Olympic wrestler Jim Hazewinkel to speak at WEBC

Published 2:15 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2019

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Two-time Olympic wrestler Jim Hazewinkel will be the guest speaker at West End Baptist Church on Jan. 27 in the 10:30 a.m. service.

Hazewinkel competed in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and 1972 in Munich, Germany.

During the service, Hazewinkel will speak about competing in the 1972 Olympics and his time as a college wrestling coach.

He taught and coached at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Pensacola Christian College and Marion Military Institute.

“I always tell stories about wrestlers that we had the opportunity to lead to the Lord … I always taught my wrestlers, ‘My first goal for you is to be a national champion … but my second goal for you is even more important and that is that we want to be a witness and lead other wrestlers to the Lord Jesus Christ,’” Hazewinkel said.

He coached for 48 years, and his wrestlers “led 300 people to the Lord,” Hazewinkel said.

“When we found out that he had wrestled in the Olympics, we wanted to get him in front of our people to speak,” Pastor James Watkins of West End Baptist Church said.

Hazewinkel was first asked to speak to the men’s group at the church and then to the Chilton County High School football team.

After hearing him speak, Watkins said he wanted Hazewinkel to be able to speak to a larger audience, so it was arranged for him to speak during the church’s Sunday morning service.

“He has a great, great message,” Watkins said.

Hazewinkel grew up in Minnesota.

Growing up, he and his twin brother David were too small to be good at sports, he said.

“One day when we were juniors in high school someone said, ‘why don’t you guys go out for wrestling?’ … We looked at each other ,and we started laughing,” Hazewinkel said. “The only wrestling we knew about was the professional wrestling on television. They said, ‘no, no, you wrestle people your own size.’”

The brothers gave it a try.

“We loved it,” Hazewinkel said. “The first year on for wrestling, I took second in the state.”

In college, Hazewinkel won the national title four years in a row. Their coach told the Hazewinkels that they should begin training for the Olympics in their second year of college.

Getting to the Olympic team meant making it through several tryouts. The first time he and his brother were working to make the Olympic team, they were competing at the semi-finals in the same weight class. Hazewinkel said it came to a match where they had to wrestle each other, which ended in a draw. This meant neither one of them made the team.

Hazewinkel competed on the World team four times, which plays in non-Olympic years.

He was a coach for the U.S. Army wrestling team the only time that Army was the national title.