U.S. Army World Class Athletes visit metro high schools


APRIL 2015 – The United States Army has nearly 200 different jobs, many in career paths you might not ordinarily associate with military service. Sgt. Max Nowry of Illinois is in human resources.  Spc. Eric Nye of California drives a bulldozer as a Horizontal Construction Engineer. Two servicemen assigned to two typical jobs.

However, these two men are more often busy training to represent the Army on a wrestling mat.  Nowry and Nye are members of the World Class Athletes Program, which trains and supports soldiers who desire to compete in the Olympics.

“It covers all Olympic sports,” Nowry said. “Pretty much any sport you see in the Olympics or the Paralympics.”

Nowry and Nye are Greco-Roman wrestlers training in Colorado Springs at Fort Carson with a goal of representing the United States and the Army in the 2016 Olympics.

Competing in Olympic sports is expensive. Amateurs often have to find creative ways to fund coaching and access to training facilities. The Army provides all of that and more for Nowry, Nye and other Soldier-athletes in the WCAP.

“The facilities are awesome,” Nye said.  “We have our own doctors, our own trainer, massage therapist. Everything we need the Army gives us to succeed.”

goarmy.comWCAP was founded in 1997, but nearly 500 Army Soldiers have competed in the summer and winter Olympics going back to 1948.  The Army provides the resources to compete at the Olympic level and Soldier-athletes promote the United States Army to the rest of the world.  They also assist in the recruiting mission of the Army, partly by making appearances across the country.

Nowry and Nye were in Kansas City in March speaking at several high schools and presenting Army Top Performer awards to prep athletes.

“They ask questions about what we do and where we’ve been,” Nowry said. “And then they really like the demonstrations we put on. We show them the difference between freestyle and Greco-Roman, the two Olympic styles, and folk style, which is what you see in high school and college.”

Nye said, “Greco-Roman is mainly upper body throws. You see in folk style and free style that you can attack the legs. We cannot do that. Greco, it’s more of a strength competition almost because you’re pushing a guy and trying to throw him.”

The sport’s future was in question two years ago when the International Olympic Committee announced wrestling would be dropped beginning in 2020.  Just seven months later, after making significant changes to the sport, wrestling was reinstated to the 2020 program.

“The whole wrestling world was able to come together,” Nowry said.  “Russia, Iran and the U.S., three countries that obviously don’t always see eye to eye, were united in this cause. That was really special.”

Nowry said maintaining Olympic status was critical.

“Wrestling is not that big of a sport in the U.S., so those kids that just started out wrestling, they wouldn’t have Olympic dreams anymore,” he said.  “That’s what would have been cut.”

One change was a reduction in weight classes to six.  The lightest two weight classes were combined which specifically affected Nowry, who just missed out on an Olympic bid in 2012 by finishing second at 121 pounds.  He’ll compete for Rio at about nine pounds heavier.

“I was already pretty small at 121 pounds,” he said. “I’ve had a year to add some weight but I’m still struggling.”

There are around 20 wrestlers in the WCAP, many of them competing in the same weight class.  According to Nowry, the top 5 wrestlers in the country at 59 kilos are all in the Army. They share facilities and coaching and practice constantly against one another.  Only the top American wrestler in each weight class earns the chance to go to the Olympics so competition is fierce but friendly.

“We support each other and truly want our teammates to succeed,” Nowry said.

Nye is ranked third among U.S. heavyweights and anticipates 2016 will be his final Olympics bid.

“Only the number one guy goes,” Nye said. “So you’ve got to be on your A game next year, bring it with all you’ve got.”

Nowry is driven every to compete in the Olympics drives. He hopes to have at least a couple more shots at it, but if he is never an Olympian he feels fortunate to be a U.S. Army Soldier-athlete.

“You can serve your country and also get the opportunity to achieve a goal that you’ve had,” Nowry said.  “Our goal was to wrestle and make worlds, the Olympics and bring home medals, and the Army has a program that allows us to do that. We get to be in the military, be a part of the Army and serve our country and chase down our dreams.”

Article by Nick McCabe

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