Military.com

A Fighting Marine -- On the Mat

Aaron Kalil (USA) competes against Tsogbaatar Damdinbazar (Mongolia) during the Conseil International Du Sport – International Military Sports Council - World Wrestling Championship, Oct. 3, 2014. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Christopher Moore)
Aaron Kalil (USA) competes against Tsogbaatar Damdinbazar (Mongolia) during the Conseil International Du Sport – International Military Sports Council - World Wrestling Championship, Oct. 3, 2014. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Christopher Moore)

The United States Marines likes to promote itself by proclaiming that it's looking for "a few good men."

On the battlefield, that's always been accepted, but it apparently also rings true in other areas, including on the wrestling mat.

Aaron Kalil, the former Salem standout and now 27-years-old, is proof of that. The 2012 graduate of the Naval Academy -- after spending a year as a Management Financial Officer in Virginia, is now in his third year as a member of the United States Marine Corps wrestling team.

Although he has other tasks, his main duty is on the mat representing the Marines to the best of his ability.

"It's awesome, I get to do the sport I love all the time, and I get paid for it," said Kalil, who is classified as a 1st Lieutenant. "The Marine Corps is the only opportunity to do that."

Following his graduation from the Naval Academy, where he won 101 matches and qualified for the NCAA tournament three times as a 133-pounder, Kalil had the choice of joining the Navy or the Marines. He chose the latter because of increased opportunities.

He then accepted a position in Quantico, Va., as a Financial Management Operating Officer. While it was rewarding, he found that he wasn't quite ready to give up the mat for good.

"I kind of knew about this (All-Marine Wrestling Team) before I graduated," said Kalil. "But I didn't think much about it because I didn't think I'd wrestle again.

"But while I was at Quantico, I thought more and more about it. I missed the competition and decided to try it."

Kalil got accepted onto the team and has been wrestling almost full time for the last two years. With a base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Kalil wrestles year-round, both Greco-Roman and Freestyle, with the main competition season being from October to May.

Wrestling in tournaments, mainly around the country, ever since, Kalil has more than held his own at 57 kilograms (130 pounds), finishing eighth at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas. In November, he placed third in his weight class in an international tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia.

His ultimate goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials in Iowa City in April. He missed qualifying by one place at the U.S. Open, but he can make it this month when he wrestles at tournaments in Croatia and France.

"I need to get a bronze medal at one of them, which I think I can do," he said. "If I don't, I can still qualify at the Armed Forces Tournament in February.

"The competition is tough. Every match is against a really good guy ... not like in college where there are some guys you're pretty sure you can beat. But I've been working out hard, and I'm in really good shape. I think I can make it."

While focusing on wrestling, Kalil -- who has been married for 3 1/2 years -- has been furthering his education and has nearly completed a Masters in Finance. In May of 2017, that will give him more leverage when his 5-year commitment is over and he must decide whether to extend his tour for another three years.

"I haven't decided yet," he said. "I enjoy what I'm doing now and there's a lot to consider."

For now, Kalil is enjoying the moment, on and off the mat.

Show Full Article

Related Topics

Marine Corps Fitness