Going to the mat for their country

As summer inches its way toward an eventual finale, most recent high school graduates look eagerly forward to their first taste of freedom: life away from home at their new college or university.

Wrestling teammates who graduated this year from Corona were selected to attend prestigious U.S. military academies. They include, from left, Vincent Dolce, Hunter Carmona and Brandon Konecny.   –Photo courtesy Louis Carmona

By Jonathan Coronel

As summer inches its way toward an eventual finale, most recent high school graduates look eagerly forward to their first taste of freedom: life away from home at their new college or university.

For many, college is the first time they’re away from their parents for a significant length of time, and the lack of structure differs greatly from high school, which can serve to be either a bane or a boon, depending on how each one takes the reins of newfound independence.

For a few recent Corona del Sol graduates, getting away from home represents quite different expectations: life that’s more rigorous, more structured and more—much more— demanding than the one they’re leaving behind.

These are the academic, athletic and future-oriented elite, those preparing to attend one of this country’s prestigious United States Service Academies.

Introducing three high-achievers

Here’s a rundown on those newest members of Corona’s distinguished ranks of high achievers:

After winning a state championship on the Corona wrestling team their senior year, teammates Brandon Konecny and Vincent Dolce are preparing for their next challenge: five years of arduous military schooling, at the end of which they will be commissioned as 2nd lieutenants in the Air Force.

Located near Colorado Springs, the United States Air Force Academy is one of the most prestigious universities in the country, admitting only around 1,000 students per year from a pool of 12,000 applicants.

Before attending the academy, Konecny and Dolce will both spend a year at the Air Force Academy prep school.

While the rigors of attending a military academy are well known, both students indeed seem well prepared for the challenge.

“Wrestling really prepared me mentally and physically for this. The hardest part is just going to be living away from my family and not being able to see them every day,” Dolce explains.

“The majority of my week is already planned, based on (wrestling) practice, so that prepared me for the structure there. Also, I went to Seton Catholic for several years, so I feel like that prepared me well academically,” Konecny says.

Acknowledging the contrast with their peers, whose coming college experiences will allow them much more free time than the rigidity of military school, both Konecny and Dolce saw it as a positive.

“One big draw for me was the lifestyle up there. They have routines, everything is put together for you. I’ve been used to that for a while with wrestling.

“So it’s a good transition for me going into college. Also the team feels like a family; the coaches want you to be successful in wrestling but also in life,” says Dolce.

Konecny agreed, adding that the small class sizes at Air Force (maximum of 25 cadets per class) are enticing because of the opportunity for more attention from the professor.

While Konecny and Dolce prepare to leave for Colorado for basic training in mid-July, their good friend and teammate Hunter Carmona is preparing for a similar journey on the other side of the country. Carmona, whose father Louis serves as assistant coach on the Corona wrestling team, expressed pride in his son, as well as in Konecny and Dolce.

“I can’t begin to tell you what this means for me as a coach and parent to see three of our wrestlers go on to the academies.”

For his part, Hunter Carmona will be attending prep school in Rhode Island before going to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., the following year.

After putting in four years of hard work, Carmona will graduate as a Coast Guard ensign. Like his teammates, Carmona will also have a four- year active-duty service obligation upon graduating.

Carmona credits former Corona wrestlers Ethan Tursini and Bridger Barker for planting the idea of going to an academy in his head, adding, “When Brandon and Vinny decided they were going to a service academy, it sort of convinced me I should go for it too.”

Like his teammates Carmona is unsure what job he would like to perform after graduating, and has his eyes potentially set on grad school before beginning his service commitment.

While the curriculum and training at America’s service academies is well known for its rigor, all three young men seem aptly prepared thanks to years of hard work they put in on the wrestling mat, as well as the support of their coaches and families.

For Carmona, Dolce and Konecny, this next challenge is just another match.