KINGS POINT, N.Y. (April 4, 2019) – To celebrate NCAA Division III Week, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.) caught up with some of the top senior student-athletes at the Academy to find out why they chose to compete at the Division III level at USMMA. Our next spotlight of "#D3Week" is with wrestling captain Blake Bunce (Trophy Club, Texas).
Throughout his career at Kings Point, Bunce has placed at the NCAA Eastern Regionals all four seasons and was a national qualifier for the NCAA Championships in 2018. He won the Academy's Hanley-Naegele Award for Most Outstanding Wrestler after the 2017-18 season.
Off the mats, Bunce has been a three-time Academic All-American in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and was named to the Academic All-Centennial Team the same years. He also earned Sea Year Ribbons for both his sailing periods, with a Bronze Star for his first sail and with a Silver Star for his second sail. In the Regiment, Bunce has served as first rotation Regimental Training Officer and second rotation Company Fitness Officer.
What made you choose to come to the Academy?
I chose to come to Kings Point because of the ability to serve in any branch of the armed forces. I also like the rigorous academic and regimented lifestyle that challenges you and molds you into someone who can endure and overcome any obstacle in the way. I also wanted to be able to wrestle competitively all four years and Kings Point allowed me this opportunity.
What have you learned while here?
It is not what I have learned in the classroom that will stick with me; it is the relationships I have developed on the wrestling mat, in the regiment and out at sea that I will forever cherish. This may sound cliché, but being able to physically observe what good and bad leadership looks like by having the opportunity to be a subordinate (whether it be plebe year, out at sea or from team captains) allowed me to decide what qualities I want to emulate every day.
What has been the best part of being a Division III student-athlete?
Being able to continue to compete at a high level at a federal service academy has been an amazing experience. The best part about being a student-athlete here at the Merchant Marine Academy was beating Coast Guard at home my junior year when they were a Top-20 team in the nation. Competition is something I will always miss, as well as all the memories I have with my teammates.
How has being a Division III Athlete prepared you for your future? What's next for you?
Being an athlete at the academy has molded me into the person I am today. Whether it's sacrifices such as cutting to 174 pounds as a freshman in order to earn a starting spot, the long practices, the weightlifting to gain fifty pound in the offseason or sacrificing weekends of studying to compete at tournaments, it has shown me how to prioritize, how to be disciplined, how to persevere through adversity and how to be humble. After graduating in June, I will be going to Air Force Flight School and joining the Nevada Air National Guard flying C-130s in Reno.
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