricks of Oklahoma State in the 2007 NCAA finals while Tannenbaum placed fourth.
?Perry relies on being able to outfunk people,? Tannenbaum said. ?He will wait for you to shoot and put on a cradle like he did to (Northern Iowa?s) Moza Fay. In the Big Tens, I was a little hesitant against him and forced a shot. You need to be aggressive against Perry, but you also have to be patient and selective as far as when you shoot. You have to finish strong against him.?
Tannenbaum competed at 149 pounds his first two seasons at Michigan, but the grind of managing his weight coupled with his demanding academic schedule put a strain on him.
?Trying to wrestle and taking all these hard classes, it was really rough at times,? he said. ?I essentially didn?t have much of a social life for 2? to 3 years. It was pretty intense. If you utilize your time efficiently it was manageable. But it was pretty crazy at times.?
Tannenbaum?s performance on the mat actually dropped off from his freshman to his sophomore season. He went 36-5 as a freshman, won the Big Ten title and placed fourth in the country. As a sophomore, he slipped to 26-11, took fifth at Big Tens and was sixth at the NCAA meet.
During the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons, Tannenbaum talked about bumping up a weight class. He ended up moving up two, as did teammate Steve Luke.
?The last year I wrestled 149 I didn?t feel good at all,? he said. ?I was losing to people I shouldn?t be losing to and I felt like crap out there. It affected me negatively in school as well.?
Tannenbaum moved from 149 to 165 for the 2006-07 season while Luke jumped from 157 to 174. Both were All-Americans last season.
?I figured I would probably move up to 157,? Tannenbaum said. ?But in the summer, I started weighing more and started leaning toward going 165. I talked to Steve Luke and our coaches about it, and it?s worked out great. I eat pretty much whatever I want now. I feel great.?
Tannenbaum went 28-3 as a junior at 165 before piecing together his 10-match winning streak to start his final season.
It would appear Tannenbaum?s wrestling career will end after March?s NCAA Championships in St. Louis. But Tannenbaum, a past member of the U.S. Junior World Team in freestyle, hasn?t ruled out taking a shot at making the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.
?You are allowed to defer a year after you get accepted to medical school,? he said. ?I may take a look at wrestling after the NCAAs and see if I have the drive after that. I may consider making a run at the (2008) Olympics after the college season is over.?
Tannenbaum, from Naperville, Ill., also has benefited from his association with Coach Sean Bormet and the highly successful Overtime School of Wrestling in suburban Chicago. Bormet was an All-American for Michigan.
?I spent a lot of time there my last two years of high school and I?ve worked out there in the summers,? he said. ?That?s been a huge asset for me. Sean?s a great coach ? he?s so knowledgeable.?
McFarland said Tannenbaum, who always has been very skilled on his feet, has addressed some areas where he needed to improve.
?Eric?s mat skills have really improved,? McFarland said. ?His down wrestling is getting better, and he?s also better on top. He really stepped back after last season and looked at what he needed to do better to win nationals this year.?
Tannenbaum is not the only Michigan wrestler who excels on and off the mat. McFarland said the Wolverines are the only team in the country to finish in the top 10 nationally on the mat and in the classroom the past two seasons.
?We have a lot of good students and Eric?s been leading the charge,? McFarland said. ?What he?s done has been great for our younger guys to see.?
Just when Tannenbaum?s story seems almost too inspiring to be true, McFarland offers another tidbit about his prized pupil.
?Did Eric tell you about the work he?s done in our community program?? McFarland asked. ?He goes up and visits kids at the Children?s Hospital at the U of M. It?s a program called ?From the Heart? where the student-athletes at Michigan go and visit the kids. It?s a big deal for these young, sick kids to see the football players, wrestlers and other athletes come in and spend time with them. It?s a pretty neat program and Eric?s spent a lot of time doing it.?
McFarland said that involvement provides a glimpse of what lies ahead for Tannenbaum.
?Eric will make a terrific doctor someday,? McFarland said.
While he continues to weigh his options for medical school, Tannenbaum is looking forward to his last semester of college.
He?s only taking one class. And he may actually have an opportunity to sleep in for once.
?Every other year I?ve had enormous distractions with difficult classes or something else going on,? he said. ?This is the only semester I?ve had where I can basically just focus 100 percent on wrestling. It?s going to make a tremendous difference. All I?m going to do is train and compete. I hope it gives me the edge this year.?
"It's not the six minutes, it's what happens in those six minutes"