Recently Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s own Staff Sergeant Ryan Vottero, 355th Security Forces Squadron, wrestled for Team USA. Vottero was selected to represent the country and compete in a tournament in Poland.
JS: How did you become part of team USA?
RV: In years past they used to run a trials tournament to make the team, but because FILA, the International Federation of Associated wrestling styles, changed their trials tournament so close to the date of the event in Poland, they did a competition instead. You send in a résumé and say this is what I’ve done in the past, they rack and stack you against other people that put in for it and if they like your résumé, you get picked up for the team
JS: What did you do to build up your résumé?
RV: I wrestled in high school back in Indiana. When I came here, I coached so I stuck around the sport. Then I started wrestling competitively about two years ago.
JS: How long have you been on the team?
RV: This is my first year on the team. I started competing to be on the team in 2009. I won the combatives tournament out in Joint Base Balad, Iraq. I found out that the world team trials were happening in Phoenix in 2009. I went to try and get on the team, but I didn’t do so well. In 2011, I competed at the trials tournament in Las Vegas and ended up placing fourth that year. Placing fourth in team trials put me on the second Team USA this year. For whatever reason, the guy in front of me couldn’t go so they me bumped me from second team to first team.
JS: Do you feel like being on the team helps you with your job at all?
RV: Yes, I would consider myself close to an elite athlete, which is pretty cool to think about. Being in my job, security forces, there are situations when hand to hand combatives could be needed
JS: Were you the only active duty military member on the team?
RV: Yes, I was the only active duty military member.
JS: Is grappling a job or hobby for the other members of the team?
RV: This is definitely a job for most of them. They train 365 days a year. It’s kind of weird when they ask what gym I belong to and I say I don’t, I workout on my own.
JS: Is everyone on Team USA sponsored?
RV: Almost everyone else on the team is sponsored but I’m not and because grappling is not an Olympic sport it’s basically self-funded. The team paid for my uniform and my equipment to say Team USA on it. However, I had to pay for the flight, hotel, food, all the fees and licensing costs.
JS: Is your squadron supportive of you being on the team?
RV: The squadron was supportive, but there were a lot of hoops I had to jump through to be able to go overseas, it was a little chaotic. I had to go to a high-risk activity briefing, foreign country briefing. I had to talk with my commander, my accident rep, and I sat down with my first sergeant. Tech Sgt Rustin King, my flight sergeant, gave an amazing donation. There was also a civilian at the 355th Medical Group that really came through. He told me that a lot of people helped him when he was a young wrestler and he was just returning the favor.
JS: Did you place in the tournament?
RV: I ended up placing 11th, which means I didn’t score any points for my team which is upsetting. Team USA ended up placing third. It was pretty cool to be able to stand on the podium and it was just a great experience overall. It was definitely one of the top five experiences of my life.
JS: How many countries were competing?
RV: There were 34 countries. Everyone tells me I did a great job, you’re eleventh in the world. This is a pretty cool feat to think about however, I know there are 10 people that are better than me that I want to beat. So there’s always next year.