In the summer of 2021, U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant (SSgt) John Stefanowicz will don his country's uniform, but this time it won't be a Marine Corps uniform. SSgt Stefanowicz punched his ticket to the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo after defeating the number one rated wrestler in the country at the 87-kilogram weight class of Greco-Roman style wrestling. He’ll be the first Marine to compete on the U.S. Olympic Wrestling team since Sergeant Anthony “Buddy” Lee in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.
A World Team member at 82-kilograms (181-pounds), SSgt Stefanowicz moved up to the 87-kg (192-lb) weight class to compete in the Olympic Trials Challenge Tournament, held in Fort Worth, Texas, April 2-3, 2021. Entering the tournament as the fourth seed, he defeated the first, third, and fifth seed
s to earn his trip to wrestle against the overall number one wrestler in the country, who did not have to compete in the challenge tournament. On day two of competition, SSgt Stefanowicz defeated his opponent in the first two of three possible matches, earning his spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
"It's amazing. I never thought I'd be here. I never in a million years thought I'd wake up one day and say I'm an Olympian."
As the 2019 Marine Corps Male Co-Athlete of the Year with fellow All-Marine Wrestler Sgt Raymond Bunker, SSgt Stefanowicz credits his success in large part to his coach and teammates. According to Stefanowicz, his coach, Jason Loukides is "the best coach in America, in any style." Stefanowicz also acknowledged the challenges and changes faced throughout the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games due to COVID-19.
"This is much bigger than myself, and I truly feel that's been the great power," Stefanowicz told reporters after earning his place on the U.S. Olympic Team. "The power of God, the power of family, the power of country, the power of the 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."
SSgt John Stefanowicz is currently stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC.
The 2020 Summer Olympics will be held from July 23 through August 8, 2021. Wrestling will begin on August 1 and SSgt Stefanowicz is set to wrestle on August 4 and 5.
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