October 4, 2022

Technically, United States Marines are at all times on Group USA, however Workers Sgt. John Stefanowicz will signify his nation this summer time on the Tokyo Olympics. He’ll be the primary wrestler from the Marine Corps capturing for Olympic gold since 1992.

Stefanowicz didn’t wrestle in any highschool championships or faculty, so he wasn’t an award-winning wrestler earlier than becoming a member of the Marines. He couldn’t qualify for state tournaments, and faculty applications didn’t need him. So he joined the Marines and sharpened his expertise with the All-Marine Wrestling Group, a Greco-Roman crew that trains for competitors year-round.

Stefanowicz’s work over time led him to earn one of many 15 wrestling spots on the U.S. Olympic Group. He’s additionally one of the best American wrestler in his 87-kilogram (191.5-pound) weight class, based on the Jacksonville Day by day Information. Stefanowicz was simply shy of 1 12 months outdated the final time a Marine went to the Olympics. That Marine was Buddy Lee, who completed sixth within the Barcelona Video games.

“It feels a lot larger, seeing my crew and my household and spouse and brothers and sisters within the stands. I by no means thought I would be right here,” he instructed the North Carolina newspaper. “I by no means thought in one million years I assumed I’d get up and say, ‘I am an Olympian.’”

After becoming a member of the Corps as an imagery evaluation specialist, Stefanowicz, 29, placed on 70 kilos, grew to five toes, 10 inches and began wrestling once more. By 2017, he was competing in world-class wrestling occasions.

In true Marine Corps style, he says he couldn’t have completed it alone. He credit his teammates for his or her assist, together with All-Marine Wrestling Group head coach Jason Loukides. Stefanowicz referred to as him “one of the best coach in America.”

To qualify for the video games, Stefanowicz gained three consecutive matches on the USA Wrestling Olympic Group Trials in Fort Value, Texas on April 2, 2021. A type of matches was in opposition to 2016 Group USA Trials champion wrestler Joe Rau.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Peyton Walsh, prime, and Workers Sgt. John Stefanowicz, backside, with the All-Marine Wrestling Group (AMWT), put together for the Olympic Trials on Jan. 8, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers)

Round 288 wrestlers will compete on the 2020 Olympics this 12 months, which had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re scheduled to be held July 23-Aug. 8. Wrestlers compete in males’s and ladies’s divisions, and in two types: freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Stefanowicz will wrestle within the Greco-Roman type, the place wrestlers can use solely their arms and higher our bodies to assault, and so they solely can use these components in holds. Group USA is taken into account one of many world’s finest groups, together with Russia, Iran and Mongolia.

Whereas wrestling, Stefanowicz raises two youngsters along with his spouse, is engaged on a school diploma and nonetheless does intelligence work with the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“Simply adversity and having sufficient grit to get by way of it,” Stefanowicz stated in a USA Wrestling interview. “I’ve been coping with it since I used to be a child. It is a type of issues. The extra one thing breaks down, so long as you retain getting again up, it’ll make you stronger. … At this level, I really feel unstoppable.”

— Blake Stilwell may be reached at blake.stilwell@army.com. He may also be discovered on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Fb.

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