By Charlie Akers | BSU at the Games
Growing up, Sam Hazewinkel hardly knew what it was like to lose. In high school, he was a perfect 140-0 with coaching help from his Olympian father, Dave Hazewinkel. At the University of Oklahoma, his winning ways continued with a 132-10 record.
Still, one thing was missing from his resume—a national title.
Hazewinkel had attempted to join Team USA’s World, National and Olympic teams but never made it. He achieved many seconds and thirds during this winning drought, including 10 third-place finishes and 15 second-places finishes from 2004 to 2011, but never a first.
Then came the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. In the finals against Nick Simmons, he lost the first match and the first two rounds of the second match, seeming to have fallen short of his Olympic dreams yet again. Before he accepted defeat, though, he challenged a call made by the referee. What originally was called a 3-0 win for Simmons became a 1-0 win for Hazewinkel.
The trials came down to a third and deciding match that went into overtime. Hazewinkel came out ahead. He had made the Olympic team.
“In its own way it was a relief to finally get it,” he said, “but it’s also real exciting.”
Sam Hazewinkel’s father, Dave Hazewinkel, was also an Olympic athlete for Team USA, wrestling Greco-Roman along with his twin brother, Jim. Dave and Jim competed in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and the 1972 Games in Munich. Sam also started out wrestling Greco-Roman but made the switch to freestyle after placing second at the 2008 Olympic Trials.
This is the first time there has been a father and son compete in the Olympic Games for Team USA Wrestling, and Sam Hazewinkel could not be more excited.
“It’s hard to put into words. It’s exciting. I’m getting to make history now, and what is cool is that it’s not necessarily my fault. My dad started it, and I’m just filling in,” Sam said. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid, obviously, with my dad being an Olympian. I’m loving every minute of it and at the same time trying not to get to caught up in stuff going on.”
Neither Dave nor Jim Hazewinkel medaled either time they went to the Games, so Sam wants to be the one finally to bring home the gold for his family and Team USA. Still, he is trying not to feel burdened by the added expectations.
“There is pressure, but you soon learn to let it roll off. There is so much going on that if you worry about it, it’ll run you over,” said Sam, who is trying to keep what head coach Zeke Jones calls “laser focus.”
“Keep my focus and my mind right. Keep that laser focus and go crush some fools,” Sam said.
Sam’s roommate, Tervel Dlagnev, thinks USA Freestyle will do great things within the next three days.
“Everyone is in focus mode,” Dlagnev said. “USA Freestyle is going to make some noise.”
And Sam wants to do his part, to prove he learned something from all those seconds and thirds he has had over the years.
He’s settling for nothing less than gold.
“I didn’t come here to lose, that’s for sure,” Sam said. “I do know what that feeling is like, and I don’t want to feel it again. I’m going to win.”
Charlie Akers is a sophomore telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Charlie and the BSU team at @the8thKing,@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.