Prince Ellerbe (red) of the 75th Ranger Regiment wrestles Eric Czaja of the 199th Infantry Brigade Friday during the Maneuver Center of Excellence Combatives Tournament. The fight between the two in the cruiserweight final was long and exhausting for both competitors, but Ellerbe came out with the win. Both Soldiers will be able to represent the MCoE at the U.S. Army Combatives Championships at Fort Hood, Texas, in July.

FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 9, 2012) -- The 198th Infantry Brigade dominated the field Friday at the Maneuver Center of Excellence Combatives Tournament -- earning eight slots to the U.S. Army Combatives Championships in July at Fort Hood, Texas.

The top two finishers in each weight class are invited to represent the MCoE at the Army championships.

From the 198th, Jeremy Gilmore won the flyweight division, Travis Featherstone won the lightweight, Tony Belasco took the light heavyweight and Matthew Rosenkranz won the heavyweight. Robert Mitchell finished runner-up in the flyweight, as did John Degreeff in the lightweight, and Patrick Miller took second in the light heavyweight.

The 198th finished with 437 points for the tournament, followed by the 316th Cavalry Brigade (220), and the 199th Infantry Brigade (136).

Prince Ellerbe of the 75th Ranger Regiment won the cruiserweight title over Eric Czaja of the 199th, and Kyle Echard of the 199th defeated David Murray of the 316th to capture the welterweight title.

But, the highlight of the 198th's day came in the middleweight final as Lt. Col. Townley Hedrick, commander of 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, defeated William Tucker of the 316th.

Hedrick, 42, closed his combatives career as an MCoE champion and retired his wrestling shoes after the match.

Hedrick, who began his Army career at Fort Benning, said the moment was bittersweet.

"My wife and I had been talking about the intensity of the competition and that it was time to stop," Hedrick said. "It's a longstanding Army wrestling tradition that if you retire from competition, you leave your shoes on the mat after your last bout."

Hedrick said he would decline his invitation to compete at Fort Hood. The next Soldier in line to replace him would be Brandon Justice of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, who took third at middleweight.

"I won't participate in All-Army; it's a whole cut above what we did today," Hedrick said. "But I'll tell you, Fort Benning has the makings of a great team this year."

Belasco will be making his third trip to the Army championships, where he earned third and fourth place in his previous two efforts. This year, he said, he has his eye on first.

"Usually, I don't have much time to train, but I've been very dedicated this year," he said.

That dedication showed on Friday as Belasco submitted Miller, who he described as a tough jiujitsu competitor. Miller submitted in under two minutes.

Things appeared to be going the opposite way for Rosenkranz in the day's final match against Marcus Collins of the CONUS Replacement Center.

Collins appeared to be in control throughout, but it only took five seconds for Rosenkranz to earn the win. Before Collins knew it, Rosenkranz locked him up in an arm bar and got the submission.

"I knew what he was going to do if he had my back to the ground," Rosenkranz said. "So I took the match to the ground and baited him in. I studied my opponent and came out with the victory."

The win earned Rosenkranz his first shot at an Army title.

"All-Army has been my goal for about four years -- four years of training, plus deployments and injuries and recovery and being a drill sergeant," he said. "It's a big step."

Page last updated Thu May 10th, 2012 at 06:37