MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
For the 18 hopefuls, tryouts began like any other physical training session.
Jogging around to get the blood flowing was followed by stretching to limber up.
What followed was anything but a typical physical training session.
The All Marine Wrestling Team head coach Joseph Hicks held recruitment tryouts in the IronWorks Gym here Monday.
“I’m thoroughly impressed,” said Hicks. “The last couple of years I’ve come out to Iwakuni there hasn’t been a lot of talent.”
Hicks made it clear at the beginning if the prospects had never wrestled before they would not be going to camp.
Despite the caveat, all 18 remained. Although never guaranteed, all Marine team head coaches visit Iwakuni throughout the year looking for new blood to bolster and replenish the ranks in their particular sport.
These initial tryouts represent only the first or second step in an important chain.
“Basically, number one is sign up for the local Iwakuni sports and bone up their skills,” Andrew Porche, the intramural sports coordinator, said.
Due to the multitude of sports, not every hopeful can start in the local arena; e.g., there is no intramural wrestling here.
For sports where there is no intramural league, the journey begins outside the Marine Corps.
“(The tryout) was pretty nice,” Christopher Weixler, tryout participant, said. “I hadn’t been on the mat in awhile so this felt good, just to touch the mat and put on the shoes; the smell and everything, it’s just awesome.”
Weixler wrestled three years in high school and was looking forward to this opportunity. “I thought about (the All Marine Wrestling Team), that’s one of the things I was looking into really, and it surprised me that (Hicks) was actually coming out here.”
As with any all Marine team, being chosen is a privilege and perhaps the greatest challenge in selection is being a Marine.
“On the wrestling team we have to live above the standard because the way it’s looked at and the way I look at it is that the Marine Corps is allowing you to do something special,” said Hicks. “They’re basically giving you a gift.”
“The biggest disqualifier is if he’s not a Marine first,” Hicks added.
Although wrestling is just one of the sports, the process is essentially the same.
First, Marines must get their unit to approve camp attendance. Deployments or other operational requirements take precedence.
Second, Marines must get selected to attend the camp for their particular sport. This requires putting in an application at the appropriate time for review and possible selection.
The tryouts conducted at Marine Corps installations are just to get a basic idea of who might be a camp selection.
Selection from Iwakuni is even more difficult because of the cost associated with sending Marines to camp, said Porche.
Third, once at camp, Marine hopefuls must compete with Marines already on the team and against all the other Marines invited to camp for a spot.
Using wrestling as the example, Hicks said the team already has 12 Marines.
While those 12 are not guaranteed, they have been wrestling for potentially the past three years.
Conversely, new hopefuls may not have been on the mat in years. The process is not easy, but not impossible either.
“While it’s difficult for new guys, I know that we always gotta keep getting new blood in,” said Hicks. “It’s just like the Marine Corps; we always gotta be bringing in new Marines.”
For Marines truly interested, even the chance of a lifetime is enough.
“I’m definitely hurtin’,” said Weixler. “I got some injuries already, but it’s awesome, I love it.”
“(Being selected) would be a big opportunity for me,” he added.
For more information about all Marine team sports, contact Andrew Porche at 253-3067.