Army Wins Sixth Consecutive Armed Forces Wrestling Crown
April 5, 2007
By Tim Hipps
FORT CARSON, Colo. (Army News Service, April 5, 2007) - Capt. Eric Albarracin won all six of his Greco-Roman and freestyle matches to lead the All-Army wrestling team to its sixth consecutive Armed Forces Wrestling Championship March 23-24.
Albarracin opened each session of the two-day tournament with victories in the 121-pound weight class that sparked the Army squad to triumphs over the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
"I wanted to be the sparkplug, but the whole team stepped up," said Albarracin, an Individual Readiness Training instructor who won gold medals in both disciplines. "The team got me ready, and I wanted to do it for the team and the Army. Wrestling is wrestling, and you've just got to be a warrior."
Four wrestlers in the Army World Class Athlete Program also won gold medals in Greco-Roman competition: Staff Sgt. Marcel Cooper, the reigning U.S. National champion at 145.5 pounds; Staff Sgt Keith Sieracki, the 2006 U.S. National silver medalist at 163 pounds; Capt. Phillip Johnston at 211.5 pounds; and Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers, a six-time national champion and 2002 world champ at 264.5 pounds.
Five other WCAP Soldiers struck gold in freestyle: Sgt. Josh Habeck at 132 pounds; Sgt. Glenn Garrison at 145.5; 2nd Lt. Phillip Simpson at 163; Sgt. Brad Ahearn at 211.5; and Spc. Timothy Taylor at 264.5. All of the Army WCAP wrestlers are stationed at Fort Carson.
The gold medalists in this tournament qualified to represent the U.S. Armed Forces in the 4th CISM Military World Games, scheduled for Oct.14 through 21 in Hyderabad, India. If any of the champions can't make the trip, silver or bronze medalists will fill their roster spots. All-Navy coach Rob Hermann will lead the U.S. contingent. Marine Corps Maj. Dan Hicks will serve as assistant coach.
Armed Forces gold medalists Marine Corps Sgt. Jeremy McLean of Okinawa, Japan, at 132 pounds; and Marine Corps Sgt. Jacob Clark of Cherry Point, N.C., at 185 pounds, completed the Greco-Roman roster for the Military World Games.
Clark also won the 185-pound freestyle division. Rather than wrestle both disciplines in the World Military Games, Clark deferred his freestyle spot to Army Pfc. Willie Parks. Albarracin, the other Armed Forces double-winner, will wrestle freestyle in the CISM Games, allowing Capt. Anthony Brooker of F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., to compete in the 121-pound freestyle division.
The Marine Corps finished second in the Armed Forces team standings in both wrestling styles, followed by Air Force and Navy, respectively. But the weekend belonged to the host All-Army team.
"The Armed Forces Championships is probably one of the toughest little tournaments in the nation just because we're rivals," Albarracin said. "Whether he's 0-10 or 10-0, the guy you're going against is coming after you. It's just like the Army-Navy football game."
Albarracin posted two victories in as many days over rival Brooker, and later deferred a World Military Games roster spot to the Air Force captain, who will be Albarracin's teammate in October.
Two-time Armed Forces champion Army 2nd Lt. Philip Simpson pinned Senior Airman Peter Hicks in 54 seconds and pinned Marine Corps Capt. Juan Ramos in 22 seconds in the 163-pound freestyle division. Simpson won his other match by technical fall against Navy Lt. Peter Butville, 6-0, 8-2.
"My game plan was pretty much the same in every match," said Simpson, 24, a three-time NCAA Division I All-American at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. "I wanted to go out there and start the attack and look to go ahead and control the tempo.
"This tournament is very different from what we do throughout the year. It's a lot like college and high school, where you have dual team matches. It brings us back to that team atmosphere and it's so much fun because we build and feed off each other's energy. And when somebody loses, it feels like the whole team lost.
"It's an amazing tournament with a lot of pride on the line," Simpson concluded.
(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)