For some it’s the roar of the crowd, seeing yourself on the big screen, the locking of the eyes with your competitor as you get ready to square off. Knowing you gave it your all, or at the end of the sweat, tears, and hard work you put into it the gold medal around your neck validating that you are the best of the best.
For Cpl. Andrew Szymborski, cannon crew member, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, all of those combined is what fuels his love for wrestling. His love for the sport started by accident while trying to better himself at football.
“I started wrestling in fourth grade. I had a coach in football who was a wrestling coach who told me to come out because it would make me better at football. It did help me in football, but I started to become really good at wrestling,” said Szymborski.
That lead him to pursue wrestling more and continue to compete as he got older. He said one of his proudest moments was competing in the Indiana State Championships in front of his Family on the state’s biggest wrestling stage.
“It was great just being under the lights at the state finals, it was an amazing experience. My dad was there recording it and seeing myself on the megatron, there is no better feeling than wrestling in front of fifty thousand people at Conseco Fieldhouse.”
After high school, Szymborski won a wrestling scholarship to the Virginia Military Institute. Once there, he competed on a much bigger stage and got his first look at what being in the military could do for him.
“We (VMI) went against some teams from the Big Ten Conference. We competed up and down the East Coast, we competed against some really good competition,” he said.
“While I was there I met some good NCOs (noncommissioned officers) through their ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program and I learned a lot from them so I came to enjoy the military.”
After joining, Szymborski made his way to Fort Bragg and his love for wrestling pushing him to compete in combatives.
“When I came here last fall (to Fort Bragg) I started to hear about these combatives tournaments. I got into it and became level two combatives certified. I started talking to the instructor and he found out about my wrestling background. He said, ‘hey there is this guy from the Army wrestling team, go talk to him.’ The guy told me to apply so I did and here I am waiting to go (at the end of this month).”
To get to Szymborski’s level of success hasn’t been easy. It helps to have a support system in place to push you through hard times. Szymborski has that with his parents Don and Diana.
“Through his involvement in wrestling, our love for the sport grew,” said Diana. “We spent many weekends traveling to tournaments and have formed lifelong friendships with many other wrestling Families.”
His parents saw his development from an 8-year old who started wrestling and playing football to the man he is today and they are very proud of him.
“We feel that wrestling has made him more disciplined. I was against him enlisting in the Army but it turned out to be a perfect fit for him. He is a caring, loving son but the Army has made him into a man. We are excited for his new opportunity,” said Diana.
That new opportunity comes at the end of this month when Szymborski goes to All-Army wrestling team camp. After he completes that, they will let him know if he made the team.
If he makes the team, he will be part of the World Class Athlete Program, which gives him a shot at his ultimate dream — competing in the Olympics in 2016.
Szymborski is excited but also realistic about how big of a challenge he has in front of him.
“I’m very humble and excited for this opportunity because it gives me a shot at pursuing my dream of being in the Olympics. We would compete in all the larger more elite tournaments (leading up to the Olympics). Who wouldn’t want to train and get paid to do what you love to do.”
If selected, Szymborski would leave Fort Bragg for Fort Carson, Co. and be part of the World Class Athlete Wrestling team full-time.
He said he would love the chance to represent his current unit, 18th Fires Brigade, 82 Airborne Division, the Army and of course the United States of America in the Olympic games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.