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Olympic wrestler SSgt John Stefanowicz named 2021 Male Marine Corps Athlete of the Year

by MCCS, Marine Corps Community Services

The Marine Corps Athlete of the Year is awarded annually each year to active-duty Marines who demonstrate the Corps best, both in sport and the embodiment of Marine Corps values. We recognize the 2021 Male and Female Marine Corps Athletes of the Year, Staff Sergeant (SSgt) John Stefanowicz Jr. and First Lieutenant (1stLt) Riley Compton.

SSgt John Stefanowicz Jr is currently assigned as the Senior Combative instructor, Marine Detachment, U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. SSgt Stefanowicz exemplified the Warrior Ethos and Whole Marine Concept throughout 2021. From seeking continuous self-improvement to the betterment of Marines in his charge, his command influence was pivotal in the success of the All-Marine Wrestling team in 2021 producing six U.S. National Team members, which is more than half of the weight classes. During the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the Tokyo Olympics, SSgt Stefanowicz elected to move up a weight category. The International Olympic Committee condensed each country’s available number of Olympic positions from 10 to six with only one athlete per weight class. Accepting the challenge, SSgt Stefanowicz prepared for the obstacles presented at the 191lb weight class. SSgt Stefanowicz lost all potential benefit from being a returning World Team member which would have led to a favorable path to the Olympic team. SSgt Stefanowicz’s road to the Olympic Team saw him win six straight matches defeating the first, second, and fourth-seeded opponents. In doing so, he became the first Marine, in 30 years, to represent the United States in wrestling at the Olympic Games. At the Tokyo Games SSgt Stefanowicz finished in 12th place. SSgt Stefanowicz has accomplished what no Marine has in over 40 years; Becoming an Olympian, two-time Pan-American Champion, an Armed Forces Championships double gold medalist, and ranked #1 in both the Country and Western Hemisphere.

1stLt Riley Compton currently serves as the S-4 OIC for MALS-39 at Camp Pendleton. She is an accomplished athlete and has constantly sought higher challenges. 1stLt Compton decided to participate in an online combine for Team USA Bobsled and Skeleton, in her pursuit of competition. Based on her submission, she was selected for Team USA Bobsled tryouts and subsequently selected to represent Team USA in the North American Cup in January of 2021, taking home Bronze Medals in Monobob and Two-Women International Bobsled; her first-ever Bobsled competitions. After further training, she was invited to the National Team Push Championships to determine the National and Olympic teams. She was competing against former Olympic Medalists she placed fourth. In November, she followed that up competing in the North American Cup, placing sixth in all three races, and achieving the third-fastest push times against her competitors, some of which are Olympians. Based on her outstanding efforts, she qualified for the Junior World Championships in Austria and is on track to become a 2022-2023 National Team member and an Olympic athlete in 2026