RIO DE JANEIRO (BP) — The plan was for Frank Molinaro to wrestle in Rio and then make it home in time for the birth of his second child.
But little Frank Jr. had a different timetable in mind.
Molinaro’s second son, Frank Anthony, was born August 8 — three weeks early — back home in Pennsylvania while dad was sleeping in Rio.
Everyone is healthy, and now Molinaro has something special to look forward to when his Olympic journey is complete.
“In 2015 I gave my life to Christ,” Molinaro said. “The biggest thing has been trying to retain that balance [in life] — not get too high, not get too low.”
But with all he’s endured in making it to the Olympics, and now with the birth of the son he has yet to hold, “This is really testing me, big-time,” he said.
Molinaro’s path to the Olympics was a complicated, circuitous route. He landed a spot in Rio only after two European wrestlers were banned for doping. Before leaving for the Olympics, Molinaro took a three-day break to get away and relax. While he was out on a boat fishing, he saw a news story about the two Europeans being reinstated, along with the headline “Who will be eliminated from the Olympics?”
“Are you kidding me?” he thought. “My gut reaction was fear. I was scared that I had lost this opportunity.”
The next day, he went from fear to relief when he read another article clarifying that all of the Olympic wrestlers were in, and that nobody would be booted after the reinstatements.
Then after arriving in Rio, Molinaro was getting ready to go to practice one day when he got a text from his wife Kera: “I’m going into labor.”
The nerves hit, because the due date was still three weeks away. He began making phone calls to take care of logistics — getting his other son Kason picked up from daycare, getting his mom and his mother-in-law to the hospital with Kera — and went to practice, where he was understandably distracted.
Baby Frank hadn’t arrived yet when Molinaro went to bed. When he awoke about 4:30 a.m. to use the bathroom, he saw the texts and the pictures announcing his son’s arrival.
“I thank God that everything worked out really good, and we’re just very blessed,” he said.
His family was pivotal in Molinaro coming to Christ. Shortly after his first son was born, Molinaro remembers an argument he and Kera had about how they’d raise Kason, and the topic of religion came up.
It was already an issue with which Molinaro had been struggling. While he says he always believed in God, he never took that belief too seriously. He had a bad year professionally in 2015, which compounded his problems.
“I really just put all my strength in the fact that I could will the universe to get what I wanted if I just believed it enough,” he said. “So when I failed, it was all on me. There was no grace.”
He fell into a pit of despair, regret and shame, blaming himself for all of his problems and making himself miserable. Kera helped open his eyes to the fact that his struggles were spiritual in nature. And as they debated topics related to parenting, Molinaro had to confront certain truths.
“It really kind of hit me that if I was going to raise my son with religion as the main focus of his life, I’d have to live it myself,” he said.
He became a believer shortly thereafter, thanks to the influence of his wife and other influential people in his life. The effect on Molinaro was significant.
“I was so focused on myself, and I was so focused on success and accomplishments and praise,” he said. “When I made that transition, it made everything so much more enjoyable.”
His church, Christ Community Church in State College, Pa., has played a big role in his spiritual growth and maturity. As he prepares to compete in Rio on Sunday in his first Olympics, he’ll do so with a heart that desires faithfulness to God more than a gold medal.
“I’ve prayed every day that God would give me a bigger platform,” he said, “so that I could share with other people what has been blessed upon me.”