Late Oklahoma Baptist University educator and head coach of the swim and dive team Sam Freas and Former teammate Daniel Ramírez Carranza will be honored and inducted into OBU’s hall of fame September 17. Both will be recognized for their achievements in OBU’s Maybee suite at 7 p.m.
Among Freas’s many years of coaching, he was a ten-time winner of the Coach of the Year title, has produced a total of 19 Olympians, led OBU to seven NAIA national championships, brought OBU to its first division II championships in 2018 and had other successes with other institutions. Though Sam had a very successful career, his biggest achievement was the relationships he formed with his athletes.
OBU Alumnus and former team member Tristan Villa said, “There are so many things that I loved about Sam. Anyone who knew him couldn’t choose just one of his many loving qualities, but my personal favorite attribute of Sam is his love and passion for his swimmers, students and those close to him.”
Senior finance and international business major Laura Cifuentes says, “my favorite thing about Sam was his is wisdom and his ability to inspire me to be a better teammate, better woman, a better student and a better person overall.” To many, including Cifuentes, Freas was much more than a coach.
“He was my mentor and my father here at OBU. He and Rosemarie always took care of me and my sister like if we were their daughters. He became one of my role models,” said Cifuentes. Both Villa and Cifuentes say Sam went out of his way his athletes.
“Regardless of our backgrounds and how we performed in the water, he wanted us to succeed and to be happy whether that was in the pool or not. I have never met anyone as genuine and honest as Sam,” said Villa. He says even after Freas’s death, the legacy and traditions passed through onto the upcoming classes.
“I think a lot of swimmers who knew him carried those traits into the team, even after he was gone, to develop such a strong family bond. He has given me and others friends that will last a lifetime,” said Villa.
Along with Freas, swimmer Daniel Ramírez Carranza, AKA “Poncho”, will also be inducted into OBU’s hall of fame. Ramírez himself has his own successes in the swimming word, including competing at the NAIA championships, the TYR Pro Swim Series, and even qualifying representing Mexico at the Tokyo Olympics… to name a few.
“I remember when I was a freshman, Sam told us the story of how Poncho anchored the 400 free-relay at the NAIA championships. To finally meet him was really cool and getting to train with him was even better,” said Villa. According to Villa, Ramírez was as dedicated to his team as much as he was his own successes.
“He helped me with my underwaters and my butterfly my sophomore year in Florida during our training trip. To have a teammate with his skill and background help me develop as a swimmer,” said Villa. Cifuentes says Ramírez’s skills and abilities were an inspiration, on top of how he helped those like Villa.
“He was the fastest of the team and his and his underwater speed was incredible. I was always trying to look at him to improve my underwater technique. He used to work really hard, which inspired us to do the same. He was a great leader,” said Cifuentes.
Villa says he’s excited to see Ramírez and Freas get the recognition he feels they finally deserve.
“To me, the ceremony is long overdue to recognize two individuals who have helped put, not only our swimming and diving, but the university, on the map,” said Villa. Cifuentes stresses the importance of this ceremony for Freas’s memory as well as those who were coached by him.
“I am looking forward to witnessing an important and meaningful recognition for all that Sam did and wheat he meant to us. He must be recognized and always remembered as a great mentor and a life shaper,” said Cifuentes.
The ceremony is an invite only event with limited seats for those who can attend.
“I hope OBU athletics does not take this opportunity away from all of us. It is also very important for the athletes who trained with Sam to be a part of the induction ceremony,” said Cifuentes. Cifuentes says she will be attending the ceremony but hopes to be able to remember and celebrate the inductees’ successes with those who will and will not be able to attend. Despite the limited capacity, Villa says the ceremony will still be special to the team, regardless.
“Although it’s a shame that the university decided to cut the program that brought its first NCAA division II champion as well as the first team to finish top five at NCAAs in its first year competing at the division II level, the ceremony will still be something special to the OBU swimming and diving family,” said Villa. Both Cifuentes and Villa say they are excited to reconnect with their teammates and celebrate.