161st ARW member takes silver at Armed Forces tournament
By Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein, 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 07, 2011
PHOENIX SKY HARBOR AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE -- After being invited by Air Force wrestling coach Rich Estrella to compete at the 2011 Armed Forces Wrestling Tournament at Fort Carson, CO, Maj. Neal Rodak defeated his Navy and Marine opponents earning a Silver medal in the Greco Roman 55 kilogram (121 pound) weight class.
Major Rodak, the 161st Air Refueling Wing deputy staff advocate, is no stranger to the Armed Forces Wrestling Tournament. He wrestled with the World Class Athlete program as a Navy and Army officer, earning a Bronze Medal at the 2002 Armed Forces Wrestling Tournament, a Silver at the 2003 and 2004 tournaments and a Gold at the 2005 tournament.
Of this year's tournament, Major Rodak said it was, as usual, very tough.
"The Army wrestler, in particular, is very good," he said. "I gave it my all but didn't come away with a win."
Major Rodak began his wrestling career at age 13 while living in Oak Forest, Ill.
"My 8th grade football coach suggested that I was a great football player but a bit small to play in high school or college," Major Rodak said. "He said I should try it, so I did."
By his senior year, Major Rodak was wrestling in tournaments around the country. In college, he earned All-American honors twice and was a three-time NCAA tournament qualifier.
Currently training for the U.S. Open Nationals which will take place Dec. 16, 2011, in Arlington, Texas, Major Rodak said it will be his last competition. Although he says he's done wrestling "for good," Major Rodak hopes to coach one day.
Major Rodak also credits his successes - both on and off the mat - to his wife.
"None of what I have done would be possible without the love and support of my wife," he said. "I always seem to be doing 100 things at once. Fortunately, I can usually get them all done, but only because my wife, Emily, is amazingly supportive."
In addition to his wrestling and job here at the 161st ARW, Major Rodak is also a criminal defense attorney for Maricopa County Public Defender's Office.
"Wrestling takes a large time commitment so I couldn't have done it without (my wife's) help," he said. "She takes care of my beautiful daughter, Austyn Rose, and my crazy son, Wrigley. I am so lucky to have her in my life. I love her so much and truly appreciate all she does for me, my kids and my careers."