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Olympian Johnny Stefanowicz, formerly of Bel Air, to wrestle for gold

United States Olympic team member Johnny Stefanowicz takes a moment to get a selfie with son Colton.
United States Olympic team member Johnny Stefanowicz takes a moment to get a selfie with son Colton. (Courtesy of Johnny Stefanowicz)

In just a couple weeks, Johnny Stefanowicz, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, will be going to battle, but it will be for Olympic gold.

Stefanowicz, who turns 30 in September, is a United States Olympic wrestling team member who will compete at 87 kilos or the 191-pound weight class in Greco Roman style wrestling.

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The Olympian was born in Baltimore and raised for 11 years or so in Bel Air, where he was introduced to wrestling. Stefanowicz participated in the Bel Air rec program with coach Jay Ellenby.

“It’s been a long, long road, but talking about from getting into the sport when I was living in Bel Air as a child, the amount of discipline and the amount of just pure love that you have to have for something and where you’re always trying to strive to be a little bit better,” Stefanowicz said. “At the time, I didn’t know exact discipline or definitions, but there was that uncommon amount of fortitude and discipline as a common occurrence in the sport of wrestling.”

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“Looking back on it, I can see that, but that really, getting into the sport, being a part of the programs, having being coached, Jay Ellenby from a young age. That just started setting a foundation for everything that I did later on,” he said. “My adolescent years in my life and the Marine Corp., it set that foundation from the way you’re supposed to be, your honor, courage, commitment, having integrity all of the time. That was a huge part of it and it’s kind of the baseline.”

Stefanowicz moved from Bel Air to New Park, Pennsylvania, after completion of his sixth grade year. He attended and graduated from Kennard Dale High School, where he wrestled.

Upon graduation, Stefanowicz joined the Marines, but wrestling was not any part of the decision. “I didn’t know about the wrestling program; I wasn’t planning on wrestling anymore,” he said.

Then something changed.

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Stefanowicz said he was overseas and wrestling in a tournament, when a notion and opportunity was brought to his attention.

That took place four years ago and since that time, he’s been a four-time national team member and from 2019 a world team member. He won the Olympic team trials in April to make the Olympic team.

Stefanowicz was scheduled to head to Tokyo this week, with actual competition taking place Aug. 3-4.

“I’ve got a job to do. I think it’s a gold medal for the country. I’ve done my job to represent the country, now I have a newfound responsibility, a new sense of having a new opportunity, but new job. I’ve been fortunately, and humbly, able to represent and they’re depending on me to do that. It’s nothing more than that, it’s another competition, it’s another way to showcase what we work so hard for with our sport and the whole Olympic movement is nothing more than that. It’s a job,” Stefanowicz said.

Stefanowicz, with wife, Samantha, and two sons, currently live in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Stefanowicz, who said he works in the intelligence community, may take a break from the sport upon his return.

“Really depends on what the Marine Corps needs me to do. It’s a double-edged sword to everything, a newfound level of responsibility and stress and commitment and a little bit of new weight on the shoulders you could add,” he said. “It’s good for my kids to have something nice to look up to. That’s the best part.”

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