FORT HOOD, Texas " “Vibrations; vibrations going through your whole body.”

That’s how Spc. Christopher Rosado, a fighter from 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division representing Fort Campbell, Ky. described being punched in the face.

Rosado, along with more than 100 other fighters, endured that feeling multiple times while training for the 2011 U.S. Army Combatives Championships at Fort Hood, Texas, July 22.

Unlike his competitors, however, Rosado had only three weeks to ready himself for the contest.

“I just wanted to be the best,” Rosado, originally from Kenosha, Wis., said. “I made the team and I figured why not come out and represent my base. It’s what I gotta do. I’ve wrestled before, so I figured I would give it a shot.”

Rosado used his wrestling background to secure a spot fighting for Fort Campbell, home of the Army’s only Air Assault Division, with little Army combatives training.

“I wrestled in high school and college and it just seemed like a natural next step,” he said. “This is a lot more intense. Wrestling is controlled and really sportsmanship oriented. There’s sportsmanship here, but once you start striking, all bets are off. It’s a lot different.”

According to his coach, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Marvin, the Jiu-Jitsu coach for the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Rosado’s lack of training wasn’t his only disadvantage.

“Not only did he only have three weeks of training leading up to this tournament, but he was outweighed by most of the people he was competing against,” Marvin said.

But Rosado was working with something that couldn’t be weighed on a scale.

“If you give him direction, he follows it to a tee. Give him a game plan to stick to, and he works his game plan. He’s very mentally tough and very mentally focused,” Marvin said. “He’s one of the most mentally tough kids I’ve met.”

Corporal Eric Reyes, Rosado’s training partner from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Abn. Div., boiled Rosado down to one word.

“Relentless would be the best way to describe him,” Reyes said. “Basically, he never quits.”

Despite weighing in at 212 pounds, only six pounds over the minimum for the heavyweight class, Rosado advanced to the semifinals.

“I think he just wanted to prove himself,” Reyes said.

Though he made it to the semifinals, one win away from the championship bout, Rosado was knocked out of the tournament with back-to-back losses in the closing hours of the second day.

“It’s disappointing. I made it to the semis and figured one more win and I’d be done for the day,” he said. “But that didn’t happen.”

Rosado is resolved to make sure this is not the last time he feels those stinging vibrations.
“Right now, I’m just focused on recovery,” he said. “Slow down and maybe listen to my music for a little bit and get back on to the mat.”

While Roasado’s title hopes have ended, for this year, other fighters will continue competing in an event that gets tougher each year, according to a former flyweight champ.

The competition as a whole seems like it keeps getting better every year,” said Sgt. Francisco Mercado Jr., a 2010 U.S. Army Combatives Champion from Fort Bragg, N.C., and a combatives instructor for the 82nd Airborne Division. “A lot of guys are so legit here. If you do well here, you can go anywhere else and be phenomenal.”

Mercado survived the preliminary and semifinal rounds despite being a target for other fighters.
“I saw a lot of faces that I remembered from last year,” he said. “Anyone coming as a champion from the past, there’s always a small target. If I had lost today … (the) first thing they’re going to say (is) ‘Dude, you beat the champion.’”

Mercado said he put in extra training in order to defend his flyweight title July 23 against Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Thorton of the defending champion III Corps squad from Fort Hood.

“This year, I had a lot more training time so my cardio conditioning, Jiu-Jitsu, striking, everything is a lot better than it was a year ago,” Mercado said. “Also, I found out that they have a belt. I want it.”

Sixteen fights will decide who takes home third place in consolation matches July 23. Sixteen others will determine this year’s Army champions. Heading into the final night of fighting, defending champion III Corps sits in first place, followed by Fort Riley, Kan., and the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga.

The III Corps squad has three fighters in the finals. The 3rd Inf. Div., 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C., Minnesota National Guard and the Fort Bragg installation team each have two fighters battling for all-Army honors July 23.