ORT CARSON, Colo. – There are more than 8,000 Citizen-Soldiers in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, but only one holds the title of Soldier-athlete: Spc. Dalton Duffield.
Duffield, a horizontal construction engineer with the 3120th Engineer Support Company, 120th Engineer Battalion, discovered an extraordinary way to blend his love for wrestling with his dedication to his state and nation.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was about 7 or 8 years old,” Duffield said. “I had a bunch of life-size stuffed animals like the ones you’d get from the fair, and I’d wrestle them in the living room. Finally, my dad bugged my mom, saying, ‘We need to put him in wrestling,’ and so, at a young age, they took me to wrestling practice, and I loved it.”
Today, Duffield serves as a proud member of the Oklahoma National Guard and is on a relentless pursuit of excellence in his sport of Greco-Roman wrestling, thanks to the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
The WCAP allows top-ranked Soldier-athletes to perform at the international level while serving the nation in uniform. WCAP Soldiers come from the Active, Reserve and National Guard components and are selected for their ability to perform at the highest level of their sports.
Duffield chose to join the Oklahoma Army National Guard to reach the WCAP after speaking with fellow wrestler and OKARNG recruiter Staff Sgt. Zachary D’Amico.
“He already knew what he wanted to do when it came to joining WCAP and pursuing his Olympic dreams,” D’Amico said. “What we did was sit down and find the best way for him to get there and what was the best for his family, and that was to join as a Citizen-Soldier.”
Once in the WCAP program, Soldier-athletes like Duffield are trained by elite civilian and military coaches. Simultaneously, they fulfill their military duties, attend relevant military schools, and maintain their competitive edge against fellow uniformed athletes.
“The World Class Athlete Program gives you big opportunities that most people don’t get, such as to serve your country and compete in my sport and continue to try to reach Olympic goals,” Duffield said. “I’m gaining all these accolades, but I’m also helping something bigger than myself. I’m working on something that’s not just for me personally.”
Thanks in part to being a member of the WCAP, Duffield is a six-time U.S. National Team member. In 2023 alone, he won 1st place in the Final X Wrestling Challenge Tournament and Pan-American Wrestling Championships and 2nd Place at the Final X Wrestling Tournament and Armed Forces Championships.
“I feel like we really push toward the ‘be all you can be’ motto for the Army,” Duffield said. “The Army has so much to offer and you have so much more to offer the Army than you could ever think. Anything you could possibly want to do throughout the world, the Army offers it in some shape or form.”