FARGO, N.D. --
Marine Corps Recruiting Command and USA Wrestling hosted the Junior & 16U National Championships from July 14 to 23, 2023, at the Fargodome in Fargo. The eight-day event marks the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from wrestlers and coaches. U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Brian Kiraly exemplifies this spirit as a wrestling father, drawing from his 25-year Marine Corps career, showcasing resilience and commitment.
A native of Perrysburg, OH, Kiraly enlisted in 1998 during uncertainty. "I knew I was heading down a path that probably wouldn't lead me anywhere good,” said Kiraly, currently serving as the company commander of Headquarters Company at The Basic School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. “So I decided to join the military.”
Kiraly's connection to wrestling and the Marine Corps led him to join MCRC in Fargo as a proof source, bridging the two worlds. He also coaches his son, Brandon, who competed against some of the country's best wrestlers for a National title. Before arriving in Fargo, Kiraly volunteered as a strength and conditioning coach for Mountain View High School's wrestling program in Stafford, Va.
"The Marine Corps has afforded me the opportunity to learn and develop my leadership,” he said. “Coaching these young men and women feels a lot like coaching young Marines.”
Drawing parallels between wrestling and his Marine Corps experience, Kiraly highlights shared qualities of discipline and mental fortitude required for success. U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Albert Ludwig, a former wrestler and martial arts instructor trainer with the Martial Arts and Fitness Center of Excellence, echoes this sentiment.
"We utilize the physical and mental character disciplines it takes to be a good wrestler in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program," said Ludwig, who attended the event as a proof source. He emphasized the mental and character discipline demonstrated by the wrestlers, their ability to persevere even after setbacks, and their grace in winning and losing, which resembles that of a Marine tackling seemingly impossible tasks.
“The Marine Corps and the wrestling community are both in the business of creating highly motivated warriors who are capable of putting themselves out there to achieve physical dominance,” U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Dolan, Assistant Chief of Staff for Marketing and Communication with MCRC
The partnership between the Marine Corps and USA Wrestling extends from the freestyle women's national championships through the men's freestyle and men's Greco-Roman national championships. Marines in attendance staffed a Marine Corps booth and engaged with coaches to foster relationships between coaches and local recruiters. Marines participated in various activities throughout the event, such as a coach's council meeting and state leaders' breakfast. During these interactions, Kiraly highlighted the parallels between his Marine Corps leader experiences and his wrestling community involvement. Additionally, the Marines presented awards to every national title recipient following their matches in freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, and the newest form of wrestling, beach wrestling.
After Kiraly presented the "stop sign" trophy to the first champion of the night, a referee greeted him with a handshake and a "Semper Fi, sir." Marine veteran Elizabeth Kruggel, a national and international referee for USA Wrestling, felt immense pride witnessing her fellow Marine bestow the trophies.
"I was so proud," Kruggel said. "I was a little jealous, too. I felt like I should've brought my Blues and been up there, too. I loved it." Kruggel, now in her senior year at Ohio State University, fondly remembers her time as a Marine, where she developed leadership skills that continue to serve her well.
The Marine Corps Recruiting Command and USA Wrestling partnership holds mutual benefits. Marine recruiters establish themselves as highly qualified resources available to wrestling coaches nationwide, forming valuable relationships within the wrestling community. They strengthen these bonds by attending practices and leading discussions on leadership, determination, and ethics. Moreover, USA Wrestling and the Marine Corps share common interests in fostering the mindset of highly motivated warriors capable of achieving physical dominance.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Dolan, assistant chief of staff for marketing and communication with MCRC, expressed the importance of this partnership. "The Marine Corps and the wrestling community are both in the business of creating highly motivated warriors who are capable of putting themselves out there to achieve physical dominance," he said. "This partnership ensures that this like-mindedness will not only endure but also assist in defending our nation."
The National Partnerships Program aims to engage educators, coaches, and school administrators to increase awareness of the Marine Corps and highlight its purpose. Through these partnerships, influencers are inspired to provide qualified men and women access to Marine recruiters, further strengthening the connection between the Marines and their communities.