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U.S. Greco-Roman World Team coach Jay Antonelli gives keynote address at NWCA Convention

Buffalo, N.Y. - Wrestlers usually respond to a strong, powerful presence. With U.S. Marine Corps Major Jay Antonelli, the presence isn't just about response, it's about respect.

With the respect that comes with an organization like the U.S. Marine Corps, its fitting that the NWCA called upon the elite force to partner with the new "Building Leaders for Life" program.

Antonelli was the featured speaker during Friday's luncheon at the NWCA National Convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Buffalo. Antonelli is serving as Coach of the 2005 U.S. World Greco-Roman team, which will be competing in Budapest, Hungary at the end of September.

Maj. Jay Antonelli, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke to an estimated crowd of 150 coaches and vendors to explain the strong ties between his work as a U.S. Marine and that of a wrestler and how the program will help build mentors and leaders for the next generation of coaches, many of whom are currently high school or college wrestlers.

"From the start, it seemed like a good fit," Antonelli said. "As both Marines and the sport of wrestling will not waiver from their commitment to achieve the highest standard of excellence through discipline, drive and desire."

Antonelli stressed the differences between wrestlers and many of their athletic counterparts and contemporaries.

"As you all probably know, wrestlers are different from other athletes," Antonelli said. "All wrestlers share a common bond of hard work and discipline found in no other type of athlete.

"We have all trained out of our 'comfort zone' and are accustomed to pushing ourselves to our physical limit almost daily," he said.

It's this training and background that make the NWCA and the Marine Corps the perfect tandem to offer the "Building Leaders for Life" program.

"The similarities between the mental toughness and physical training of wrestlers and Marines are uncanny," Antonelli said.

"The very character of Marines and wrestlers are also similar," he said.

"The Marine Corps core values are honor, courage and commitment. They are the foundation of each Marine's character," Antonelli said.

"Marines and wrestlers are people who are physically and mentally tough. We harden and train our bodies to deal with the rigors of combat and competition. We must also develop a mental toughness and strength of character to deal with the stress and emotional difficulties found on the mat, in combat and in life."
The program, which is funded by the U.S. Marine Corps is a program designed for high school and college wrestlers to use to further their leadership skills and become mentors for younger athletes when participants in the program decide to start coaching.

Antonelli's speech provided insight into the importance of the leadership training program.

"The purpose of the leadership program is two-fold. First of all, it will give our coaches better skills so they can become better mentors for their wrestlers. Number two is we want to align our sport with educational missions and values because we know that will determine the future of our sport," said Mike Moyer, Executive Director of the NWCA.

This isn't the first collaboration between the NWCA and the U.S. Marine Corps.

"Two years ago we rolled out the leadership training program for the coaches and about four weeks ago we rolled out the program for the athletes," Moyer said.

"The Marine Corps has funded it (the leadership program) and Southwest Missouri State developed the content.

"The coaches course is delivered through Southwest Missouri for college credit," Moyer explained.

Antonelli, Friday's luncheon keynote speaker, has long been associated with wrestling, from his days wrestling as a scholastic wrestler in New Jersey to his time representing the U.S. Marines in Greco-Roman competition

The leadership program is aimed at promoting leaders in the wrestling community and in life.

"By understanding the Marine Corps leadership process, anyone can achieve the goal of reaching his or her highest potential, and in turn, teach and mentor others," Antonelli said.

NWCA president Ron Baeschler concurred.

"It's our responsibility to make sure we build those leaders of tomorrow," Baeschler said.

"There's a lot of wrestlers that formerly wrestled that have gone on to do great things in the Marine Corps," Moyer said.

Antonelli is someone that greatly resembles someone who has gone on to do great things.

"Without a shadow of any doubt, I know that I wouldn't be standing before you here today as a U.S. Marine if it wasn't for the mental toughness and can-do attitude that I learned as a wrestler," Antonelli said.

"I think both entities, the NWCA and the Marine Corps are looking for the same thing in more recruits with that leadership discipline and dedication," Moyer said.

"It's the perfect partnership."

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