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Cornell's Frey not backing down from challenges

Mark Palmer

2/7/2007
Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer
mark@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @MatWriter

Adam Frey had already written an impressive wrestling resume before arriving at Cornell University: NHSCA Senior National champ. Freestyle and Greco-Roman national champ. Five-time freestyle and Greco All-American. Winner of four athletic letters at Blair Academy.

Adam Frey
As of this writing, the 133-pound starter at Cornell has a 12-0 record, including an individual title at the 2006 Southern Scuffle.

Perhaps just as impressive, Adam is winning other challenges off the mat. He's back in full force after missing his entire first season at Cornell after major shoulder surgery last year. He's overcoming battles to make weight. And he's earning high marks in a challenging major -- government -- at an Ivy League school.

It started with A beat-down …

Like so many top-flight wrestlers, Adam Frey was introduced to the sport at an early age -- 6 years old, to be exact. However, his reason may be unique. "I kept getting beat up on the school bus," the Pittsburgh native discloses. "I was only about 40 pounds, a complete nerd, really shy… I saw a flyer about a wrestling program, so I asked my dad about it. He had been a wrestler. He said, 'No, it's too tough for you.' But I kept at him. 'You told me I could do anything if I put my mind to it.' He finally gave in."

"At first I wanted to quit. But mom wouldn't let me. Dad decided to help coach me. We'd work out together in the basement. My next season I was 40-3. I guess it worked out for me."

Breaking away … to Blair

Throughout Adam's young life, his father Jerry worked out with him and coached him. When it was time to think about high school, Jason Robison -- a two-time NCAA All-American for Edinboro, now head coach at Washington & Jefferson -- recommended Blair Academy in New Jersey. "I loved the school on my first visit," says Adam. "They helped me succeed as a wrestler and prepared me academically for college."

"Blair made me tough," Adam continues. "It's a challenging school. And, I was 15 years old, living away from home. But that made me mentally strong. It helped me become more independent. Taught me how to get things done."

When asked about the wrestling program at Blair -- a school that has turned out eventual NCAA champs Steve Mocco and Zack Esposito, and All-Americans Mark Perry and Cory Cooperman, among others -- Adam Frey's immediate response is, "It's awesome!" Then the wrestler who was a starter all four years at Blair adds, "We went at it hard. I took my share of whuppings in that room. But it was great to have that level of workout partners and quality coaching."

While at Blair Academy, Adam Frey started to make a name for himself throughout the United States. His final two years of high school, Adam earned back-to-back titles at the Beast of the East tournament. At the 2005 Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic -- the annual event that pits the best high school mat stars of Pennsylvania against the top preps in the rest of the country -- Adam pinned Steve Bell of Pennsylvania at 4:55 of their 130-pound match… and pinned down Outstanding Wrestler honors as well. A few weeks later, Adam claimed the 130-pound title at the 2005 NHSCA Senior Nationals, defeating Joey Slaton of Iowa, 10-5, in the finals.

In a published interview after the 2005 Senior Nationals, Blair head wrestling coach Jeff Buxton said, "This is a very deserving win for Adam. He has worked hard all year and trained correctly for four years at Blair. With our track record at Blair, I am expecting Adam to join the ranks of Mocco, Esposito and Perry in the college ranks."

Making the connection with Cornell

With those impressive folkstyle credentials -- not to mention national titles in freestyle and Greco-Roman competition his senior year -- Adam Frey was ranked as the top recruit in his weight class, generating considerable interest among top college wrestling programs.

Interestingly, at first, Cornell University was not at the top of Adam's college wish list. "There was ten feet of snow the first time I went up there," jokes the Big Red wrestler, who seriously considered other Ivy League schools.

Rob Koll
Cornell's head coach Rob Koll and his staff were persistent. As Adam puts it, "(Blair) Coach Buxton said something like, 'Would you please humor the guy at Cornell and at least talk to him?'"

"I spoke to Coach Koll on the phone -- we hit it off well."

Cornell came calling on Adam Frey at Blair, where, according to Adam, his Belgian sheep dog -- who weighs approximately the same as the sought-after wrestler -- made a grab for Cornell assistant coach Steve Garland.

That wasn't the end of the adventure for the Cornell staff. "My dad would tell visiting coaches to climb a rope in the front yard," says Adam. "Coach Koll did it in his suit."

Things went well on that visit, so Adam went to Ithaca, New York for an official visit to the Cornell campus. "Coach Koll and I went fishing," according to Adam. "I felt like we bonded well."

"We made sure we left no stone unturned in our quest to get Adam to come here," says Koll.

Koll got his Frey … as part of a recruiting class that included Troy Nickerson, and was ranked as high as fourth-best by the wrestling media.

Shouldering a serious injury, then surgery

Sadly, just as the 2005-06 wrestling season was getting started, disappointing news concerning Adam Frey came out of Cornell: he had been diagnosed with a torn labrum and a split bicep tendon, and would require surgery to repair the damage. The surgery was performed between semesters, so that Adam could stay in class. And, while the surgery was deemed a success, Adam missed the entire season.

Recovery seems to be complete. "Things are a lot better now," says Adam. Referring to the shoulder, Adam says, "It's strong, it's flexible."

"I now have a different outlook about competing. I consider myself lucky to be wrestling."

Back in action

From his on-the-mat performance so far this season, Adam Frey seems to be back in fine form. As of this writing, he has a perfect 12-0 record, and is now ranked fourth at 133 pounds by RevWrestling.com.

When asked what he thought this season's high points were, Adam immediately focused on two key matches at the 2006 Southern Scuffle, the post-Christmas tournament hosted by the University of North Carolina-Greensboro: His quarterfinals match against Matt Keller of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the semifinals bout vs. Navy's Joe Baker.

In talking about the match vs. Keller, the No. 1 seed at the Scuffle, Adam said, "I was thinking, 'This is my first big match in two years.'" The Cornell 133-pounder, who was seeded eighth in the tournament followed up with, "(Keller's) a real goer … I was hurting pretty much, but it helped me realize that I could indeed compete at this level." At the end of the match, Adam Frey edged Matt Keller 10-9 to advance.

Adam Frey (Photo/Darl Zehr)
Boosted by his performance against the top-ranked Moc, Adam admits to being perhaps a bit overconfident in the next match vs. Baker. "I figured 'I just beat the top-ranked guy, this guy can't be as tough.' Before I knew it, I fell behind 6-2, feeling the effects of the prior match. However, I got through it," says Adam, securing a 10-9 victory over the fourth-seeded Navy wrestler.

In the finals at the Southern Scuffle, Adam went up against second-seeded Evan Sola of North Carolina … and, wrestling what he described as "a good technical match," the Big Red wrestler came out on top 4-2 to take the 133-pound title.

Dealing with weighty issues … and thriving

Adam concedes that the following week, in a dual meet with Penn State, "it was tough to make weight" for his match with Jake Strayer, in which he had to "work hard to get the win" against the eighth-ranked Nittany Lion 6-5.

"He's had struggles with his weight," says Coach Koll. "He seems to have it under control now … We're working with him regarding issues with food and working out. He thrives on training, doing extra workouts. He'll be in three times today … It's like tempering steel; the more you work with it, the harder and tougher it becomes."

Cornell assistant coach Cory Cooperman concurs. "Adam's intense about working out. He likes to go up against coaches, testing himself. Doesn't back down against anyone. I really make him work. I don't let him score; I give him all the defense I can."

"He has so much power as a wrestler," Cooperman adds. "He has incredible, physical 'man strength' and he's not even lifting here -- we're concentrating on cardio and wrestling … He's mentally tough, too. The way he came back against the Navy kid at the Southern Scuffle, being down 6-2, is a prime example of that."

"He's the total package."

The future for Frey

Ask Adam Frey about his goals, and the government major immediately responds, "I hope to get into politics. Since I've been three I've wanted to be President."

He chuckles at that comment, then follows up with, "I want to do my part to make the world a better place. I think I can do that via politics."

Adam Frey (Photo/Darl Zehr)
"I want to go into law school," Adam continues. "Ideally, I want to graduate from here with honors, then go to Cornell Law (School), and continue my wrestling career."

"I'd like to help coach while pursuing my academic goals. That way, I could train, and share what I've learned. Give back to the sport."

When asked about wrestling career goals, Adam says, "Sure, I have aspirations of making an Olympic team. I'll pursue it to the best of my ability with my sights on 2012, maybe 2008 if things work out that way."

Coach Koll backs up Adam's dreams: "I don't see a limit to what he can achieve."

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