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Remembering heroes McCollum and Soviak, two past USA Wrestling members killed in Afghanistan terrorist attack

by Joe Wedra, Special to

Photos of wrestlers U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum and U.S. Navy Corpsman Maxton “Max” Soviak, military heroes and wrestlers killed in airport attack in Kabul.

On August 26, 13 U.S. Service members were killed in an attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two of those individuals, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming and U.S. Navy Corpsman Maxton “Max” Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio, were wrestlers who were past USA Wrestling members.

Both fallen heroes are remembered and honored as devoted former wrestlers who served the United States of America with their dedication to serve and protect their country.

McCollum was a multiple-time state qualifier in Wyoming, wrestling out of Jackson Hole High School. He graduated from Summit Innovations School in 2019. A young man dedicated to hard work and service, McCollum is widely remembered for his love of community and country.

McCollum’s wife, Gigi Crayton, is due with the couple’s first-born child this month.

This tremendous story from Alexander Shur of the Jackson Hole News and Guide, honors and remembers McCollum. It describes his wrestling background in detail, including several quotes from his former wrestling coach, Ben Arlotta.

From Arlotta: “I’m going to remember him for his compassion. He had a very small circle of people that he genuinely loved and trusted,” Arlotta said. “But if he did, he would die for you. That’s who he was.”

Memorials and tributes in downtown Jackson have been held in recent weeks for McCollum.

Soviak, who enlisted in the Navy in September of 2017, was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was a Navy Hospital Corpsman, embedded with the Marines, providing medical help and assistance.

The Edison High School athletics standout played four sports during his high school career. In addition to his involvement in wrestling, Soviak also played football, tennis and participated in track and field. He was a member of Edison’s state championship team in his senior year.

Edison’s wrestling program shared a tweet recognizing Soviak:

Tweet from Edison wrestling team concerning Max Soviak

Soviak’s family released a full statement, which can be read here via the Military Times

From the statement: “Maxton was an awesome young man who was well liked in the community, as evidenced by the outpouring of condolences from teachers, coaches, employers, family and friends. He was always proud of being part of a state champion wrestling team and state playoff final four football team two years in a row, but he was most proud to be a Navy Corpsman and a ‘devil doc’ for the Marines.”

Names and information on all 13 U.S. Service members killed in the Afghanistan attack can be found here, courtesy of the Military Times
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