JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Spc. Curtis Hulstine has loved wrestling since he was five. Now, some 17 years later, he is set to compete for a spot on the All-Army Wrestling Team.
Hulstine, who now serves as an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, has dedicated much of his life to the pursuit of his favorite sport.
Joining the Army hasn't stopped that, and if anything, it's helped him find new ways to improve.
He joined the military a little less than two years ago. After he finished his initial entry training, he was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"I just missed a tournament the first year that I came here," said Hulstine, who was hoping to start wrestling again when he arrived. "So, I waited and trained up for it last year."
Hulstine's first tournament since joining took place in November. After a close call, he managed to pull ahead and win.
"I actually got beat," he said. "If you lose ... you're able to wrestle back and still take first if you don't lose again."
After winning, Hulstine was encouraged to submit an application for the All Army Wrestling Team.
"They hand pick the applications they want to come out," Hulstine said. "I was waiting and waiting and finally got my email that I was selected."
Hulstine will begin a training camp later this month at Fort Carson, Colo. There he will compete against Soldiers from around the world, all hoping to fill one of the few available spots on the team.
Curtis is positive about his prospects, but recognizes that he will be facing off against top-notch candidates from across the service.
Although this is a new step in his Army career, competing on the wrestling mat is nothing new to Hulstine.
"I've been a wrestler all my life," Hulstine said.
He first began wrestling at age five at a local club.
"I was just a little kid rolling around on the mat having fun," he said. "Once, I got older, I really liked it."
Hulstine was encouraged by his family to pursue wrestling, and his brother wrestles as well.
"Curtis has always loved wrestling; he grew up in a family of wrestlers," said his mother, Bonnie Hulstine.
Hulstine said that he stopped wrestling during middle school, but began again in earnest during his sophomore year of high school.
While there, he competed in between 15-20 tournaments per season, along with a number of other meets and events. He continued wrestling in junior college and was also busy working as a water damage restoration specialist. He didn't see a lot options that would help him achieve his goal of becoming a police officer. One that stood out for him was the military, which he joined at age 20.
"I've always had an interest in the military," he said. "I grew up, war movies were my favorite. I loved everything about the Army."
After some thought, he eventually settled on becoming an infantryman. He now serves as a team leader in an infantry line unit.
"I came in, but I still wanted to wrestle," he said. "It's in my blood."
Although his work keeps him busy, he still finds time to practice and work out, and sees wrestling as a great tool to help him in his military career.
"It's a great sport to build you to go into the military," Hulstine said. "The discipline you must have throughout a whole season of wrestling is just really high. You have to make weight, you have to make sure your school is in order, and that everything is good at home. You have to make sure that everything in your life is perfect to be a good wrestler."
Hulstine also said that the Army has helped him stay in tip-top shape.
"I've kept in great shape because of the Army," he said. "You have to be in such crazy shape to compete, it's insane. The thing about wrestling is muscle stamina."
Hulstine spends nearly an hour at the gym every day in addition to the more than an hour's worth of physical training that he does with his unit every morning.
He has also started training at the JBLM combatives facility during lunch hours.
Although Hulstine is a long way from his home in Ceres, his family still supports his wrestling aspirations.
"We have always supported him in his wrestling career," said Bonnie. "We are very proud of Curtis and his life decisions. He will always have our support in everything that he does. We love him very much."
With the support of his family and unit Hulstine is prepared to compete against Soldiers from around the world, but he knows at the end of the day, it's about more than just winning.
"Losing is losing and winning is winning," he said. "You want to have fun. If you're not having fun in something you are doing then you probably shouldn't do it. I have fun in the Army. I have fun wrestling. I love it. That's why I wrestle."
"I love winning, he continued. "If I lose, then I go back to the drawing table and work on it. I'm just thankful that I have this opportunity and that my leadership is backing me."