Combatives tournament at Fort Drum tests Soldiers' strength, stamina
April 14, 2011
FORT DRUM N.Y. --- Fifty-five Soldiers shed their blood, sweat and tears at Fort Drum's first combatives tournament at Monti Fitness Center.
The competitors, representing six weight classes from 140 pounds to more than 205 pounds, endured a double-elimination round on the first day of the tournament April 7. The remaining Soldiers progressed to the semi-final and the final rounds April 8.
"The Modern Army Combatives Program is a large part of Army training, and (it) is constantly growing," said 1st Sgt. Steven Plimpton, Light Fighter School commandant, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (LI), and event organizer.
Combatives is a warrior task that is taught in many Army training programs such as basic training, advanced individual training, and officer and noncommissioned officer schools, Plimpton said.
Rounds lasted six minutes. Competitors were awarded points for gaining dominance over their opponents. The match was over when one of the fighters "tapped out," or if the Soldiers lasted the entire six minutes, the competitor with the most points won the round.
Benzell Vereen, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, is no rookie to combatives tournaments. The Loris, S.C., native placed second in the heavyweight division at the 2008 All-Army Combatives Tournament at Fort Benning, Ga. Vereen competed in the heavy weight class for those 206 pounds and above.
While Vereen didn't progress to the final round this time, he said the competition showed him where he needs to be and what he needs to do to get back to the level he was at in 2008.
"It takes a lot of personal time to find guys who like to go out do combatives and roll with them," he said. "Whenever (I'm preparing) for an event like this, (I have) more of a mindset of I'm going out to fight that fight, I'm not going out to fight that individual."
Vereen said looks at competing as a personal challenge.
"Once the fight starts, it's just me and that guy on the mat," he said. "One of the biggest thrills for me, when you win you get that self pride. But win, lose or draw, at the end of the day, I had the personal courage to come out and fight one on one against another man and that says a lot about someone's personal character in my personal opinion. When you're in your unit, you have your fire team and your squad behind you, but when it's just one on one, there's no one to help you but you."
Ian Ensley, A Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, said he doesn't have a lot of experience in combatives, but he has been involved in Gracie jiu jitsu, which is a blend of Brazilian and Japanese jiu jitsu, for more than two years. The Athens, Ga., native said he decided to compete in the tournament to serve as a role model to his Soldiers. Ensley competed in the cruiser weight class for those 185 pounds and under.
"(I tell them) to get out and toughen yourself up and prepare for the deployment and do what we need to do," he said. "I love the physical aspect of (fighting). It's the last true test of a person - when you can meet someone face to face and fight them."
The combatives tournament wasn't just for the men. Anais Moise from 110th Transportation Company, 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, held her own against her male counterparts in the light weight class for those 140 pounds and under.
"Not a lot of females like to take part in stuff like (combatives), but I always like getting down and dirty," she said.
Although she was eliminated on the first day of the tournament, Moise said being the only female in the competition gave her a sense of self-confidence.
"(Being the only woman) turned heads," she said. "It (shows) other females that we can do this too."
Plimpton said he considered the event to be a success, and he said he hopes to help organize combatives tournaments here in the future.
"The sportsmanlike conduct that was displayed during the 102 individual bouts was incredible," he said. "This combatives tournament was a true example of the warrior spirit conducted in absolute professional manner. The tournament was outstanding. We had support from Families, Soldiers, unit leadership and civilians, all supporting the competitors and the event itself."