During the winter season, MMA Colonels varsity athletics includes basketball, wrestling, drill, and rifle. We asked our coaches about their expectations and goals for this season – see our Q&A below with the following coaches:
- CPT Joe Balvanz, Rifle Instructor
- Rick Dehlinger, Fusileer Coach
- Dr. Tom Allen, Wrestling Coach
- Roger Siwak, Basketball Coach
“We are excited about this winter athletic season, particularly after coming off some great achievements for our Colonels athletes this fall,” said Brian Meny, MMA athletic director. “Our coaches set high expectations for our cadet-athletes to work together as a team to achieve, and we look forward to watching them work hard and succeed.”
Learn more about MMA Colonels Athletics here.
Q1: How is the season going? What are your expectations for the season?
CPT Joe Balvanz, Rifle Instructor: The season is shaping nicely, and cadets are progressing quicker than any year I have experienced as a coach. I am very proud of our renewed efforts at increasing our standing position in particular. This position is by far the most technical. In the rifle community, we acknowledge that "prone is where you lose the match but standing is where you win." As a result, we have spent most of our energy working on refining this important position.
This season, I expect that we will be invited to sectionals at Camp Perry, Ohio for the fifth straight season, and to nationals for the second year in a row. I expect that we will improve our standing against all Army programs from our position of 9th last year.
Rick Dehlinger, Fusileer Coach: The drill team has already this year performed the national anthem for two Kansas City Royals Games and one Kansas City Chiefs Game. We performed at home for Homecoming/Alumni Weekend and, more recently, Fall Family Weekend. I have high expectations for this team and I believe I have the right cadets to lead the team to another successful year on the drill floor. I believe that MMA has a great chance of winning an overall national title in Daytona, Florida in May.
Dr. Tom Allen, Wrestling Coach: Expectations are high. We are coming off of the most team wins in the Academy’s history (16), and we have 10 returning lettermen, 5 provisional* lettermen, and several new cadets who are eager to learn and grow in the sport.
Roger Siwak, Basketball Coach: I am looking forward to the season. We work hard every day, and with this hard work, I expect to have continuous improvement from the team. We will Embrace The Process (ETP), we will get better every day and play our best basketball in February, and we will build a team of brothers that truly care for each other on the court and off.
*Provisional means the athlete was unable to complete the season due to injury, but otherwise completed requirements to letter in the sport.
Q2: What are your goals this season?
CPT Joe Balvanz, Rifle Instructor: My goal as a coach is to use rifle shooting as a medium to enrich the lives of our team. Using the same methods to control heart rate, breathing techniques, and remaining calm under pressure, I would like cadets to be better rounded in a wide avenue of aspects in life. My goal for cadets is to have the gained confidence to compete and beat their best each week!
Rick Dehlinger, Fusileer Coach: My goal as a coach for the Fusileers is to leave each cadet with a sense of accomplishment and to know that hard work pays off in the end. I want to push cadets outside their comfort zone and to learn something new. I encourage them to find a cadet on the team that they think is better than them and work to be better than him. When they meet that goal, pick another cadet until they become the cadet that every other cadet is choosing to be better than on the team. They should look up to, and feel challenged by, one another at all times.
Dr. Tom Allen, Wrestling Coach: Athletically speaking, goals for cadets are to learn and improve with each practice and each competition. On a personal level, it is always my goal to increase the confidence of my wrestlers and take them to the next level, regardless of where they start. We will work together to build a team that they are proud to be part of, one which they know they can trust and depend on each other. MMA is a place where brotherhood is established between the cadets. As wrestlers, that brotherhood will grow even stronger.
Roger Siwak, Basketball Coach: Basketball is a team sport, so I aim to help cadets refine their teamwork skills. I want to teach them to play selfless basketball and play for their teammates, as well as themselves. I want our culture to be one of “team first.” By reinforcing the brotherhood, cadets will remember their 2022-2023 basketball season far into the future.
Q3: What does daily practice look like for cadets?
CPT Joe Balvanz, Rifle Instructor: Practices generally start with a reminder about one particular fundamental of fire or a particular aspect of firing they should concentrate on for that day. They almost always shoot the majority of their rounds in standing, followed by kneeling, and rarely prone.
Rick Dehlinger, Fusileer Coach: Daily practice for the drill team starts at 0625 Monday through Friday and again in the afternoon from 1600-1800, followed by evening practice at 2045-2130. Drill is built on skill, precision, and muscle memory.
Practice is run by the cadet leaders, with the occasional motivational coaching moments needed to properly train. Each practice might look different on any given day, as we have multiple cadets that compete on different teams and need time to practice for each competition.
Cadet leaders are tasked with the challenge of managing the team and who competes in each category of competition. All cadets can prove their talents and move up and down on the team. Cadet leaders learn that choosing a buddy over talent does not always pay off and that sometimes choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong is the best direction for the team.
Dr. Tom Allen, Wrestling Coach: Wrestling practice is two hours, Monday through Friday, and consists of learning, repetitive drill exercises, and conditioning.
Roger Siwak, Basketball Coach: Our practices will consist of a mix of skill development, games both in the full-court and half-court, and conditioning. We want to be able to finish games by being in great shape.
Q4: Who is the team captain? Top players?
CPT Joe Balvanz, Rifle Instructor: The team captain this year is Marco Afane, as selected by his teammates. He is mature and practices sound judgment at all times. He is task-oriented and understands the importance of growth every time he gets behind his rifle. And he is a leader – although the best shooter on the team, he is also the hardest-working.
The top shooters are our veterans (Marco Afane, Blake Morais, Brayden Hines, Zijie Zhou, and Samuel Way) and a few newcomers this year (Xiang Chen, Brayden Phelps, Raul Rosas, and Eliseo Buch). I am very excited that our new talent has accelerated as quickly as they have. I am also very excited to introduce two eighth graders this year (Matthew Gwozdz and Kamil Sanchez De Ovando Pérez).
Rick Dehlinger, Fusileer Coach: On the drill team, we have multiple captains to help evenly distribute the demands of multiple events running in any given competition. This year’s captains are both well-qualified and seasoned veterans on the team. Gorka-Aitor Yarte-Zertuche joined the team five years ago, and I have watched him grow to be a top three leader in the corps of cadets and a mentor to the new cadets joining the team. Yarte knows the demands of being on the team and shapes that expectation with the new cadets early in Fusileer training.
Gage Blanton is our co-captain this year, which allows our team to operate with a drill commander present at all drill competitions and practices. Gabriel Iglesias is our color guard commander and has the experience needed to give our color guard the best chance at earning another national title at nationals. Duane Thompson is our newest commander, taking the reins for the unarmed exhibition team.
Dr. Tom Allen, Wrestling Coach: Team captains are Gabe Canonico (returning state qualifier), Bret Miles, and Lucas Sydlewski. We have three all-conference returners: Brett Miles, Lucas Sydlewski, and Ryan Miles. Returning lettermen include Gabe Canonico, Bret Miles, Lucas Sydlewski, Ryan Miles, Michael Pfeifer, Bryson Powell, Roman Louder, Adam Swenson, Gabriel Ontiveros, and Jancario Barajas. Provisional lettermen include Gerardo Quiroga, Mason Brooks, Russell Olson, Nate Baker, and Wayland Evans. We have a very strong freshman class that I am sure several will step up and see some varsity. Also, there will be other new cadets who will have an immediate impact on the varsity team, and we will get to know each other over the next few weeks.
Roger Siwak, Basketball Coach: Albert Ogutu and Nathan Dempsey have shown great leadership skills in our fall skill development workouts. These cadets will be joined by other cadet-athletes with great leadership skills.
Q5: Anything else you would like families to know about this season?
CPT Joe Balvanz, Rifle Instructor: We try to set the example for conduct and deportment for the corps. At all times, we conduct ourselves to reflect the best attributes as cadets of MMA, and we are happy to carry MMA's legacy and good name everywhere we go.
Rick Dehlinger, Fusileer Coach: I encourage families to come support our team at competitions. I am always available to talk to parents and help them better understand what it means to be a part of the drill team and what can be expected. If you are local and have local connections with either government, college or professional sports that might want to entertain showcasing the Fusileers, either at a half-time event or with the color guard presenting the colors during the national anthem, please feel free to reach out to me to work out the details.
Additionally, as the coach of the Fusileers, I appreciate you allowing me to be a part of your son’s life and hopefully, in the end, you will agree that the team has helped your son reach the goals that I have set forth. My office is always open and if there is anything that I can ever do to help better understand drill or even answer a question about cadet life, do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Dr. Tom Allen, Wrestling Coach: I am being assisted this year by two former collegiate wrestlers: returning coaches Ryan Nowlin, Missouri State University, and Levi Iman, Meramec Community College St. Louis.
Also, to keep cadets competitive with other high school teams who continue to practice over Christmas break (while MMA is not on campus due to winter furlough), please make sure cadets are exercising and not overindulging during this time.
Roger Siwak, Basketball Coach: I would like our families to know that we will strive every day to build a program of discipline, camaraderie, and hard work.