Sometimes it takes a little push from one’s parents to achieve success in all aspects of life, especially sports.
That was the case for Alex Freilich, a 2010 graduate of and current freshman at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who was encouraged by his father to take part in the sport of wrestling.
“My first experience with wrestling was in seventh grade,” Freilich said. “My dad was actually working on one of the Hudson High School wrestling coaches’ houses.”
“He was talking about it, and then I met the coach. He said he wanted me to get into it, so I first came to practices [at Hudson High] and just kind of stuck with it ever since then,” he said.
It’s a decision that Freilich certainly doesn’t regret, as he’s developed a true love for wrestling.
“It’s definitely [has] to be the final outcome, the feeling at the end of a match knowing that you won,” said Freilich when asked what makes him enjoy the sport. “More the fact that it’s a solo sport, obviously you’re on a team, but when you win a match, it’s all your own effort.”
Freilich, now a starting wrestler for WPI, wrestled for four years at St. John’s, and he enjoyed a high level of success during his time with the Pioneers.
In his freshman year, Freilich wrestled at the 119-pound weight class and finished fourth in the Division I North Sectionals and advanced to states.
The next year, Freilich fractured his ribs, which forced him to withdraw before sectionals. In his junior year, he made it to the qualifiers at sectionals, but again suffered a setback after he became dehydrated and could not finish the match.
Yet in his senior year, Freilich pushed all of his past setbacks aside, winning the Division I North sectional tournament, placing third at the Division I state meet and finishing fifth at the Massachusetts All-State Tournament. In addition, Frielich finished in fifth place at the All-New England Tournament.
“Just knowing that this was really my last shot to basically get everything together and achieve the goals that I’ve been setting for myself all four years in high school really made me grind out and wrestle a lot more over the summer and the offseason—wrestling five days a week, eating right, staying in shape—all through the summer,” Freilich said.
Freilich put in a lot of hard work to turn himself into the wrestler he is today, but he couldn’t have reached that point without a little help from his high school coaches.
“Coach [Bill] Long was my coach freshman year,” Freilich said. “But then the next three years of high school was Eric Golden.”
“Freshman year, Coach Long basically was just trying to get me ready for the next three years, because I was pretty inexperienced as a wrestler, but he tried to help me as much as he could—letting me practice with the upper classmen wrestlers—basically getting my technique down,”he said.
“Coach Golden, the next three years, really helped me stay in shape during the season, pushing us really hard during conditioning, and making sure that we’re all in the best shape we can be for when we have to wrestle,” he said.
Freilich is still in touch with one of his best friends and teammates at St. John’s, Evan Robinson, who was his co-captain during senior year at St. John’s.
“We were actually best friend all through high school, and still keep in touch today,” said Freilich about Robinson, who now wrestles at Trinity College.
In his freshman season at WPI, Freilich quickly assumed the role of starter at the 174-pound weight class, but was again sidelined for a portion of the season due to a dislocated shoulder and a concussion.
“Luckily, by the end of the season, I got everything together and ended [up] placing sixth at the All-New England Tournament,” Freilich said.
Freilich was pleased with his overall performance in his first year at WPI, but definitely noticed a difference between wrestling at the high school and collegiate levels.
“[In] college wrestling, everyone is wrestling in college for a reason, and that’s because they’re the best at what they do. It was definitely an adjustment. But once I finally got acclimated to it, it really helped me grow as a wrestler because it made me that much better, and I definitely enjoyed it,” he said.
While the two levels of wrestling are different, Freilich believes that his time wrestling at St. John’s helped prepare him for what he would face at WPI.
“The end of the season tournaments, when it really got down to the top wrestlers in the state [and] the top wrestlers in New England, it definitely helped me prepare for WPI and WPI wrestling,” he said.
Even though Freilich’s season ended in February, he has to train year-round to stay in shape for next season.
“I practice wrestling three to four times a week, probably an hour and a half to two hours—whatever I can,” said Freilich. “Then I’ll go to the gym five to six days a week just to get weight lifting I and stuff like that.”
“Once we get back to WPI, before the season even starts, we have a preseason kind of thing where we’ll be in the room for two hours wrestling, getting back into cardio shape,” he added.
Freilich, a management engineering major, will begin his second season on the mat at WPI in late October.
When Freilich’s wrestling days in college are over, he plans to return to St. John’s to help coach.
“After being there all four years and seeing the team grow and get better,” said Freilich when asked what inspires him to want to return to St. John’s. “If I were to go back, I could really contribute as a coach and help make the team that much better.”
Even if Freilich’s career path leads him away from wrestling, he won’t soon forget the life lessons that he’s learned on the mat.
“If you just keep at something, eventually you’ll get what you want,” Freilich said. “Perseverance really helps you achieve your goals. Hard work and determination will allow you to do anything that you set your mind to.”