WRESTLING: Sam Hazewinkel continues quest for Beijing as he takes aim at winning Dave Schultz Memorial
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Making a full-time commitment to Greco-Roman wrestling has involved its share of sacrifices for Sam Hazewinkel. He's spent a great deal of time away from his wife, Rachel, who is in physical therapy school in Norman, Okla., while he has come to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Hazewinkel hopes all the time away from home will pay off with a trip to the 2008 Olympic Games, set for August in Beijing, China. He is one of the top contenders to make the American Greco-Roman team at 55 kg/121 lbs. The next step in Hazewinkel's quest for Beijing will come when he competes at the Dave Schultz Memorial International on Friday at the Olympic Training Center."I'm real excited about competing in this tournament and it's nice to be wrestling here in the U.S.,"Hazewinkel said after making weight Thursday afternoon."This will be a real good tournament for me to see where I'm at. There are a lot of good international wrestlers here, so it should be a tough tournament. I'm looking forward to it."The 23-year-old Hazewinkel hopes to follow in the famous footsteps of his father, Dave, and his uncle, Jim, who both competed in Greco-Roman for the U.S. at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games. Hazewinkel has been knocking on the door to make an Olympic or World Team since 2004. He placed third at the 2004 Olympic Team Trials before finishing second at the 2005 and 2006 U.S. World Team Trials. He won the 2005 and 2007 U.S. Nationals. In the 2007 U.S. Nationals, Hazewinkel knocked off 2006 World University champion Spenser Mango and 2006 World bronze medalist Lindsey Durlacher en route to the title. But both wrestlers rebounded as Durlacher beat Mango to win the 2007 U.S. World Team Trials. Hazewinkel finished fifth. Durlacher went on to place fifth at the 2007 World Championships as the U.S. won the team title. Durlacher has made the last three U.S. World Teams. Mango, who also is competing this weekend, is very much in the mix to make the Olympic Team. Hazewinkel beat Mango in the finals of the Sunkist Kids International Open in October."Usually what it comes down to is who makes the least amount of mistakes wins,"said Hazewinkel, who competes for the Gator Wrestling Club."The three of us have all gone back and forth, but I'm trying to put a stop to that."Focusing on Greco-Roman full-time has benefited Hazewinkel, who was still wrestling in college at this time last year. Hazewinkel finished as a four-time All-American for Oklahoma. Hazewinkel had never wrestled overseas at this point last year. Since he started wrestling Greco-Roman full-time, he's gained valuable experience by placing in three international events. He took third at the 2007 Pan American Championships in El Salvador before placing third in the Vantaa Cup in Finland and winning the Haparanda Cup in Sweden this past fall."I'm wrestling a lot smarter now,"he said."I'm making fewer mistakes than I did last year when I came out of college."Hazewinkel has been training full-time in Colorado Springs since last August."It definitely helps being out here,"he said."I have a lot more workout partners here and the atmosphere is really good train in. It's real hard being away from my wife, but it's something I need to do if I'm going to make the Olympic Team. I plan to train here in Colorado through the Olympics."Being in the calendar year of the Olympics also has made a difference for Hazewinkel."Knowing the Olympics is right around the corner, that is really exciting,"he said."It kind of re-energizes you and really gives you something to shoot for."