By Ray Nimmo
© July 17, 2012
The Army can teach a soldier a lot of things. How to be a leader. How to safely fire a weapon.
But how about converting a shed in the Middle East into a martial arts dojo?
That was up to Capt. Jon Anderson.
The Ocean Lakes graduate used that dojo in Iraq to springboard into a wrestling whirlwind that's landed him as a U.S. Olympic alternate in Greco-Roman wrestling.
"At this point in my life, I felt like it was time to use my other abilities," he said. "And to see that dedication pay off, it's very rewarding."
Anderson, 27, finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in April after an intense 10-month training period.
Only the winner travels to London, but Anderson could get the call should something happen to the top two wrestlers.
A state runner-up in high school and a conference medalist at West Point, Anderson put his Olympic dreams on hold while he went to Ranger School and became a platoon leader.
He served in Iraq from July 2009 to May 2010, partnering with the Iraqi army to assist in nation-building duties. The days were long and busy.
Anderson found a shed in his compound with some weights and square mats inside. He added a lamp and brought in some friends.
"Ten guys would go every night," Anderson said. "It was a good way to relieve tension and have some fun."
Anderson later met a civilian mechanic who had a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. He came to the dojo and taught classes. A couple of civilian firefighters who were into mixed martial arts also joined.
"That's what really slungshot me into the wrestling scene again," Anderson said.
He won the 2010 All-Army Combatives Championship and decided to take a shot at the Olympics.
Anderson settled on Greco-Roman wrestling over freestyle. Both are Olympic events but Greco-Roman focuses on the upper body; holds below the waist are forbidden.
The hard part was finding a gym that taught it, so he emailed the coach of the
Army World Class Athlete Program and got involved there.
With 10 months to go before the trials, Anderson had to cram - and overcome a torn oblique.
"It was rough," he said. "I got my butt kicked the first two or three months."
His hard work earned him the seventh seed at the trials in the 74kg (163 pounds) bracket. He lost to eventual-champ Ben Provisor in the semifinals but battled back in the consolation bracket to take third and a spot on the Olympic team.
Anderson trains in Colorado, where he lives with his wife, Molly, and 10-month-old son, MacArthur.
Steve DeWiggins, a psychology professor in Washington state and staff member at Avid Performance Consultants, has known Anderson for four years and has helped him improve his mental approach even further.
"He is the most mentally tough person I've had the pleasure to meet," DeWiggins said. "Not just because of his ability to perform under pressure at a tournament, but more so that he makes a conscious choice to apply his toughness to every aspect of his life."
Anderson takes pride in both of his accomplishments.
"I think putting on the uniform and being a servant, leading soldiers, it's hard to beat that," he said. "Putting the country's needs before my own, I take a lot of pride in that.
"As far as wrestling goes, I had to sacrifice a lot of time in different things to do that. And to see personal goals pay off, I have a lot of pride in that, too."
Ray Nimmo, 757-446-2376, firstname.lastname@example.org
For original article, click here.
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