ROCKLAND – A Rockland Coast Guardsman departed Tuesday for an unusual assignment with the U.S. Navy.
Fireman Apprentice Michael Thompson received orders to participate in the All-Navy Wresting Team tryouts in Pensacola, Fla.
He will begin training immediately for wrestle-offs, which take place next month. If he makes the All-Navy team, Thompson’s next foes will be wrestlers from all of the armed services.
Thompson, 21, who comes from Southington, Conn., began wrestling in seventh grade and has garnered a few accomplishments during his nine years in the sport.
It was his secondary school record that got him into the tryouts for the All-Navy Wrestling Team, which he learned about through a Navy buddy with whom he went to high school.
“I’m excited,” Thompson said Monday. “I’m ready to go.”
After initial training, Thompson will compete Feb. 10 for a spot on the All-Navy team. His 25 opponents include two officers and enlisted personnel, All-Navy Coach Rob Hermann said Tuesday during a telephone interview from Pensacola Naval Air Station. There are three challengers from the Coast Guard, he said.
Because of the size of the Coast Guard, those servicemen are allowed to try out for the Navy team.
The competition will include Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling, Thompson said, noting that two winners per class are selected for the All-Navy team.
Team members will continue training, Hermann said, and will vie for titles March 8-12 in the Armed Forces Championship at Fort Hood, Texas. The All-Navy Team will compete against members from other armed services, which includes Air Force, Army and Marine Corps.
Those who qualify at the Armed Forces contest will go on to the U.S. Open Nationals, which will be held April 8-12 in Las Vegas. Anyone who qualifies there will compete in the World Team trials in mid-June at Cincinnati, Ohio.
During an Olympic year, there are no World Team trials, Hermann explained. Instead, winners who reach that point would participate in the Olympic trials.
Besides his high school competition, Thompson attended Southern Connecticut State University and was on the college’s wrestling team as a freshman. However, he suffered a shoulder injury and did not get a chance to participate on the team. The next year, the team folded.
When asked about his highest accomplishment, Thompson said, “I don’t know. I like them all.
“The nationals in high school was a big point,” he said. “That was mind-blowing.”
In 1998, Thompson participated in the Eastern Nationals Tournament Open, placing sixth in the 167-pound class.
The 6-foot, 188-pound sailor has been running three miles every other day, working out, running up and down the four flights of stairs at Rockland Coast Guard Station and eating salads and chicken to lose weight. He started out 10-pounds heavier and hopes to lose about 20 more pounds before the tryouts.
“I’m trying to wrestle 167,” he said, referring to the weight class he prefers.
Thompson hopes to put his strength to use in the Coast Guard, too, noting that he eventually wants to join the service’s aviation division and perhaps become a survival swimmer.
What he likes most about wrestling, is “there’s no room for excuses.”
Unlike other sports, such as football where “there’s always room for passing the buck,” Thompson said, “When it’s wrestling, it’s just you and him. You win or you lose. There’s no excuses.”