By Pfc. Andrew Ingram
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Eric Reid tightened the choke hold on his opponent’s neck. Spc. Jake Harris struggled and tried to break free for a few seconds, but as black spots began to swim in front of his vision, he relaxed slightly and tapped his palm against Reid’s arm three times —a signal he conceded the match. As the referee pulled the combatants apart, the Special Events Center erupted with cheers and applause.
Soldiers from units across the post brought the challenge to the mat, competing to earn a spot on the roster of the Fort Carson Modern Army Combatives team, during an Iron Horse Week MAC tournament, June 6-8.
With the top four fighters from each weight category selected to represent Fort Carson in the All-Army MAC tournament at Fort Hood, Texas, in July, competitors had an incentive to win, said Reid, infantryman assigned to Company A, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work for this over the past four or five months — four or five days at the local gym, every week,” said Reid, who won the 111-125 weight class championship match. “It’s gratifying to see it pay off here.”
Throughout the week of sporting events, Soldiers and their Families took time to relax, engage in friendly competition and celebrate the legacy of the Iron Horse Division. Fort Carson Soldiers participated in more than a dozen tournaments and contests, building camaraderie and esprit de corps while earning bragging rights for their units.
During the first day of competition, combatants grappled and attempted to force their opponents into a submission. The victors fought multiple bouts through the course of the day, pushing their bodies closer and closer to their limit as they advanced in the tournament.
“There are some very dedicated Soldiers out here,” said tournament referee Sgt. Joseph Rewerts, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div. “Most of the decisions have been pretty close, and there have been a lot of back-to-back fights and a lot of determination from these fighters.”
During the semifinals, the competition heated up; authorized to strike the face with open palm and the body with closed fist during the lead up to the championship matches, Soldiers attacked their opponents with a new ferocity.
“I’m pretty good at submissions and the ground game, but I’m not a great stand-up fighter, so this fight was a challenge for me,” said Staff Sgt. Amanda Henderson, finance specialist, Headquarters Support Company, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT, after losing a bout.
Competitors were eliminated after losing two bouts.
“Win or lose, it’s great to get out here and represent my unit in front of the whole post,” said Henderson, who placed third in the overall tournament.
On the last day of competition, the finalists from each of the eight weight classes donned protective gloves and shin guards, and squared off against each other in a caged octagon ring.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win,” said Reid. “We have a lot of experienced fighters going to the competition at Fort Hood. Hopefully, I can learn from them, and we will have a good showing when we get there.”
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Westrich, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Fort Carson MAC Program, said he looks forward to leading the Fort Carson combatives team to the All-Army competition.
“The Soldiers that win here are the best Fort Carson has to offer,” he said. “I think we have a really high quality of fighters out here.”
Westrich said he hoped the tournament motivated more Soldiers to get involved with the MACP.
“All of the matches were really hard fought,” he said. “The average Soldier is getting tougher mentally and physically. That is where we want this program to take us.”