July 1, 2023

By Fred Liggett

For many high school students summer vacation is a big topic among friends, for one St. Michael’s student athlete the topic means preparing for a trip to Istanbul, Turkey to represent the United States.

Sampson Stilwell, a junior to be at SMA, has been busy preparing for the Freestyle World Championships to be held in Turkey where he will compete with the U-17 team. Stilwell reports he has been busy spending his summer “lifting a lot at SMA.” In addition to his work in the Guardians weight room, Stilwell has made numerous trips to the US Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado for additional training.

All USA team members have been making this trip for preparation for the upcoming event in Turkey. Stilwell qualified for this trip by competing in the world team trials held in Las Vegas back on April 27-30th. At the 2023 US Open Stilwell competed in the 110 kilograms weight class.

Stilwell says of the whole experience, “It’s so awesome.” Stilwell adds having “an amazing community around me.” Stilwell states the experience is “so surreal, blessed to have so many supporting me.” An example of the level of support Stilwell has been receiving occurred at a recent fundraiser held in Warrensburg, MO. This fundraiser was held at a local restaurant featuring live music, dinner and a silent auction of sports memorabilia.

The preparation stage will end on July 29th when Stilwell leaves KCI for Turkey. The competition in Istanbul is the Freestyle World Championships to be held July 31st – Aug. 6th. Stilwell is a part of an 11 member team where he is guaranteed two matches. If Stilwell advances he will keep going and have as many as four matches. Stilwell’s portion of the event will take place over two days, August 3 and 4. First round matchups is a round of 16. After that each round cuts the field in half until the one champion is crowned.

The trip to Turkey isn’t all work and no play as Stilwell admitted he is looking forward to “touring Istanbul, is a huge city.” When it’s all over Stilwell will return to Kansas City with quite a summer vacation story to tell his coaches and fellow classmates at St. Michaels.