John Stefanowicz loses Greco-Roman wrestling early at Tokyo Olympics


York County’s unlikely Olympic run for John Stefanowicz ended quickly and with great frustration.

The Greco-Roman wrestler lost his opener after some tough early calls against him in Tuesday night’s first round. He fell 5-0 to Croatia’s Ivan Huklek – losing one point by hopping an official’s whistle, then losing two more in a move where he appeared to be out of bounds.

The Kennard-Dale graduate rallied around but couldn’t finish late, as he has become known over the past two years.

He lost 5-3 and was subsequently knocked out of the 87 kilogram category. Had Huklek been able to advance to the final, Stefanowicz would have had the chance to fight again and compete for a bronze medal in what is known as the “draft”.

Instead, Huklek lost in the semifinals to two-time world champion and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine. The four Greco-Roman American inscriptions have now been eliminated without winning a medal.

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It was an excruciating start and a quick exit for the Hopewell Township native. He was the talking point of the Greco-Roman American contingent after even qualifying for the state high school tournament or wrestling in college.

Stefanowicz, who was not classified in the 87 kilogram category, stalled in his comeback attempt in the game’s 1.5 hour final. Huklek is a former Under-23 world silver medalist who won those matches thanks to a first-place finish at the 2021 World Olympic Qualifiers.

Stefanowicz, who turns 30 next month, was the first US Marine to fight at the Olympics since 1992. He is a staff sergeant who does intelligence in the military.

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He followed fellow York County native Hali Flickinger, a Spring Grove High graduate, who won bronze medals in the 400-meter medley and 200-meter butterfly swimming to start the Olympics.

The only York County native to win a gold medal was Scott Strausbaugh of Dover, who did it in a two-man canoe almost 30 years ago.

John Stefanowicz’s story

Stefanowicz’s film story begins in the farm fields of southeast York County, where he trained early in the morning with his younger brother, Chance Marsteller, a future wrestling freak.

But without academic interest, Stefanowicz dropped out of the sport and joined the Marines after graduation. Over two years later, he started wrestling again – all growing 7 inches tall and gaining nearly 75 pounds.

Despite more time away from the sport due to military duties, he began to progress rapidly after his return in 2017. He then stunned the wrestling world by winning the Greco-Roman 82 kilogram division in the Final X competition. in 2019 – despite a poorly pulled hamstring – and secured a spot on the United States World Team.

Last spring it surprised skeptics again. Weighing 87 kilograms, he was only placed fourth at the US Olympic Team Trials in Texas. But he beat all of the favorite opponents, often in dramatic fashion, to qualify for Tokyo.

Even now, he’s not considered one of the favorites in the smaller-than-usual 16-player Greco squad.

Regardless, experts consider it perhaps the most dangerous. He hopes to become the first Greco-Roman American wrestler to win a medal since Beijing, China, in 2008.

“John has something in him, when the going gets tougher or he’s hurt more or the odds are higher he gets better. No one I’ve met is better at his skills when he’s more broken, ”said Peyton Walsh, another Marine and National. member of the wrestling team.

“There’s never a time, no matter how beaten or beaten, where is he going to lose. That’s what the Marines are really proud of, but he’s putting it on steroids.”

Frank Bodani covers sports for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.

Robert J. King