FORT HOOD, Texas (July 24, 2011) -- The III Corps combatives team defended its 2010 title here, landing as the top team of the 2011 U.S. Army Combatives Championship by nearly 100 points while playing host to the tournament finale July 23, 2011.

With five fighters heading into the final day of competition, the most of any team, the III Corps team produced champions at two weight classes -- bantamweight and flyweight.

First Lt. David Mason, the bantamweight champion, remained undefeated in combatives competition, defending his 2010 title at that weight class. Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Thorton, the III Corps noncommissioned officer-in-charge of combatives, dethroned the 2010 champion from Fort Bragg, N.C., Sgt. Francisco Mercado, to win the flyweight title.

Among those from the home crowd to congratulate the III Corps team on its consecutive team title was Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general.

“I know how hard they’ve been working,” Campbell said. “They’ve really put a lot of effort into it, and they showed the Warrior Ethos, the values and the creed; they really lived it. They practiced hard. They trained hard. They won it as a team. I’m exceptionally proud of the III Corps combatives team.

“Last year, we won it at (Fort) Benning,” Campbell added. “This year, we won it on our turf, and next year, we’ll get an opportunity to defend (the title) again. We don’t know where, but we’ll do it.”

Thorton agreed that hard work pays off, and that with the support of the chain of command, anything is possible. In his flyweight championship bout, Thorton landed a heavy right hand to the head of Mercado, resulting in the fight stopping after only 20 seconds.

After the fight, Thorton told the crowd, “I’m 36 years old, and I’m still putting it down.”

“Last year, I knew Thorton was the best 125-pounder in the Army, and I wanted him to never doubt himself,” said III Corps Combatives Director Kristopher Perkins of why he talked him into fighting another year. “Not only that, Thorton is a sergeant first class, he’s 36 years old. I wanted him to show those other guys who say, ‘I’m too old,’ or ‘It’s a young man’s sport,’ that no, you just have to put your heart into it.”

Heading forward, Thorton said he plans to step away from Army combatives, but said he’ll always have a connection with this III Corps team.

At the 110-pound weight class, Mason earned his second bantamweight title by defeating teammate Spc. Larry Jackson in a unanimous decision.

“Lieutenant Mason is a great asset to the team,” Perkins said. “Not only is he a great fighter, he is a great officer in the Army. He provides that level head and the leadership. He’s become a great friend of mine.”

Also defending his 2010 title, heavyweight fighter Spc. Aaron Jackson from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., defeated the Minnesota National Guard’s Braden Simont in the last fight of the 2011 tournament.

The bloodiest bout of the night came in the lightweight championship bout between two newcomers to combatives in 1st Infantry Division’s Pvt. Joseph Sandstrom from Fort Riley, Kan., and 3rd Infantry Division’s Pfc. Hanlin Liu from Fort Stewart, Ga.

Sandstrom, the clear aggressor in the fight, repeatedly landed heavy punches throughout the three five-minute rounds.

“His hands were down, and I was beating him to the punch right off the bat,” Sandstrom said. “My coaches were telling me to stick with the jab and to keep (the fight) standing up, so I kept utilizing the jab and trying to the throw the one-twos.”

Despite copious amounts of Liu’s blood being spilled on the mat, the 3rd Inf. Div. Soldier refused to quit, throwing punches until the final bell.

“I’m feeling relieved because I feel I did my best,” Liu said after the fight. “There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to keep pushing 100 percent no matter what round it was. No matter how tired I am, I’m going to push, push, push.”

“He was just tough as nails,” Sandstrom added. “He would not go down.”

In the final team standings, III Corps finished with 462 points, ahead of Fort Riley, who finished second with 385 points and the 3rd Inf. Div., who finished third with 328 points.

Perkins said the win was thanks to a total team effort.

“On the very first day, my guys were going for the submission,” he said noting that the team’s first 22 bouts were ended by submission. “The reason they were going for those points was because they were competing as a team. Even though they could have stalled out, won the match, and moved themselves forward, they knew the team needed those extra points, and they kept putting them on for all three days.”

U.S. Army Combatives Championship
Final Bouts July 23 at Fort Hood, Texas
(Winners noted with an “X”)

110 Title bout: (X)1st Lt. David Mason, III Corps (Fort Hood, Texas) unanimous decision over Spc. Larry Jackson, III Corps.

110 Third place: (X) Staff Sgt. Elmer Argulles, Fort Carson, Colo. unanimous decision over Pfc. Fred Conde, Fort Sill, Okla.

125 Title bout: Sgt. Francisco Mercado, Fort Bragg, N.C. knocked out by (X) Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Thorton, III Corps.

125 Third place: Spc. Juan Martinez, Fort Riley, Kan. loses unanimous decision to (X) Sgt. Moody Nelson, Military District of Washington.

140 Title bout: Pfc. Hanlin Liu, 3rd Inf. Div. (Fort Stewart, Ga.) loses unanimous decision to (X) Pvt. Joseph Sandstrom, 1st Inf. Div. (Fort Riley).

140 Third place: 2nd Lt. Gelinas, Nathan, Maneuver Center of Excellence, or MCOE, (Fort Benning, Ga.) loses split decision to (X) Staff Sgt. Westrich, Benjamin, Fort Carson.

155 Title bout: Sgt. Adam Minett, Minnesota National Guard, loses unanimous decision to (X) Sgt. Jess Hertzog, Fort Bragg.

155 Third place: (X) Staff Sgt. Shane Lees, III Corps wins by submission over 2nd Lt. Matt Volnoski, Fort Riley.

170 Title bout: (X) 2nd Lt. Matthew Kyler, MCOE won by unanimous decision over Sgt. Daniel Cook, U.S. Army Alaska.

170 Third place: (X) Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Davis, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM, Wash. won by submission over Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hernandez, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

185 Title bout: Spc. Brian Wilson, 3rd Inf. Div. lost by technical knockout to (X) Capt. Brandon Bear, Fort Riley.

185 Third place: Sgt. Jason Reyes, III Corps lost by unanimous decision to (X) Staff Sgt. Leonard Lane, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg.

205 Title bout: (X) Sgt. 1st Class James Stelley, 5th Special Forces Group won a unanimous decision over Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Kyle, Special Forces Group.

205 Third place: (X) Pfc. Carlie Williams, Fort Drum, N.Y. won by submission over Staff Sgt. Patrick Miller, MCOE.

206+ Title bout: (X) Spc. Aaron Jackson, JBLM won by technical knockout over Staff Sgt. Braden Simont, Minn. NG.

206+ Third place: (X) Staff Sgt. Lonnie Kincaid, Fort Riley won by technical knockout over Pfc. Jeremy Myers, 3rd Inf. Div.