I’m a third generation Christ-follower, and I’m blessed by how my parents brought me up. I always felt like following God was what I needed to do. It was just the right path. I began my relationship with Christ at age six and I still remember that experience of talking to my Dad about God.
When you follow God and He’s leading you, you’re always in good hands. I feel like I see God’s direction in my life all the time, especially as I look back on things. I can God’s hand was in it all, even if I didn’t see it at the time. Having parents that love the Lord helped, as I always had someone that had been there and could help me through situations.
I was born into wrestling, as my dad David was part of the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Teams and has been a coach all my life. He never forced us into wrestling, but I always loved it and had a knack for it as long as I can remember. From childhood it was a dream to make the Olympics and win a gold medal like my dad did.
I went to my first Olympic Trials in 2004 and placed third. Then in 2008, I was the alternate but did not get to go to Beijing. That was a hard experience for me, because I had planned on winning that year. I was just out of college, and I had put in so much work and effort and spent time away from my family.
After placing second at the world team trials in 2011, I went through a time of depression and felt like there was something I couldn’t get past. I realized that God really does have a plan, and I needed to trust Him. I finally decided that regardless of what happened I was going to give the glory to God, win or lose. I think that mindset was huge for me and it paid off.
At this year’s Olympic Trials, I felt like I was in great shape and my mind was in the right place. There was some heavy competition, and I drew some hard opponents, but I ended up with nearly the opposite of last year’s results.
Being an athlete is a great avenue to shine a light for the Lord, and faith goes hand-in-hand with sports. My faith really keeps me grounded and helps me during my training a lot. I like the Apostle Paul’s writings because he uses a lot of athletic metaphors. I usually read chapter four in the book of Philippians the morning of a competition because it has a lot of similes to wrestling like strength and the peace of God. I claim that promise and try to enjoy the matches and not get so nervous. I’m big on praying before each match so I remember to give God the glory win or lose. It’s good to have that anchor.
— Sam Hazewinkel, USA freestyle wrestler