U.S. Senior Nationals to be held Oct. 9-11
It’s been nearly five months since the All-Marine Wrestling Team has trained like they are accustomed to, on the mat, full speed and physically, but in the coming days and weeks they’ll be in return-to-competition mode as they ready for the U.S. Senior Nationals in Coralville, Iowa, Oct. 9-11, following the longest hiatus many in the sport have ever had.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz, the No. 3 ranked Greco-Roman wrestler in the world at 82 kg. “It’s been a difficult road, but we’ve done really well staying inside the guidelines of the CDC, the Marine Corps and the boundaries that have been put forth. We’ve operated in those limits and have still been able to find other ways to produce.”
Before the pandemic, Stefanowicz and his teammates were producing medals. He and Sgt. Raymond Bunker, ranked No. 11 in the world at 72 kg, each won gold medals at the Pan-American Championships, their last competition, which skyrocketed their world rankings. At the 2019 Greco-Roman Nationals, Capt. Daniel Miller won his second national title at 97 kg.
With the return of competition, the Marines are focused on getting ready to compete for a shot in the Olympics. More than a handful of Marine wrestlers have already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which will be held sometime next year, and others will have one more shot at the Last Chance Qualifier. Though the Nationals won’t be an Olympic Trials qualifier, it could serve as the qualifier for the 2020 World Championships, should United World Wrestling hold the event in Serbia this December.
As concerns over the virus continue, and major sports leagues return to action, Stefanowicz, who serves on USA Wrestling’s Board of Directors as an athlete representative, knows there is risk involved, but that the wrestling community and all involved are handling things the right way.
“The one thing that we’ve done is no matter how important something is to us, like the sport or how lucrative something could be, we’ve put athlete safety and safety of the sport first,” Stefanowicz said. “We haven’t been pushing the envelope like you’ve seen in other sports because we know how much contact the sport has, and we don’t want to be known as pushing the envelope a little too far and not having the results that we want.”
The result the Marines want to see moving forward, in addition to the well-being of competitors, spectators and their families, is to win gold medals in Iowa and rebuild momentum heading into 2021.
Stefanowicz and team will lean on their steady foundation of the All-Marine Wrestling Team, Marine Corps and USA Wrestling, to help them continue to soar and show what they’re capable of.
“The team aspect of this, the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the sisterhood and the family aspect, really has an intangible effect and is something that we are very fortunate to have.”
For more information on USA Wrestling events and safety guidelines, visit www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling.