Centre County native wants to be on the podium at NCAA wrestling
Lock Haven’s Corey Hazel, a 2015 Penns Valley grad, isn’t letting a little soreness or a loss Thursday to an undefeated two-time national finalist put a stop to his goal this season.
Despite a 16-5 loss to Ohio State’s Myles Martin, the top seed at 184 pounds, in the second round of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Hazel is still intent on finishing the tournament in the top eight. He still wants to be an All-American.
The loss, Hazel said, helped expose his weaknesses and gave him an idea about what he needs to work on when he continues with the competition Friday afternoon in the 184-pound consolation round against Wyoming’s No. 18-seed Tate Samuelson.
“My goal is to be an All-American and get on the podium as high as I can,” the No. 16-seed junior said. “I feel good about my chances.”
Hazel’s coach, Scott Moore, also feels good about his two-time Eastern Wrestling League champ’s odds to come back and finish out the tournament strong. He looked solid in his first match, a 9-3 decision over Kent State’s Andrew McNally, and Moore believes Hazel learned from his second loss in last year’s tournament to wrestle his positions.
“I was proud of the way he competed,” Moore said. “6-3 halfway through the second period against the No. 1 guy in the country, so he fought hard. I liked his effort, and I think the energy he brought in that round will help him rebound (Friday) to become an All-American.”
But Hazel wasn’t the only Lock Haven wrestler aiming for accolades. The Bald Eagles had another strong showing this year, going 5-0 in the first round. One of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far came at the hands of No. 13 Kyle Shoop, who earned a 19-10 major decision over No. 4 Josh Alber, of Northern Iowa, at 141 pounds. Shoop, along with returning All-American Chance Marsteller (165 pounds), are moving on to the quarterfinals Friday.
In addition to Hazel, Lock Haven has two other wrestlers — D.J. Fehlman (133) and Thomas Haines (heavyweight) —who are still alive in consolations. Fehlman had another one of the tournament’s biggest upsets when he, as the No. 24 seed, took out No. 9 Chas Tucker, of Cornell, in the opening round.
“I think at this point, it’s about bouncing back and having the right mindset,” Moore said. “Wrestle one match at a time, the match that’s in front of them, getting to their positions just like the way Shoop and Marsteller did today to make quarterfinals.”
The possibility of upsets like Fehlman’s and Shoop’s are what current Penns Valley wrestlers Carter Felker and Andrew Sharer say keeps them coming back to the NCAA championships as fans each year. That, and the chance to watch Hazel, their former teammate compete on the biggest stage in college wrestling.
“It’s pretty awesome, especially knowing he lives right down the road,” Sharer said with a laugh.
Both Sharer and Felker were in junior high when Hazel was a senior at Penns Valley. They said Hazel helped them a lot as a senior, taking them under his wing and helping to acclimate them to varsity wrestling. Since he’s graduated, he still comes back to his alma mater to visit and helps out with freestyle practices over the summer.
“He’s always been that kid in school who we see him and are like, ‘Oh my God that’s Corey Hazel, he’s a great wrestler,’ “ Felker said. “It’s really fun to be able to hang out with him and work with him and get better.”
Added Sharer: “He’s a super good role model for us. He’s been good for the program, good for Penns Valley.”
Although Hazel didn’t get the big upset over Martin, he’ll have plenty more chances to prove himself if he gets past Samuelson on Friday afternoon. If he does, he’ll face the winner of North Carolina State’s No. 7 Nick Reenan and Nebraska’s No. 9 Taylor Venz.
He needs to win three more bouts to make All-American.