Marine Corps Sgt. Raymond Bunker, the best Greco-Roman style wrestler at his weight in the United States, is driven by his faith.
After finishing 12th in the 72 kg weight class of the Greco-Roman division at the World Wrestling Championships in Kazakhstan last month, Bunker felt that he could have been in the gold medal match. This fall, he plans to drop weight to 67 kg to attempt to make the Olympic team in 2020.
“I’m following God’s plan, and I truly believe that God wants me to be a champion,” Bunker said. “He’s on my side, and that’s all I really need in this world.”
Bunker is a strong-willed Marine on a mission. Growing up in the hard-nosed city of Chicago forced him to learn to fight at a young age.
Being the little guy, Bunker pursued mixed martial arts just to hold his own, he said. In 2013, he joined the Marine Corps, a move he called “the best impulsive decision” he ever made in his life.
“I didn’t know anything about the Marine Corps,” Bunker said. “I just said ‘I want to sign up for the hardest thing you could do on the face of this earth. Sign me up.’”
Bunker was stationed in Okinawa for two years before Jason Loukides, the All-Marine Wrestling Team’s head coach, recruited him to the team, “saving” him at what Bunker called a tough part of his life.
At the time, Bunker was considering getting out of the Marine Corps. Soon after joining the wrestling team, however, he said he “fell in love” with the Marine Corps.
“I just wish that some people can see the Marine Corps Wrestling Team through my eyes, so you can see how great it is and how amazing these men are that I get to work with every day,” Bunker said.
Bunker realizes that he is on the cusp of reaching the pinnacle of the sport; it’s just a matter of time before he gets a gold medal at the world level, an accomplishment he feels is his calling.
“I know I was put on this earth for this, to give back and to help others,” Bunker said. “I really feel deep in my heart that I am the man that’s going to get it done.”
A factor in Bunker’s success has been the qualities of a Marine.
“Having that Marine Corps mentality takes you very far in this sport,” Bunker said. “Having that determination, that resilience and having that high level of grit (helps), because when things don’t go [a wrestler’s] way, we have to adapt and overcome. That’s what Marines do – we find a way to win.”
Winning is something Bunker has become accustomed to. He hasn’t lost to a U.S. opponent all year, winning the U.S. Open, the Dave Shultz Memorial International tournament and the Armed Forces Championship.
But he is still shooting for a world title.
“We are going to get it done (on the world stage),” Bunker said. “It might not be next year, I hope it is next year, but we are going to get this done.”