Colony's Robert Haan has accepted an appointment to U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where he will wrestle and major in civil engineering. Photo credit Haan family
Adversity doesn’t intimidate Colony’s Robert Haan. Neither does failure, or success for that matter.
That goes for winning 145 career wrestling matches; losing his final high school match; and his anxiety about committing the next nine years to the military.
The 18-year-old can handle anything life throws at him.
“I was raised in a really good family where I had a lot of support and that allowed me to be brave enough to work hard and not be scared of failure,” Haan told me. “If you’re scared to fail then I guess you can never really succeed.”
It’s no wonder the terrific teen has been recognized for superior academic achievement and leadership potential by the United States Coast Guard Academy, the smallest of our nation’s five military service academies.
“Their mission statement seems like they’re more about helping people in need than fighting and protecting our country,” he said. “All of military branches are super respectable and they are protecting our country, but I just felt like serving in the Coast Guard would fit me the best.”
Admission to the Coast Guard Academy is highly competitive and fewer than 400 appointments are offered annually from a pool of over 2,200 applicants. Cadets receive a full tuition scholarship and monthly stipend for a five-year service commitment to the Coast Guard upon graduation.
Haan will sign his letter of intent on May 3 at Colony High School and he’ll be sworn-in as a member of the Class of 2021 in New London, Connecticut, on June 26.
He plans to wrestle and pursue a degree in civil engineering.
Haan’s grandfather served more than 20 years in the Air Force and he was his inspiration for applying for a military appointment.
“He definitely has his life set up now with the benefits. He’s doing really well,” he said. “He’s just a really good person and I think what helped shape him into that was him joining the military.”
Haan originally wanted to follow his in his grandfather’s footsteps but ultimately decided the Coast Guard was his path.
“It sounded like a better fit with smaller class sizes,” he said. “It feels more family based compared to the other academies.”
On the wrestling mat, the 195-pounder completed his Colony career this season as one of the most successful in school history. He compiled 145-21 career record with four top-3 state finishes and one championship as a junior at 170. He helped the Knights win Class 4A titles in two of his final three years.
As a senior, he carried an undefeated record into the championship match when he suffered a dramatic 4-3 loss to North Pole’s Bradley Antesberger at the buzzer. Bradley trailed 3-2 before he took Haan down to the mat right before the final whistle blew.
“It was a bad tournament for me,” he said. “It’s all good.”
Haan can shrug off the loss today, but it took time to get over it and he admitted the defeat left him devastated and dejected.
For the first time in his life, he no longer wanted to wrestle.
“For a long time, it was something I wanted to do, then for a while I kind of felt like it was something I didn’t want to do,” he said. “But then I really thought about it. I’ve been away from wrestling for a few months, and it made me realize I do miss it a little bit already and I don’t want to have that regret when I get older.”
He had never been a quitter and he wasn’t about to start now.
“I’ve got to try it in college,” he said. “If I quit now, I won’t know what I’ll be able to accomplishment.”
Van Williams is a freelance writer in Anchorage and a correspondent for the Alaska School Activities Association.