December 2, 2022

Because the Olympic torch was lit in Tokyo on July 23, one Marine workers sergeant was within the metropolis to characterize the pink, white and blue.

Employees Sgt. John Stefanowicz Jr. would be the first Marine to wrestle within the Olympics since 1992, when Buddy Lee competed in Barcelona.

And whereas Tokyo is on tight restrictions as a consequence of COVID-19 and its delta variant ― one deaf and blind U.S. Paralympic swimmer withdrew after she was advised she couldn’t carry her mom as her typical private care assistant ― Stefanowicz shall be with out his accustomed coaching companions for an additional purpose: The year-round Marine wrestling crew is being disbanded and all however considered one of his teammates have already got been despatched to different models. Stefanowicz would be the final man standing for the present All-Marine Wrestling crew.

The standing, year-round crew, in existence because the Seventies, is being ended by the Corps, in keeping with the wrestlers and coach of the crew.

Marine spokesmen say the Corps is just not limiting alternatives for wrestlers who wish to compete on the highest ranges; this system now shall be run like different Marine sports activities, run by way of the Semper Match and the All-Marine Sports activities applications, which give athletes quick alternatives to depart their models to be able to compete at greater athletic occasions.

But it surely’s a transfer Marine wrestlers, who’ve been working towards full-time as a crew till now, say is not going to result in success on the mat.

Olympic goals

Getting ready for the Olympics whereas his crew was disbanding weighed heavy on Stefanowicz’s thoughts.

“Coaching for the Olympics is one factor,” Stefanowicz advised Marine Corps Instances in an early July telephone name. “However making an attempt to coach for the Olympics when guys are leaving the crew and nobody to take their positions has been … virtually insurmountable.”

He stated he spent the time making an attempt to remain targeted on coaching and main his enlisted Marines, who additionally needed to proceed to coach figuring out the crew was going away.

Stefanowicz, like most Marines on the crew, he says, by no means joined the Corps simply to compete or journey out his time on the crew: Being a Marine at all times has come first. He requested for orders to his subsequent project in February, earlier than crew information even acquired out.

The wrestling crew has helped type higher Marines, he says. They weren’t lacking out, stated Stefanowicz. The wrestlers have been staying mission prepared and persevering with specialised coaching.

They have been wrestling day-to-day, Stefanowicz stated, however “in-between and earlier than and after that, they have been having to do greater than their counterparts. And so they’ve accomplished that figuring out their crew goes away.”

The 29-year-old father of two was a gold medalist for Greco-Roman within the 2020 and 2021 Pan American video games, a championship for the Americas. In 2019 he was a World Workforce member, at 82 kilograms.

Stefanowicz shall be competing within the Olympics at 87 kilograms on Aug. 3–4 native time.

Different U.S. navy Olympians shall be competing within the 2021 video games, which have been delayed in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday Military Reserve logistics officer 1st Lt. Amber English snatched a gold medal and broke an Olympic report in ladies’s skeet taking pictures by hitting 56 of 60 targets.

In all, the usOlympic and Paralympic crew contains 17 troopers, a Marine and a Coast Guardsman, in keeping with a July Protection Division press launch.

Military middleweight Employees Sgt. Naomi Graham turned the primary active-duty feminine service member to compete for the U.S. in boxing. She fell to a Russian athlete in her opening battle on Wednesday.

Two troopers shall be competing in Greco-Roman wrestling as effectively: Sgt. Ildar Hafizov, 60 kilograms, and Spc. Alejandro Sancho, 67 kilograms.

“The Marine Corps could be very proud and supportive of Employees Sergeant Stefanowicz, his teammates, and his coaches,” Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokesman Maj. Jordan R. Cochran advised Marine Corps Instances in an e-mail. “He’s an exemplary Marine, a fearsome competitor, and a task mannequin for our Corps and our nation. We want him the perfect in Tokyo and stay up for following his achievements each on and off the wrestling mat.”

Workforce disbanded

By All-Marine Sports activities, athletes can qualify for participation at Armed Forces, nationwide and even Olympic degree occasions, Cochran stated.

“The Marine Corps is just not divesting of, or terminating, wrestling as an possibility for its wrestler athletes; like all different Marine athletes, our wrestlers can proceed to coach and pursue their ardour by way of Semper Match and the All-Marine Sports activities Program,” Cochran advised Marine Corps Instances in an e-mail July 12.

However for wrestling, that may now not imply having a full-time coach, full-time athletic coach or full-time coaching amenities, in keeping with Marine wrestling coach Jason Loukides, who stated he was advised that not lengthy after the Olympics he’ll now not have a job.

Marine Corps Instances requested Manpower and Reserve Affairs for affirmation that there shall be no employed coach or full time amenities, and many others., and has not acquired a response.

Loudikes, a former Military wrestler and the 2015 USA Wrestling Greco-Roman coach of the 12 months whereas main the Marine Corps crew, “is lengthy revered as one of many high Greco-Roman minds and coaches on this planet,” Wealthy Bender, govt director of USA Wrestling and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee board member, advised Marine Corps Instances in a telephone name.

And the crew has discovered latest success.

“Going from one man who’s all-American and a World Workforce contender, to having a number of people make a World Workforce, and have an Olympian for the primary time since 1992 doesn’t appear commensurate with the selections which are being made about this system,” Capt. Daniel Miller, a crew wrestler and the newest assistant officer answerable for the All-Marine Wrestling crew, advised Marine Corps Instances in a telephone interview mid-July.

Although particulars are scarce on why the format is altering and who made that call, “We’re being advised it’s not the cash,” Miller stated, however manpower allocation.

The best way the crew traditionally has been run was by way of non permanent extra obligation assignments, or, most just lately, overstaff positions for the 15 Marines on crew, permitting them to come back compete for as much as 36 months and never go away a unit within the lurch, Miller stated.

Someplace amid the crew sending paperwork to request everlasting construction, the choice was made, Miller stated, noting with the modifications not even the previous six-month TAD assignments shall be allowed.

TAD accredited for All-Marine Sports activities is 4 days to 2 months, in keeping with the All-Marine Sports activities web site.

“I perceive not standing on a everlasting place, but when a commander decides they wish to give a Marine a chance and they’re keen to cooperate with that particular person, I really feel we’re taking that away from commanders,” Miller stated.

And there’s a large distinction in having a full time-duty project to wrestle and to pursue an Olympic dream by yourself, so to talk, Bender stated.

The Military and Air Power nonetheless have full-time wrestling applications, Loukides stated, noting the Military has an entire unit that helps placing athletes on the Olympic crew.

The Military’s World Class Athlete Program, primarily based at Fort Carson, Colorado, has developed 446 Olympians who’ve gained 111 medals for the U.S. since 1948, Military spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Hewitt just lately advised Military Instances.

Loukides notes it will not be secure for Marine wrestlers to coach on their very own for one massive match, just like the annual Armed Forces competitors, which the Marine Corps gained in 2020 after a soldier had his outcomes disqualified for doping, and are available up towards somebody wrestling full time for the Military.

The opposite sports activities are simpler for athletes to coach for on their very own, Miller stated, like cross nation. However for a crew sport like wrestling, it appears unimaginable for achievement with out constant crew coaching.

“Present up. Do a brief coaching camp. Go compete. Get your ass kicked by the Military,” Miller stated it will likely be like when that competitive-edge crew apply is taken away.

From a recruiting perspective, Cochran stated, the Corps’ major recruiting inhabitants comes from excessive colleges the place wrestling is the seventh hottest sport, after soccer, observe and discipline, basketball, baseball, soccer and cross nation. He famous athletes from all of those sports activities can apply to characterize the Corps by way of the All-Marine Sports activities Program.

“It’s the tenacity {that a} Marine brings to each match that’s simply inspiring,” Bender stated.

“Each time I watch a Marine wrestle it makes me assured now we have the appropriate of us defending us.”

Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Instances. On Twitter: @_andreascott.

Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Instances.

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