For those who know Travis Catina, his military ambitions should come as no surprise.
Catina, a Whitefish High School senior, has been nominated for the U.S. military and naval academies by Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Rep. Ryan Zinke. He’s also earned the presidential nomination, which is reserved for children of military personnel, and has already been admitted to both Annapolis and West Point.
His father, Rich, is a retired master sergeant while his mother, Cate, served for 26 years as a colonel, both in the Army, so following his parents’ lead seemed like a natural choice.
“Just kind of growing up a military kid, it just made sense to go to a school that had what I wanted,” Catina said about his West Point ambitions. “It’s really hard to get into, and I like doing stuff that challenges me.”
Catina’s summer was filled with what he calls “easily the most gruesome application process” for any higher education school in the country. For the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, he had the usual essays and personal information to turn in. After that, he had to drive to Helena for medical tests and later needed to complete a fitness test.
Once all that was completed, he had five separate applications for the nominations he sought.
A nomination from a member of Congress or the Vice President is required for consideration and acceptance to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, or the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
It was a tiresome process, but Catina said some of the weight was lifted from his shoulders as he and his family drove through the Swan valley on their way to interviews with Zinke and Daines. Just before losing cellphone reception, Catina saw that he’d been accepted to Annapolis, and he could relax a little.
Catina has narrowed his focus to West Point and Annapolis, both of which have already accepted him.
Catina hopes to pursue engineering at either school, though only West Point has the nuclear engineering program he’s interested in. He also wants to follow his father’s footsteps and join special forces.
While Catina waits to make his decision, his last semester of school and final wrestling season remain his priority.
Catina is in his fourth year of wrestling and one of the team’s five senior leaders. He also recently earned All-State and All-Conference honors for football and was chosen to start at linebacker for the West team in the East-West Shrine Game this year. Catina was also a captain for the last two years for the football team.
Watching high school come to a close as college approaches has been a strange feeling, he said, but he’s excited nonetheless.
“It’s kind of weird that after wrestling I’ll be done with high school sports, and after this semester the classes matter but it will be kind of different, I get to relax now,” he said.
Two highlights from his time at Whitefish High School stand out for Catina.
The first is being part of an athletic accomplishment as a junior, helping lead the Bulldogs football team to end their 36-year state title drought with a win over Dillon in 2015.
“That was sweet, all the work in the offseason to get that and then being one of the four captains, it just made it even cooler,” he said.
Outside of sports, Catina said his experience as a mentor for Muldown Elementary fourth-grader Titus Bertleson has been one of the most rewarding.
“For an hour and a half to two hours a week I’ll go over and help him with homework and hang out and talk. That’s probably one of the highlights of my week,” Catina said. “I’ve been with him since I was a freshman. Now he’s in fourth grade and I’m a senior, it’s been cool to kind of grow up with him.”