WUHAN, China -- Determination. Dexterity. Drive. These are just a few of the words that describe the USA wrestlers who competed at the 7th CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China.
A total of 287 wrestlers and only 18 medals meant that the battle on the mat would be met with fierce competition from countries like Brazil to Germany to Russia, but that didn't hinder the spirits of the United States wrestling team.
The first U.S. medal at the games was a bronze earned by Army Staff Sgt. Max Nowry in the men's freestyle 57-kilogram competition, Oct. 21.
Nowry, who has been wrestling since elementary school, said he wrestles strictly Greco-Roman style as a member of the Army's World Class Athlete Program. He wrestled freestyle though at the last CISM world games in South Korea four years ago and said he used the lesson learned there to bring home a medal for the United States this time.
In his first match in China, Nowry dominated Algeria's Abdelhak Kherbache, 11-0. In his semi-final bout, he lost to silver-medalist Romania's Dukov Andrei, 10-0. He went on to beat Tanzania's Subiri Mwazembe by a decision in the bronze-medal match.
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jamel Johnson competed in the men's freestyle 65 kg competition. After a bye in the first round, he lost to Poland's Krzysztof Bienkowski, .6-2.
During the second day of wrestling, Army Staff Sgt. Whitney Conder took home silver in the women's freestyle 50 kg competition. She first beat Belarus' Kseniya Stankevich, 9-2. Then she dominated Egypt's Nada Ashour, 11-0. In a hard-fought final bout against China's Yuyan Li, she came up short 6-5, to take home the silver.
"Standing on that medal stand, it was hard not to have some tears, because it's been great to be able to represent our country, wrestling and the military," Conder said. "I'm grateful for being able to have this opportunity."
Other contenders Oct. 22 included:
-- Army Spc. Jacob Mitchell who lost to bronze-medalist Zhiwei Deng of China, 7-1, during the first round of the men's freestyle 125 kg competition;
-- Army Spc. Arena Villaescusa who fell to bronze-medalist Milana Dadsheva of Russia, 12-6, in her women's freestyle 53 kg match;
-- Army Sgt. Lucas Sheridan, who after a first-round bye in the men's freestyle 97 kg competition, lost to Algeria's Mohammed Fardj.
Despite these loses, the team's coach Army Staff Sgt. Spenser Mango said, "The team's performance and their effort level was outstanding. Some of the things we need to work on though are our match strategy -- knowing the situation for each match, finding the right position and how to stay in that position. Overall, I think we had a good showing and I'm very proud of how the team wrestled."
On the third day of wrestling, four more U.S. athletes took to the mat beginning with Army Sgt. Ellis Coleman in the Greco-Roman 67 kg competition, who beat North Korea's Jin Chol Pang, 9-0 in his first match. His second match placed Coleman against Brazil's Joilson Junior for a grueling battle where he came up short, 4-3.
"I hate losing, but I think the small mental mistakes that I made to let him get back into position to get points is 100% my fault and responsibility," Coleman said. "I'm going to see him again in order to make the Olympic team, so I'll need to wrestle him again so that I can qualify. My goal is to capitalize on what I've learned from my mistakes and not make them again."
Later matches included Army Pfc. Nahiela Magee, who battled against the Ukraine's Titiana Rizhko in the women's freestyle 68 kg match, falling 2-0, and Army Spc. Randyll Beltz, who lost her women's freestyle 76 kg match against France's Koumba Larroque, 4-0.
After winning two matches -- first against Algeria's Abdennour Laouni, 11-1, and then versus China's Walihan Sailike, 4-1, Army Sgt. Ildar Hafizov seemed likely to contend for gold during the men's Greco-Roman 60 kg competition, but he lost to North Korea's Ung Se Ri in the semi-final round, 7-1, before beating Armenia's Tigran Minasyan, 8-0, for the bronze medal.
"I think in order to perform better, we need more camps against foreign militaries," said Hafizov. "In the U.S. we all know each other. You already know what they're going to do and they know what you're doing so no one can score. Overall, I think we need that so we can start growing and get more experience."
The last day of wrestling events concluded with the U.S. wrestling team taking to the mat for men's Greco-Roman 130 kg and 97 kg matches. After a bye in the first round of the 130 kg competition, Army 1st Lt. Toby Erickson lost to Belarus' Pavel Rudakou, 4-3. Marine Corps Capt. Daniel Miller beat Kazakhstan's Islam Umayev, 6-0, in his first 97 kg match, but lost to Germany's Oliver Hassler, 2-1 in the round of 16.
Overall, the wrestling team took home one silver medal and two bronze for the United States at this year's CISM Military World Games.