MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The first bell at Matthew C. Perry High School rings at, but he’s been up for several hours now.
He double-checks to make sure his two backpacks are filled for the day, before venturing onto base, to go to school. Almost seven hours pass before the school day is done, but he can’t head home quite yet. Depending on the season, he still has a few hours left on base to dedicate to sports practice.
Before climbing into bed to recharge for tomorrow, he finishes his homework and makes sure he’s finished all of his tasks for the day. For some, this may be a complicated balancing act, but for 15-year-old Marshall China this is just another day.
Growing up, China has enjoyed staying active and participating in sports. His primary focus has always been football, but when he entered high school, he found himself wanting to participate in a winter sport.
“I like to try new things, and I didn’t want to do basketball,” said China. “I had never wrestled, other than playing around, but I wanted to try it.”
His first wrestling season started out rough. With no previous experience, he struggled to place in any match he had. Although he took many losses, he didn’t walk away from the season empty handed.
“With wrestling, you have to do everything fluidly. That was the biggest problem I had,” said China. “I learned a lot from my first year that I brought with me into my second.”
The following year, China came back to the mat and didn’t forget what he had learned the previous year. Through the duration of the season, he took first place at every weekend tournament except two where he placed second.
“We had expected him to come back better than before because he catches on so quickly,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Williamson, assistant coach for M.C. Perry High School wrestling and operations officer with the Provost Marshals Office. “Each time he goes out there he gets better, and he never repeats the same mistakes. He has set the example for the team by showing them where hard work and not giving up can get them.”
China believes one of his biggest accomplishments has been winning the title of “Individual Far East Champion” for the heavy-weight division during the 2018 Far East Wrestling Championship.
“To win first in this event is difficult, because with so many schools you’re bound to have some talent,” said Coach Munsell, head coach for M.C. Perry High School wrestling. “We haven’t had a champion since 2008, so for Marshall to take first is pretty impressive.”
China added that it was a big accomplishment to have learned how to master the technique of wrestling and improve from his first year.
Williamson said that he thinks the reason China has improved a lot in such a short time is his unwavering will to win and a “never say die” mentality. He added that China takes constructive criticism effectively and uses it to his advantage.
. “What sets Marshall apart is that he’s extremely humble,” said Williamson. “ I always catch him reviewing his matches or asking questions in the stands about what he could have done better. He takes each win and loss the exact same.”
As humble as he is, China says a lot of his success can be credited to his coaches and teammates for practicing with him, sometimes outside of practice hours, and to his parents for providing him with support.
China is thankful for wrestling because it helps him stay motivated in school, make friends from the team and other schools, gives him an opportunity to travel throughout Japan and makes him a better person.
“I think it’s important to know that, as good of a wrestler as Marshall is, he’s an even better person and a joy to coach,” said Munsell. “It’s hard to find kids who are really talented, and are also just great kids to be around. I think that’s just as important as winning.”
China is currently playing his first year of baseball for M.C. Perry High School. Looking forward, China will be attending a wrestling camp over the summer in North Carolina and will return next season as the 2019 team captain for M.C. Perry High School Wrestling. He hopes to earn a scholarship for football or wrestling and attend Duke University in the fall of 2021.