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    7th Fleet Sailor Strikes Spot on All-Navy Wrestling Team

    7th Fleet Sailor Strikes Spot on All Navy Wrestling Team

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Reymundo Villegas | 220323-N-NO824-0004 BREMERTON, Washington (Feb. 25, 2023) The All Navy Wrestling team...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Reymundo Villegas 

    Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet   

    As his eyes locked with his opponent’s, his mind was flooded with emotions and memories. A bead of sweat dripped from his brow. Phwwwwwwt. The sound of the referee’s whistle pierced his ears, and the match began. Intelligence Specialist 1st (IS1) Class Shaun Heist, an Allentown, Pennsylvania, native, assigned to Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, found himself competing for his position on the All-Navy Wrestling Team.

    “When I first joined, I was told the Navy allows Sailors to represent and compete at a professional level, and it's always been my dream to compete as a professional athlete,” said Heist. “When I got to Japan, I joined the wrestling club on base, and I met Yoshii Yamashita who is on the All-Navy [Wrestling] Team. He encouraged me to submit a package, so after doing some extensive research, I did.”

    Heist’s opportunity did not come without challenge. He submitted an in-depth package and underwent a thorough medical examination in order to be considered for tryouts.

    For six weeks, Heist endured continuous physical training and later competed against three other contenders to secure his spot in the Greco-Roman 97-kilogram weight class. Once he secured his spot, Heist found himself wrestling at the 2023 Armed Forces Championship (AFC) on Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Washington where he placed second overall.

    “When I placed, the head coach of the team, Ale [Delapena], had the biggest smile on his face,” said Heist. “He looked at me and said, ‘Welcome back.’ I can’t even begin to describe how good that felt.”

    Heist has participated in competitive sports since he was five years old, and recalls having great coaches throughout his career but pays homage to his personal coach, Rob Esbach. When Esbach heard the news, he immediately showed support to Heist by making congratulatory posts on his social media platforms.

    “Rob has been my biggest supporter from day one, even since before I was in the Navy,” said Heist. “He is one of the few people who can get inside my head and understands how I work mentally. He can see it in my facial expressions, when I have self-doubt, or when I’m tired, and he knows exactly what to say. He’s taught me to control my own thoughts and remind myself that I can do anything.”

    Because of his experience with his personal coach, Heist chose to give back to the local community on Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka and volunteered the past two years as the assistant coach for the Nile C. Kinnick High School wrestling team. He is thankful for the opportunity to give back, for the support he receives from his chain of command, and his local mentor, Master Chief Culinary Specialist Jason DeGraaf, also assigned to Commander, U.S 7th Fleet.

    DeGraaf provides guidance to help Heist be successful in his naval career, but also holds him accountable for his training regimen by working out with him nearly every Sunday. Heist said DeGraaf’s work ethic, leadership, and overall character has been a prime example for the kind of leader he wants to be.

    “When you see a person set a goal and then set out to achieve it, it’s contagious,” DeGraaf said. “You walk into the gym and see [Heist] training, you think, ‘Well, that’s next level for sure.’ Then you go into the wrestling room and he is coaching the on-base high school team…it’s pretty awesome. Having him represent the Navy and all of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet is special, especially when you saw firsthand the effort poured into making that dream a reality. We are all incredibly proud of him.”

    Heist is slated to compete at the 2023 U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 26-30, which is the national competition where he will face many opponents for a chance at the U.S. Olympic team trials.

    “He is a brilliant analyst, shipmate, and warrior, and it’s awesome to see IS1 succeed in every facet of his life and career,” said Capt. Adam K. Johnson, Heist’s department head. “He deserves to be recognized on a fleet-wide stage. This is his dream and he has earned this honor through his determination and hard work, and we are thrilled to have him represent the fighting spirit of the Navy, not only for 7th Fleet but for our shipmates across the globe.”

    When Heist is not on the mat, he is supporting the 7th Fleet mission as a strike analyst. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.



    Date Taken: 03.24.2023
    Date Posted: 03.24.2023 07:45
    Story ID: 441109
    Hometown: ALLENTOWN, PA, US

    Web Views: 237
    Downloads: 0