KILLEEN — The Fort Hood Army combatives team is back home after winning the "All Army Combatives Tournament" at Fort Benning in Georgia. The team now has a four-peat in the tournament, winning for the last four years of the championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2018.
The Fort Hood fighters won first place in six of the seven weight classes called the bantamweight, flyweight, middleweight, cruiserweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. The tournament even added a technical portion this time which included room clearing, extracting a detainee and vehicle extractions too.
Staff Sergeant Adekunle Okusaga was the only Fort Hood competitor who won by a complete knockout. He said it is not about going in with a specific fight plan or list of moves--it is about responding to the situation.
"We try to capitalize on what we can do to put my strengths in front of that to combat that, so I knew the guy was a wrestler, I knew the guy was a wrestler two time champion, so we just knew we wanted to keep it off the ground and we just kind of wanted to find that shot and 4 punches later, 15 seconds later, you know I was the champion," Okusaga said.
The combatives team is also home to the first female combatives champion.
"We were taught combatives on grass because you can do combatives anywhere. And I'm like, oh my God, what is this, I love this," Captain Ariel Espinoza-Levy said.
Espinoza-Levy is a West Point grad and now commander of the Air Assault School on post.
"Stand-up game is a lot of striking, so I have a good sense of range, I've got a lot of power behind my fists," she said.
She and her team are still living off of the adrenaline rush from the victory.
"It felt like I did exactly what I was supposed to do. It felt great. It's All Army, so whenever you're dealing with All Army you're expecting the best to be out there and they were definitely out there," Staff Sergeant David Punch said.
Sergeant Adrien Ghisoiu won his match.
"I did talk to him after the fight. I told him hey just keep your head up. He actually came at me pretty fast and the way he came out, he was gonna fight me and I was glad he was gonna fight me on his feet and I told him hey stick with it," he explained.
Sergeant First Class Patrick Miller brought home more than just a Spartan sword and combat knife--he brought home a shiner too from the finals.
"I fought a lot but my opponent was real tough, knew what he was doing, very good defense to jiu-jitsu," he said.
But the team didn't just bring home victory in the octagon. They dominated a new tactical portion with room clearing, vehicle extraction and extracting a detainee. They hope the latest victory sweep will send a strong message to Fort Hood officials to bring back the Combatives Program, which was halted about a year-and-a-half ago.
"If they would be kind enough to give the Fort Hood soldiers here at Fort Hood a facility to train at so that they can become better soldiers and they can become better at their basic tasks, it would benefit us as fighters, it'll benefit us as soldiers and it'll benefit the Army," Specialist Justin Vargas said.
The combatives skills could be life-saving measures for soldiers, too, beyond the mat.
"There's gonna be a lot of times where we're overseas, whatever the case may be, where we're gonna be out during patrols," Staff Sergeant James Bruner said.