Sam is the third Hazewinkel as U.S. Olympian

Updated: June 13, 2012

By Mike Finn

(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of 11 weekly previews of the of this summer’s Olympics in London. In last week’s WIN eNews, we looked at the 163-, 185- and 264.5-pound weight classes in Greco-Roman. Next week, WIN will preview the second of seven men’s freestyle weight classes — 132 pounds — before the start of the Games on August 5.

55 kilos / 121 pounds (Competition held August 10)

Sam Hazewinkel (right) defeated 2011 World Team member Nick Simmons at the Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City in April. (Ginger Robinson image)

U.S. Entry: Sam Hazewinkel, 29, Pensacola, Fla.

The former Oklahoma All-American became the third different American to represent the U.S. at the 121-pound weight class on the world level since Henry Cejudo captured a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. (Since then, Danny Felix was 0-1 at the 2009 Worlds; Obe Blance finished ninth at the 2010 Worlds where he won two of three bouts; and Nick Simmons finished fifth in last year’s Worlds in Turkey where the 2012 Olympic Trials runner-up won four straight matches before losing in the semifinals and bronze medal bout.)

Hazewinkel, who switched from Greco-Roman — finishing second at the 2005, 2006 and 2007 World Team Trials — to freestyle in 2011, earned four All-American honors at Oklahoma, where he now serves as an assistant coach, but never finished higher than third.

The former high school wrestler from Pensacola Christian Academy is the third Hazewinkel to earn an Olympic spot. His father, Dave, and uncle, Jim, competed for the U.S. in Greco-Roman at the 1972 Olympics but never medaled.

Top Contenders

• Viktor Lebedev, Russia — The 24-year-old has represented Russia the last three World Championships and medaled in each. After claiming a bronze medal in the 2009 Worlds — where his only loss was to Turkey’s Sezer Akguel in the semifinals, Lebedev has won the last two World Championships. In 2010, the Russian won all five matches, including a championship bout with Togrul Asgarov of Azerbaijan. Last fall, Lebedev also won all five bouts, which included a gold medal victory over Bulgaria’s Radoslav Veikov.

• Radoslav Velikov, Bulgaria — This marks the third Olympics for Velikov, who finished ninth at the 2004 Athens Games and collected a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he lost in the second round to America’s gold medalist Henry Cejudo but came back to win two consolation bouts. Velikov has also appeared in every World Championship since 2005 and earned three medals: silver in 2005; gold in 2006 — when he beat Russia’s Besik Kudukhov — and another silver in 2011.

• Hassan Rahimi, Iran — After appearing in three Junior World championships, highlighted by a gold medal performance in 2009, the 23-year-old Iranian has now competed in three Senior World Championships, including last year’s tournament in Turkey where he won four of five bouts — including a bronze-medal win over Simmons — and only lost to Radoslav Velikov of Bulgaria.

WIN’s 2012 Olympics Preview Section