Links in the Chain: A Wrestling Coach Remembers Two Fallen Warriors

The Naval Academy Wrestling program has a history of developing Leaders of character who are prepared to serve our country in combat. This Brotherhood of Wrestling was shared between 1st Lt Travis Manion (class of 2004) and Major Doug Zembiec (Class of 1995).

In 2002, Major Zembiec brought his strong presence and “lead from the front” physical style of leadership back to the wrestling room of the United States Naval Academy. 2nd Class Midshipman (junior year), Travis Manion, was one of those training partners Captain Zembiec would choose as a grinding stone to sharpen his “Battle Axe.” He had a tough, physical approach to preparing and challenging himself as an Officer preparing to lead Marines and Sailors in harm’s way.

As a witness to these humbling training sessions, I watched as our program’s culture was shared from one generation to another. The sounds of work, the grunts of exhausting physical effort, the voices of frustration and challenges being quietly exchanged was an influential act between these two warriors as they battled.

Captain Zembiec fought to maintain his legacy as one of Navy Wrestling’s Elite and Travis Manion, a junior, worked to prove himself to an icon in the program’s legacy of professional war fighters. The exchanges of effort to impose one’s will upon the other often lead to a bloody nose, a cut on the chin and work-outs that would shed 10lbs of sweat equity on the mats of Lejeune Hall.

When practice ended, the mentorship and growth took place. Countless times there would be a circle of Midshipmen gathered around Captain Zembiec as he would praise the effort Travis and his teammates put into their training. Confidence was always instilled in everyone on the virtues and values THIS ROOM and THIS TRAINING instills in those that accept the challenge to put their foot on that line, and enter the Arena.


About the Author: Joel Sharratt
Joel Sharratt, a three-time All-American and former NCAA Champion, is the Head Coach of the United States Naval Academy. According to Sharratt, “As the head coach, it is my humble responsibility to train, challenge and instill the same values and virtues in our student athletes and future Officers as those lessons learned in 2002 in the battles between 1st Lt. Travis Manion and Maj. Doug Zembiec. Every year there are 10 newly crowned NCAA Champions in the sport of wrestling but as a Coach it is my greatest Honor to serve those who will go on to follow virtues leaders on the battlefield like my friends Travis and Doug.”



We challenge you to join us on Saturday, May 13th, 2017 to honor “The Lion of Fallujah” Maj. Doug Zembiec, by participating in the Zembiec Memorial WOD. Click the image below for more details.

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