G’Angelo Hancock is proof that no dream is too big, even the ones you have a hard time believing in yourself.
Hancock, a Fountain native, went from being expelled from high school to channeling his energy and athleticism into a meteoric rise to stardom in Greco-Roman wrestling. He is a gold medal contender in the 97 kg (214 lb) weight category at the Tokyo Olympics starting Friday.
“I wrestled all the top guys – the Armenian (Artur Aleksanian), who is a multiple-time world champion and current Olympic champion – and I beat these guys,” Hancock said. “I’ve wrestled all the medalists from Rio (in 2016), so I’m very confident. I’ve been wrestling and winning these top guys for four, five, six years now.
“I believe I’m the person who should be at the top of the podium, so I’m going to bring that type of energy.”
Hancock’s confidence on the international stage began to rise in 2018 when he won the Pietlasinski Memorial in Poland, Pinning Aleksanya in 28 seconds On her way to a semifinal victory, it cemented her status as a real international star and raised Tokyo’s hopes for a wrestler who finished third at the 2016 US Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old.
“When I wrestled with him and I wrestled to my abilities,[Pin]happened so fast — the way I dreamed about it, but I didn’t necessarily know I believed in that dream,” Hancock remembered. “It was a moment like, ‘Man, these (Olympic gold medals) dreams come true.’ I think whatever can happen, it can be a lot.”
But before Hancock ever hit the road to potential Olympic glory, he needed a wake-up call.
While at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, Hancock — then wrestled as Tracy, his given maiden name — made the state podium in his first two years. However, as a junior, his lack of off-the-matt focus took hold, and he was expelled from school for fighting.
If the opposing coach hadn’t wondered what happened to Hancock, he wouldn’t have been in Tokyo. After Hancock’s win in a win against Pine Creek earlier in his junior season, Eagles coach and 2008 Olympian TC Dentzler wondered why the giant, crude wrestler wasn’t in his next double. When Dantzler learned that Hancock was in trouble, he tracked him down and showed up at his door.
“I opened the door and I swear the first thing he says to me is, ‘Hi, I’m TC Denzler, and I’m the guy who’s going to change your life,'” Hancock recalled. “A few minutes later I was packing my things. At this point my parents were certainly thinking of alternative options for discipline such as military school. Something had to happen, and TC was my last chance.”
Danzler received Hancock on the Greco-Roman circuit, and wins and promotions quickly piled up. He also began to go by his given middle name, G’Angelo, to associate a new name with a new mindset.
“When TC met me, they said, ‘We need to change your name because that’s a bad slur to Tracy. But G’Angelo, now he’s a brand new guy,'” said Enoch. “So what did we do? I became G’Angelo Hancock, and then when I get on the mat and wrestle, we let Tracy Hancock out of the cage.”
With his apparent potential and his chronic “ego problem”, Hancock was offered a spot in the residency program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs at the age of 16. With Denzler as his mentor, he stayed there for four years, transforming into one of Team USA’s most promising wrestlers. In 2019, Hancock won medals in 13 of 14 events, winning five titles and making 10 championship matches.
Hancock’s first Olympic match is August 2. Those not familiar with Hancock’s style should expect “a very flexible wrestler” who is aggressive for his weight. He is a two-time Olympian and one of two Coloradans to wrestle at the Olympics for Team USA, along with Denver native Adeline Gray (76 kg/167 lb).
“A lot of my specialty lies in my ability to be flexible, my ability to be tall and inspire these scrambles,” he said. “These are conditions a lot of foreigners are not used to living in, and that’s why I like to bring a little funk to the table. Too often, they don’t expect a guy who is willing to take some risks. (at this weight) Most people like to play it safe. Me? Well, I find it a little dangerous.”