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Knox combatives tourney is a smash hit

Apr. 29, 2007 - 06:34PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 29, 2007 - 06:34PM  |  
Soldiers compete April 29 in a combatives tournament held at Fort Knox, Kentucky. For the first time ever in competitive combatives tournaments, a cage was used for improved soldier safety.
Soldiers compete April 29 in a combatives tournament held at Fort Knox, Kentucky. For the first time ever in competitive combatives tournaments, a cage was used for improved soldier safety. (M. Scott Mahaskey/ Staff)
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Soldiers compete April 29 at Fort Knox's combatatives tournament. (M. Scott Mahaskey/ Staff)


FORT KNOX, Ky. The top fighters from Fort Knox stepped into the cage Sunday to battle for combatives glory and battle they did.

The finals of the post's first combatives tournament produced a series of heart-stopping, cheer-inducing fights as the soldiers pushed their mixed martial arts skills, stamina and courage to the limit.

They also achieved at least two firsts for this Kentucky post this is the first time Fort Knox has had a post-wide combatives tournament, and it also is the first time the finals of an official Army combatives tournament took place in a cage instead of a boxing ring.

Watch:">Video of the tournament

"Safety is an issue we're very concerned about," said Maj. Gen. Robert "Bob" Williams, commanding general of the Armor Center and Fort Knox, who had a front-row seat for the finals.

Deciding to use a cage in the tournament was a tough decision for him, Williams said.

"But I'm pleased that we did that," he said. "The truth of it is soldiers in a cordon and knock find themselves very quickly in a confined space. We are warriors. The last thing I want to do is train soldiers in an unrealistic situation."

The cage is also safer than a boxing ring because there is no chance for fighters to fall through the ropes or out of the ring, Williams said.

Some of Sunday's fights at Sadowski Field House lasted only one round including a knockout in the heavyweight class that took less than a minute while others tested the fighters for three exhausting five-minute rounds.

Spc. Todd Raymond, of the Army Reserve's 100th Division, won the heavyweight title by beating Sgt. Doug Winn, of 2nd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment.

"I think he was a tough guy," Raymond said about his opponent. "I love this sport. I train as hard as I can. [The fight] could've gone either way."

Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Wells, who was just passing through on his way to a military transition team assignment at Fort Riley, Kan., competed in the heavyweight class.

He fought Staff Sgt. Dustin Alsey, of 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, for third place and within 45 seconds he scored the only knockout of the tournament.

Wells, a former boxer who was a platoon sergeant before this MiTT assignment, said he often wrestled with his soldiers.

"You don't forget the moves and you hope you hit the mark, and this time I did," Wells said.

The Army's combatives program is "worth its weight in gold," said Wells, who will soon return to Iraq on his third deployment there. "It's physical fitness and it's something we use on the battlefield."

Officials at Fort Knox put a lot of energy and resources into its combatives program in the past year, said Col. Peter Utley, commander of 1st Armor Training Brigade, which organized the three-day tournament.

In fact, a Level 3 combatives course will be taught for the first time at Fort Knox. Two trainers from the combatives school at Fort Benning, Ga., will be in town for a month to teach the course beginning Monday.

"It's a very important skill that the soldiers need," Utley said. "The bottom line is the majority of my soldiers have been to Iraq or Afghanistan. You never know in combat when you'll have man-on-man combat. It's the essence of being a soldier."

Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Duncan, the noncommissioned officer in charge of combatives at Fort Knox, agreed.

"It's changing people's perception of what [combatives] is," Duncan said. "The chain of command in general will accept a soldier getting a torn ACL from playing basketball but they freak out when soldiers get a broken nose from combatives. Which one are you going to take into combat? Are you going to take a basketball? I don't think so."

The tournament began Friday when the soldiers weighed in and were divided into five weight classes. On Saturday, the 120 preliminary fights, which took place on wrestling mats, took more than six hours as the field of competitors was whittled down to the final 20 fighters.

Capt. Colin Johnson, of 3rd Battalion, 16th Cavalry, won his final to be the tournament's lightweight champion.

"In this day and age of warfare, I encourage all my soldiers to be as well rounded as possible," Johnson said about why he chose to compete in the tournament. "Not only is [combatives] helpful if you're involved in hand-to-hand combat, but it instills confidence."

Soldiers who performed well this weekend will be considered when Duncan and his trainers build a team to represent Fort Knox at the all-Army combatives tournament Oct. 12-14 at Fort Benning.

Duncan, who started preparing for the tournament in January, said he was pleased with the way the event turned out.

"Everybody loved it," he said. "The fans were into it, even the fighters. That was really cool. This was for the post. It's an opportunity for the guys to train and compete."

Watch:">Video of the tournament

The top fighters

Flyweight (150 pounds and less):

First place: Sgt. David Adams, 2nd Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment

Second place: Staff Sgt. Jacob Hanna, 2nd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment

Third place: Staff Sgt. Jonathon Whitmire, 2nd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment

Lightweight (151 to170 pounds):

First place: Capt. Colin Johnson, 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment

Second place: Capt. Matthew Larrison, 84th Army Reserve Readiness Training Center

Third place: 1st Lt. Bernard Gardner, 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment

Middleweight (171 to 190 pounds):

First place: Sgt. 1st Class Guy Sing, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment

Second place: Staff Sgt. Jacob South, 2nd Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment

Third place: Capt. Rikk Walters, 4th Cavalry Brigade

Light heavyweight (191 to 210 pounds):

First place: Staff Sgt. Chris Nichols, 100th Division

Second place: Sgt. 1st Class James Boston, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment

Third place: Capt. Matthew Ziobro, 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment

Heavyweight (211 pounds and more):

First place: Spc. Todd Raymond, 100th Division

Second place: Sgt. Doug Winn, 2nd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment

Third place: Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Wells, 1st Squadron, 16 Cavalry Regiment

Team standings:

First place: 2nd Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment

Second place: 2nd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment

Third place: 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment

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