Robins athlete grapples for spot on AF wrestling team

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
For many, taking part in a month-long training camp - where grueling workouts last 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week - sounds excruciatingly painful, but for one Robins Airman, it's a dream come true.

Airman 1st Class Alex Sielaff, a network manager for the 51st Combat Communications Squadron, is one of 29 Airmen invited to attend the training camp and compete for a spot on the Air Force wrestling team.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity. I never thought I would actually have a chance to wrestle again," Airman Sielaff said.

Making the team won't be easy, and not just because of the physical demands of the sport. Four others were invited to camp to compete against Airman Sielaff at the 121-pound weight class. Two of those were members of last year's team.

Wrestling coach Richard Estrella said it will be tough for Airman Sielaff to make the team, but if he didn't think he could compete and challenge the more experienced wrestlers for a spot, he wouldn't have been invited to camp.

"It's how you get these young wrestlers to grow and learn," he said. "You put them in a position where they will be stretched and challenged. Nothing helps you grow quicker."

Coach Estrella, a 22-year veteran coach of Air Force wrestling and member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team coaching staff, said although only 29 out of more than 200 applicants were officially invited to training camp, many more could show up to camp as walk ons.

Airman Sielaff wrestled in seventh and eighth grades but regretfully lost interest in the sport in high school. It wasn't until his senior year that he rediscovered wrestling. He wishes he'd wrestled his first three years, and is grateful for the second chance to compete on the wrestling mat.

He said he is "looking forward to the challenge" and hopes the weight training and exercising he's been doing to stay in wrestling shape pays off with a spot on the team.