US Marine to wrestle on Olympic team for the first time in 30 years - Nine Line News

The last time there was a U.S. Marine wrestler at the Olympics, Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz wasn’t even born.

Now, the 29-year-old member of the All-Marine Wrestling Team will be representing the nation at the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021.

“It feels so much bigger, seeing my team and my family and wife and brothers and sisters in the stands. I never thought I’d be here. I never thought in a million years I thought I’d wake up and say, ‘I’m an Olympian.’ Stefanowicz told USA Wrestling.

Maybe it wasn’t a million years ago, but when Stefanowicz graduated high school, no one ever thought he’d be an Olympian either.

At just 5 foot-3 at the time, he never even qualified for a state tournament. College programs didn’t want him, so he joined the Marines.

In time, he grew seven inches and put on 70 pounds and got back into wrestling. He also got married and had two children.

Most wrestlers train and compete full-time until they make it or give up some time after college. Not Stefanowicz. He spent years training and competing with the All-Marine Team, while balancing wrestling with his job in the Marine Corps’ intelligence field as an Imagery Analysis Specialist with Headquarters and Support Battalion based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. And taking college courses. And serving on multiple wrestling committees. And earning a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

He broke through in 2017 by earning a spot on the Team USA Greco-Roman roster. Two years after that, he racked up enough wins during the Final X event while recovering from a severe hamstring injury that he still made the U.S. World Team and the World Championships.

But all of that was done at a lighter weight. He was forced to move up recently to accommodate Olympic weight classes. Still with each challenge, Stefanowicz has prevailed.

At the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last weekend in Fort Worth, TX he was ranked as only the number 4 seed, but he took down each opponent, often in dramatic, comeback fashion.

It’s the stuff movies are made of. First, he beat No. 2 seed Alan Vera with a four-point move in the final 11 seconds. Then he was awarded the win over the No. 3 seed when he scored the final point in a 1-1 match.

He’ll compete in the Greco-Roman style in the 87-kilograms (192-pound) class in the 2020 Olympics – postponed to this summer because of COVID.

“This is much bigger than myself, and I truly feel that’s been the great power,” Stefanowicz told reporters after winning in the final. “The power of God, the power of family, the power of country, the power of Corps. Every time I step out on the mat and I wear USA on the back, that means something greater than just myself and my last name.”

Amen and oorah, brother!

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