The Marine Corps Athlete of the Year is awarded annually to active duty Marines who demonstrate the best of the Corps, both in sports and in living the values of the Marine Corps. We recognize the 2021 Marine Corps Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Staff Sergeant (SSgt) John Stefanowicz Jr. and First Lieutenant (1stLt) Riley Compton.
SSgt John Stefanowicz Jr is currently assigned as Senior Combat Instructor, Marine Detachment, US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. SSgt Stefanowicz exemplified the warrior ethos and the Whole Marine concept throughout 2021. From striving for continuous improvement to bettering the Marines under his charge, his command influence was critical to the success of the All-Marine Wrestling team in 2021, producing six U.S. national teams. members, which represents more than half of the weight categories. During the US Olympic Team Trials for the Tokyo Olympics, SSgt Stefanowicz chose to move up a weight class. The International Olympic Committee has condensed the number of Olympic positions available to each country from 10 to six with only one athlete per weight class. Accepting the challenge, SSgt Stefanowicz prepared for the hurdles presented in the 191lb weight class. SSgt Stefanowicz lost any potential benefit of being a returning World Team member, which would have led to a favorable path to the Olympic team. SSgt Stefanowicz’s road to the Olympic team saw him win six straight matches beating first, second and fourth seeded opponents. In doing so, he became the first Marine, in 30 years, to represent the United States in wrestling at the Olympic Games. At the Tokyo Games, SSgt Stefanowicz finished in 12th place. SSgt Stefanowicz has accomplished what no Marine has done in over 40 years; Become an Olympian, two-time Pan American champion, two-time Armed Forces Championship gold medalist, and ranked #1 in the National and Western Hemisphere.
1st Lt. Riley Compton currently serves as S-4 OIC for MALS-39 at Camp Pendleton. She is an accomplished athlete and has constantly sought higher challenges. 1stLt Compton decided to participate in an online combine for Team USA Bobsled and Skeleton, in his pursuit of competition. Based on her submission, she was selected to try out for Team USA Bobsled and then selected to represent Team USA at the North American Cup in January 2021, winning bronze medals in monobob and bobsled. two-woman international; his very first bobsleigh competitions. After additional training, she was invited to the national team push championships to determine the national and Olympic teams. She was competing against former Olympic medalists who she placed fourth. In November, she followed that up by competing in the North American Cup, placing sixth in all three races and posting the third-fastest push times against her competitors, some of whom are Olympians. Thanks to her exceptional efforts, she qualified for the World Junior Championships in Austria and is on track to become a member of the 2022-2023 national team and an Olympic athlete in 2026.