Posts tagged "Charlie Akers"

The Games draw to a close

By Charlie Akers and Katelynn Thys  |  BSU at the Games

Marathon attendees reflect on their Olympic experiences and admiration for the host city during London 2012. A welcoming atmosphere, bubbling personalities and overabundance of sunshine made these Olympic Games an enjoyable experience. Men’s marathon was one of the last events to take place. It was open and free to the public, which increased attendance and energetic spirits as the Games drew to a close.

“Wrestling” my way into a Team USA event

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, I had the most fun I have had since arriving in London. I was lucky enough to attend the Team USA men’s freestyle wrestling practice and media day.

I used to wrestle—starting in the fourth or fifth grade and continued through my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I loved every minute of the practice and media day.

While I was there, I got to interview and talk with many of wrestlers. Going in, I was most excited to talk with Sam Hazenwinkel, and I did just that. I talked to him for most of the media day. He was such a cool guy and had great stories to tell.

After talking with him for a while, we parted ways and I changed my focus to his roommate Tervel Dlagnev, the heavyweight. He was a fun guy to talk to as well. He had a great sense of humor, all the while keeping his seriousness at the forefront.

I traveled around the room for about 30 to 45 minutes, talking to as many wrestlers as I could before they started practicing. They began with a warm-up and then grabbed their wrestling partners and got to work.

Watching their practice made me miss wrestling and want to start back up again. In all reality, I probably won’t, but it was a nice thought at the time. I didn’t think I would miss wrestling that much after high school, but I do now. Getting back on the mat would be fun.

What may have not sounded fun to others was something I loved. I wish I could go back to more of their practices and media days. They were really cool guys and the atmosphere was awesome. It was easily the best day I have had during this trip.

Charlie Akers  |  Sports Reporter


Men’s marathon brings Olympic Games to a close

By Charlie Akers  |  BSU at the Games

It was a bright sunny day with not a cloud in the sky and a slight breeze at 11 a.m. It was perfect weather for a run, and people were lining up along the men’s marathon track to watch the last free event of the Olympic Games. Many of the people traveled this last day because they knew this was it.

“We came over to see the last few events of the Olympics cause we didn’t get tickets for a stadium event,” Paul Tester said.

Tester, an Irishman, was not the only one to travel to the last few events. There were people from all around the world cheering on their Olympians in the marathon who hoping to grab one of the last medals before the Olympic Games are over.

Paul Jobber, a local, also came out to catch the last event. He wanted to make the most of the Olympic Games he said. Another London local, James Leppard, made sure to watch the men’s marathon for another reason.

“It’s the last event and also I am a marathon runner myself. It’s great to see them run past historic sites,” Leppard said.

Leppard was not the only runner from London making his way to the marathon; Jim Broughton was another marathon runner watching from behind the gates. He said it was a really good view, with or without a ticket.

Those who did have tickets to see other events even made their way down the watch the men’s marathon. Brian Stilies was one of them, even after seeing the men’s semi-final basketball games and a gold medal soccer match.

“I like the actual city of London,” Stilies said. “So, we were going to walk around. Our original plan was to just go to the marathon because we didn’t have tickets. Then we got tickets, and we thought to walk around and throw another event on.”

With the marathon being one of the last events, some spectators started arriving hours before. But because the course was so large, some people showed up just 30 minutes before the race started and were able to have a great area to watch the runners go by. Leppard said he was only half an hour late and was still able to watch the runners from his spot

The marathon ended with Stephen Kapchorwa from Ugonda getting gold, followed by two Kenyan runners getting silver and bronze, Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich. Kapchorwa edge out Kirui by less than half a second for the gold. The United States marathon runner, Keflezighi Mebrahtom, placed fourth, missing the bronze medal by less than two seconds.

With the marathon ending so, too, did the Olympic Games.

“I think it’s been great. People have been friendly. There are always volunteers helping. We have been to two events and haven’t had a problem,” Stilies said.

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

Wrestler Jake Herbert prepares to win gold

By Charlie Akers  |  BSU at the Games

Wrestler Jake Herbert watches his weight and what he eats like most athletes in his field. He does find some unique things to enjoy the most. He loves to drink juices and said “Naked” was his favorite. Most notably, he doesn’t go straight to the water fountain after working out to rehydrate. Instead, Herbert drinks coconut water because it rehydrates you better.

All this caution and weight watching helped Herbert claim a 149-4 record at Northwestern University, and of his four losses, three were as a freshman and the fourth was in the national championship his sophomore year. It’s a record he hopes to improve on this year at the Olympic Games when the 84kg weight class begins wrestling Saturday.

“I’m 27-years-young, and I’m getting bigger, stronger, and quicker everyday. I feel like I am starting to hit my stride,” Herbert said.

Herbert doesn’t just focus on his food intake when preparing for the wrestling mat either. He lifts three times a week and wrestles seven. Two days he plays handball, which he said can get violent with all the wrestlers trying to play.

When it comes to finding a weak spot in an opponents defense, Herbert said at this level most people don’t have one, but he has a strong spot — his offense.

“I attack, attack, attack until I score or till they break down. They can defend one attack, but they can’t defend 14 or 15. They don’t have the endurance or the mental stamina to do that,” Herbert said.

Herbert looks to stay aggressive in his matches hoping to push hard enough to make his opponents tired or force them into a mistake. He said he has a relentless attack that is hard for people to stop, and while his style hasn’t made him the favorite to win gold, that doesn’t bother him. He has been training hard and wants the gold, which requires toppling Sharif Sharifov from Azerbaijan.

And Herbert doesn’t plan to come home with anything less than the top spot on the podium. If that happens, Herbert may just be able to enjoy one of his food splurges, burgers and donuts.

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

Keeping it in the family: Son wrestles in father’s footsteps

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

An unexpected day

While in London, I never expected to go to Olympic Park or the Main Press Center. That changed when I was told I was picked to receive a guest credential pass. I would tour the center and walk around Olympic Park.

I left the flat early in the morning to meet up with our contact, Peggy Manter, that was getting me in. On my way from one tube to the other, I ran into my first problem of the day — the tube I needed was down, so I had to take a train to Olympic Park. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t the case. I only knew where to go through the tube stations and the stops made on the above ground train are not the same. So, now, I am someone who does not know London very well trying to get to Olympic Park. It was very frustrating until I finally asked for help from the people who work for the trains.

I finally arrived at the proper station and got off the crowded train. I walked through the crowd of people, making my way to the area where I would get our guest passes. After about six minutes of battling traffic I got to the proper place.  I walked in and received my pass without any problems. I headed to security where I was told I could not go any further without an escort. I spent the next hour frantically trying to get a hold of Peggy. It was the most frustrating part of the whole trip because we had no WiFi outside Olympic Park. Whose idea was that? WiFi outside the park would have made too much sense. So, I had to keep returning to the crowded mall, which was a three or four minute walk, which I had to do almost 100 times. Peggy finally emails me and said she will not pick us up but someone named Nikki would.

Nikki finally showed up about 30 minutes later and took me through the park. She was my ticket to get through security. She walked us through the park, stopping and letting me take pictures of all the amazingly big complexes. I wanted to go inside all of them and watch what was going on. I arrived at the Media Center and was told I could go to a press conference being held.

Snapping a picture with Jorge Posada, former New York Yankees catcher

I knew there was one with Team USA Track & Field, but didn’t know if I could get in. Finally, I get in and I get a big rush as I realize I am a journalist covering the Olympic Games. It was an amazing feeling, making me for sure know this is the career field I want to get into. I sat and listened while other journalist shot questions at the Olympians. It was an amazing experience as I gathered material to write my own stories. The press conference is the best and most enjoyable thing I have been to this whole Olympics.

After the press conference we went to the official Olympic store. It was full of people trying to find the perfect gifts. I found a T-shirt for my younger sister and I got my younger brother, who is about to get his drivers license, an Olympic key chain. As we made our way through the mall, a fellow BSU at the Games student spotted a former New York Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada. I am a huge Yankee fan, so I was star struck. I wanted to go get a picture with him didn’t want to bother him. After thinking it over, I was convinced to go and talk to him because what was the worst we could do? Say no and then we just keep on our merry way? So I walked up to him and shook his hand as I said I am a huge Yankees fan and he was one of my favorites. I then asked for a picture and he said he would. When he said yes I could not stop smiling.

I felt like I was on top of the world.

So, what started out as a rough morning of delayed tubes and not knowing who was coming to get me, ended with a great story to share with people and a picture with one of my favorite athletes.

Charlie Akers  |  Sports Reporter


Preview of wrestler Justin Lester

By Charlie Akers  |  BSU at the Games

Justin Lester has had success on the international level, but not for a few years. He has not won a medal in any competition since he got back-to-back bronzes in 2006 and 2007 at the World Championships.

At the Olympic Games, Lester has a strategy for the 66kg Greco-Roman weight class to try and get back on the podium. He is looking to push the pace of the matches so he can catch his opponents off guard and take advantage of any mistakes this may cause them to make.

“Once you get to the highest level of wrestling everyone is good, it’s the person that makes that one mistake and you capitalize on it. That’s what I try to do. That’s my usual game plan,” Lester said.

After winning the 2011 USA Greco-Roman wrestler of the year, Lester is not letting it go to his head. He appreciates that it shows all the work he did last year, but he has to put it in the past, he said

When preparing to take on his opponents, Lester is not taking it easy with his pre-match warm-up.

“About half an hour of cardio and drilling and then I always do two competition matches. I usually try to get that in 45 minutes before my matches,” Lester said.

After the hard workout, he said he needs to calm his mind and listens to soul music. He said he prefers John Legend and Robin Thick because if he listens to anything else it gets his mind racing too much.

Lester does not have an easy road ahead of him to the gold. Iranian Saeid Mourad Adbevali, 22, is someone that Lester has to defeat. Since 2009 the Iranian has won the 2009 Junior Nationals, 2010 Asian Games and last two World Championships in the 66kg weight class with taking.

Lester said he is prepared for anything that could happen and is proud to be representing Team USA at the Olympic Games.

Lester is competing on Tuesday. Qualifying starts at 1 p.m. with the bronze medal match at 12:45 p.m. ET, and the gold medal match an hour later.

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

YouTube can make Olympians

By Charlie Akers | BSU at the Games

Triple jumper Christian Taylor didn’t learn his Olympic sport in a traditional way. After doing the long jump until he was 15 years old, he decided to find a new sport in a non-traditional way – through YouTube.

“I got on YouTube and talked to my coach about it and he said maybe you should try this out,” Taylor said.

Taylor began studying the YouTube videos because he became bored with the simple running and jumping of the long jump he said. After his coach said yes, he prowled the internet video site and ordered some DVDs to help him master his new sport. He watched the greats of time and made notes of what they were doing to help him become the Olympian he is today.

When Taylor first started watching videos on YouTube one of the athletes he watched was Great Britain triple jumper Phillips Idowu. The two of them are now rivals competing against each other. Phillips has withdrawn from the past few meetings due to injury but is competing in the Olympics.

Before Taylor became an Olympian he created Georgia high school records in long jump, triple jump and the 400m he still holds. At the University of Florida, where he attended for three years, he was a 10-time All American and won eight SEC championships.

Then, Taylor won the 2011 gold medal in the triple jump at the World Outdoor competition.

“Last year, I was the underdog. It took one jump, and I went from the last person into the finals to the winner,” Taylor said. “I’m confident, and hopefully I will be in the finals. I’m going for the gold.”

Even with the young age of all the jumpers, Team USA men’s coach Andrew Valmon has faith in them.

“They are students of the sport. To be a student is to be successful,” Valmon said.

Despite Taylor being the current World Champion he is not taking anything for granted and is working hard for gold. He trained through hot weather, cold weather and rain. According to Taylor he is ready for anything.

“I’m going jump by jump. My main focus is the qualifying rounds,” Taylor said. “I’m trying to be the young cat that brings it back.”

The USA has not had an Olympic medal in triple jump since Kenny Harrison in 1996. Now, seven years after watching his first YouTube clip, Taylor is hoping to win one in his first Olympic appearance.

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


Trice chases Olympic dreams around the world

By Charlie Akers | BSU at the Games

A two-time NCAA All-American, Central Michigan’s Jarod Trice has dreamed of winning gold at the Olympic Games since an early age.

Jarod Trice

Jarod Trice | Photo courtesy: CMU Athletics Communications

The dream started as a young child when he was just starting to wrestle.

Now he has matured into a 265-pound wrecking ball on the mats. He owns a 79-22 record in college, including a 14-1 mark against foes from the Mid-American Conference.

Throughout his high-school days in Highland Park, Mich., Trice totaled a career record of 163-15. His early success catapulted him to the Junior Olympics—and winning gold there—is where he started the dream of winning the Olympic gold.

“After I won Junior Olympic gold, I wanted to be an Olympian one day,” Trice said.

Trice took another step toward his Olympic dream in April with a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials. The finish fell just short of his goal of making the Olympic team in 2012.  As a result, Trice will return to Central Michigan for his final season of eligibility this fall.

“I felt like I did some of my best wrestling there,” Trice said about the Olympic Trials in Iowa City.  “I am going to keep training, focus on my senior season and be ready for the Olympic Trials in four years.”

The fourth-place finish at the trials only adds to his determination for 2016.  Trice also looks to at least two sources of motivation.

“The people who have influenced me the most have been my mother and my grandmother,” said Trice, whose grandmother passed before his first tournament as a senior in high school. “She keeps me going, man.”

Trice also noted the passing of the man who got him started in sports at a young age and always kept him motivated—James Pollard, Jr.

“I lost James my freshman year in college and he was pretty much the one that kept me into sports,” Trice said.  “He is the one who got me into wrestling. He is the main guy who kept me motivated as I was growing up.”

Knowing those two would be proud of his path, Trice trained all over the world to prepare himself for the Olympic Trials. He started to mainly focus and train specifically for the Olympic Games in April 2011.

“The transition from college to Olympic freestyle is not so big,” Trice said. “It’s pretty much the same thing, but it’s much more on my feet though.”

In 2011-12, Trice took a redshirt year from NCAA competition to train for the Games. He traveled—and trained with the sport’s best—all over the world, including in Russia, Cuba and Vancouver.

“The best have gone and trained in these places, so I wanted to also go there and get better with the best,” Trice said. “I’m just eating it all up. I have to bring my best.”

When he returned to the United States earlier this year to finish training, Trice worked with fellow Olympic qualifier Trevel Dlagnev.

Dlganev, America’s No. 1-ranked heavyweight, won the 120-kilogram weight class at the trials and advanced to the London Games in July.

“Training with those guys has been great,” Trice said. “The 120-kilogram class is probably the most respected weight class because of all the guys. It’s a pretty stacked weight class.”

And one in which Trice is determined to be included for the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I took this whole year off of school for this,” Trice said. “The experience that I’ve had this year has been great.  I’m going to keep competing. I’m going to go for the next three world championships. I’m also going to go for the Olympic Championships in the next four years.”

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