Olympics did not come without adversity for former OU wrestlers
The spotlight has always eluded former OU wrestlers Sam Hazewinkel and Jared Frayer. But by making the U.S. Olympic team, the pair finally gets a chance to shine.
For Hazewinkel, it means seizing what he's always felt was his birthright. For Frayer, it's a last great adventure with the sport.
Hazewinkel, who wrestled at OU from 2004-2007, won the 121-pound title at the Olympic trials, and Frayer, who wrestled at OU from 1999-2002 and is an OU assistant coach, won the 145.5-pound bracket.
For Hazewinkel, whose father and uncle both represented the U.S. in the '68 an '72 games, the Olympics always have been his birthright — or so he thought.
"My dad was an Olympian, so I was kind of born into it," Hazewinkel said. "So it was always something I thought was attainable, something I thought was reachable. It was never this big thing in the sky that only a few people get; it was something I thought I could always get."
But the illusion of making the Olympic team being a given was quickly shattered.
"I came to OU and wrestled, never quite got that national title," Hazewinkel said. "I tried out for the (Olympic) team in '04, took third, tried out for the team in '08 and took second, and all the sudden I'm realizing why people say it's something that's not attainable."
Both Frayer and Hazewinkel faced a hard road before making this year's team.
Wrestlers have to win their weight class in the Olympic trials in order to represent the country, and winning on the big stage was something the duo has struggled to do in previous years.
Hazewinkel took third three times at the NCAA championships while at OU, as well as coming up short in the previous two Olympic trials. Similarly, Frayer finished as high as fourth at the 2001 NCAA championships and finished second in back-to-back World Championship teams in 2009 and 2010.
Both wrestlers train at OU, and they give the Sooner coaching and support staff a lot of credit for helping them press on through the adversity and eventually reaching this pinnacle of their careers.
"I got all these people that every time you fall short of your goal, that are helping you up," Hazelwinkel said. "When you got all those hands that are helping you, catching you, it stays attainable."
Frayer is calling it quits after the London Games, and he said he appreciates how big the sport has been in his life.
"I've talked to a lot of people, and it's kind of been fun that this is going to be the last weigh-in that I ever have," Frayer said. "As a kid, I've probably weighed in 5,000 times and to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it's going to be a pretty awesome experience."
Both Hazewinkel and Frayer are older than the other OU Olympians at 29 and 33, respectively. The wrestlers said they keep competing, though, because they love it.
"As long as we can, I see myself wrestling," Hazelwinkel said. "As long as my body will allow me to, I'm going to wrestle."
Frayer had to beat former Iowa Hawkeye Brent Metcalf to qualify for London. Metcalf was undefeated at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa — where the trials were held — heading into the final match with Frayer.
"There were 15,000 people in the stands for the Olympic trials," Frayer said. "14,500 and however many were rooting for Brent Metcalf. So it was pretty cool. It was a situation that you only see in Russia or Iran with that many people in the stands against you, it just motivated you."
In that moment, Frayer could finally see his destiny, he finally knew he could make it.
"I was just in the right place, I knew all these years of second place and struggle, it had all come together, it had all come to fruition at the same time," Frayer said.
Despite the accomplishment of making the Olympics, neither of the Sooners said they are satisfied.
"I believe I can go out there and win the weight," Frayer said. "There's nobody better, why not me?"
There's no doubt about winning gold, Hazewinkel said.
"It's not a 'Hey, I made it to the Olympics and that's it,'" Hazewinkel said. "We're going to win."
After overcoming so much adversity and finally making the team, the biggest emotion the wrestlers felt — bigger than determination — was excitement.
"I'm happy to say that perseverance paid off, that all this hard work we put in finally paid off," Hazewinkel said. "When that comes to fruition and you make that team, you can't put it in words."
When it came time for Hazewinkel to express the spectrum of his emotions, he drew a blank.
"That kind of excitement, we don't have a word in our vocabulary yet for it," Hazewinkel said. "I'm working on it, I'm going to try to come up with one. You got cloud nine and you got cloud Olympic level, so it's somewhere up there. When we figure it out, I'll be sure to let you guys know."