By Gary SheftickApril 12, 2016
IOWA CITY, Iowa (Army News Service, April 11, 2016) -- In front of more than 11,000 cheering fans, April 9, at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for wrestling, Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Sieracki was recognized as women's coach of the year.
The assistant wrestling coach for the Army's World Class Athlete Program was voted the honor by USA Wrestling officials, athletes and fellow coaches. Over the past year, Sieracki has coached several Army women to championships.
Sgt. Sharon Jacobson was the 2015 U.S. Open champ in the 55-kilogram division of women's freestyle wrestling. Capt. Leigh Jaynes-Provisor earned a bronze medal last year in the 60-kilogram division of the World Wrestling Championships.
Sgt. Whitney Conder was the U.S. Open champion last year in the 53-kilogram women's freestyle division and she took second place, April 10, in the Olympic Team Trials here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the campus of Iowa University.
Sieracki conferred with Conder between periods April 10 as she beat Shelby Morrison 10-0, then Carlene Sluberski 9-0, and finally Michaela Hutchison 7-2 in the semifinals.
"He's definitely a great coach," Conder said.
"He's always there helping me -- making sure that I'm ready and that I'm prepared for anything."
In the finals, Conder was unable to stop top-ranked Helen Maroulis, but she still earned a berth as an alternate on Team USA for the games in Rio de Janeiro.
Just before the finals for the weight classes contested the night before, Sieracki had been called out onto the floor of the arena and was presented the USA Wrestling Lifetime Ambassador Award.
"It was my first year coaching and winning for a full season," he said, "so it was kind of a surprise."
His Soldier-athletes were the ones who really earned the honor, he said, adding "I think it was more of a team award."
Sieracki wrestled Greco-Roman himself for 20 years, though, first for the Air Force and then for the Army.
The Wisconsin native left the Air Force in 2004 and then in December 2005 decided to join the Army. He trained as an 88N transportation management coordinator before taking up wrestling again.
In the finals of the 2012 Olympic Team Trials for the 74-kilogram division, Sieracki was beat 2-1 by Ben Provisor.
In May 2014, Sieracki became an assistant wrestling coach for the Army's World Class Athlete Program and last year became the women's coach. One of the women he has coached to championship titles is Provisor's wife, Capt. Leigh Jaynes-Provisor.
Last year Sieracki came out of wrestling retirement to help the Army win the Armed Services championship because they couldn't find another contender for his weight class.
"I'd do anything for the team," he said, "anything for the black and gold."
The secret to good coaching, he said, is passion.
"He works his tail off," said USA Wrestling Communications Coordinator Joseph Mechling about Sieracki. "You can tell by the amount of WCAP women competing here today, he's one of the best in the business."
Sgt. Randi Miller took third in the 69-kilogram women's freestyle division after beating Rachel Waters 11-0, losing to Brittany Roberts 3-1 and then beating Veronica Carlson 12-2 and Julia Salata 7-0. Salata had bested Army Staff Sgt. Iris Smith earlier in a 4-1 decision.
Sgt. Sharon Jacobson beat Jessica Medina 8-3, before losing to Helen Maroulis 13-2.
Jaynes-Provisor lost to Hannah Jewell in a close 13-10 decision and Sgt. Sally Roberts lost to Jenna Burkert, 10-0.
"It's definitely not what we wanted to happen," Sieracki said. "There were some upsets here and there. That's wrestling."
When there's an upset, he stressed the importance of keeping a positive outlook and keeping morale high.
A coach must know his athletes, Sieracki said, and know how to motivate them.
"I've been able to make a career out of being a Soldier and being an athlete," Sieracki said, adding there's little better than that.