Sophomore Adam Frey currently holds the No. 3 ranking in his weight class, a 10-0 record, four wins over top-10 opponents and a Southern Scuffle individual title.
Ignore all of the accolades. Frey is just happy to be wrestling again.
Frey still remembers what life was like being out of wrestling, when injuries forced him to miss all of last season and the first half of this year’s action.
“It was frustrating being hurt,” Frey said. “It was one of the low points of my life. It’s great to be back on the mat. I have a new outlook on wrestling, just because this time last year I was strapped in and couldn’t eat. Last December, I was told I probably wouldn’t wrestle again and now, I surely don’t take it for granted.”
For Frey, injuries haven’t been just bumps and bruises, scrapes and cuts. When the Pittsburgh native arrived at East Hill over a year ago, heralded as the top recruit in the nation at 133 pounds, he arrived in bandages. He had a torn labrum, a torn rotator cuff, a shoulder socket that was grounded completely flat, snapped ligaments and a split bicep tendon. Hurt after his junior year in high school at wrestling superpower Blair Academy, Frey’s injuries resulted in multiple spasms per day. Yet, he was misdiagnosed as simply having “tight muscles.”
After coming to Cornell Frey’s problems worsened, his shoulder continued to wear down, causing him to suffer dislocations at inconvenient times.
“It’s actually kind of funny because I had a girl in class notice once that I kept dropping my pencil while I was taking notes,” Frey said. “I wouldn’t even realize that it would fall out of my hand because my arm would go numb.”
After taking a full year off to get healthy, including overcoming a fluke knee injury that occurred during practice when his foot got stuck in the mat, it’s official to say Adam Frey is back. And it seems the year off hasn’t had any ill-effects, except that now the Greco-Roman high school All-American’s walk around weight is 165 pounds. As a result, weight cutting has become more of a concern than ever. Frey adheres to a strict diet, writes down everything he eats and even stays after practice if he doesn’t make the scheduled weight the coaching staff sets every day.
“He’s a big kid,” said head coach Rob Koll. “He made the decision to stay down there, so he obviously has to make a lot of sacrifices to keep his weight there. In a strange way, I think his being injured at the start of the season might actually help him since now it’s a shorter season, considering he doesn’t have to stay disciplined for six months. Now it’s only three months. If you can see that pot of gold, you know you can get here quicker.”
Considering how effectively Cornell’s coaching staff controls each wrestler’s weight, Frey’s recent success might foreshadow what is in store come March. He not only possesses all the necessary physical and technical tools to compete for All-American status, but also has the mental toughness and experience on the national stage to set him apart from other wrestlers.
“He’s been bred from the beginning to be successful at this level,” said assistant coach Cory Cooperman. “I’ve been wrestling with him since eighth grade and he was strong then and he’s strong now. I’m a lot bigger than him, but it doesn’t matter because he’s just full of muscle. He’s got the technique and he has the finesse to make everything look so slick, but at the same time he has the ability to just use brute force and squeeze the life out of you. He’s made two college kids cry this year, and that’s just because he inflicts pain. People get scared.”
Add in the fact that Frey has experienced true pain, so much to the point of going numb, and it’s easy to praise his mental toughness.
“You get fatigued in wrestling,” Koll said. “You just have to suck it up and push through the pain. Some guys don’t have the ability to push through the pain and some guys can just deal with it. Wrestling yields a great deal of discomfort but because he wants to win so badly, he overcomes it.”
As the countdown clock to nationals inside the Friedman Wrestling Center ticks down, Frey readies for another first — his debut at the national tournament in Detroit. Despite wrestling his first collegiate match only a little more than a month ago, Frey looks to continue his mission and end the season with a victory at the Palace at Auburn Hills.
“That’s what I said at the beginning of the season,” Koll said. “Before he even won a match.”