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‘Rock Force’ repeats at post combatives tournament

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Fort Benning’s postwide combatives championship had a new moniker. The result didn’t change.

The 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, claimed the team title at the inaugural MCoE Modern Army Combatives Tournament, its second straight post crown. The “Rock Force” Soldiers rolled up more than 765 points to outdistance the 199th and 192nd Infantry brigades, who rounded out the top three.

“It’s awesome,” SFC Jose Ballejo of “Rock Force” said about the repeat. “It was great to see all of us come together and make our goal: leaving with the trophy.”

The single-day showdown, held July 23 at Smith Fitness Center, started with 137 fighters in eight weight classifications. Early bouts were fought under standard rules, while the top four Soldiers in each weight class squared off in 10-minute matches using intermediate techniques.

PVT Nick Combs of 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, missed his one station unit training graduation ceremony Friday morning at the National Infantry Museum parade field to compete in the tournament.

“When this opportunity came along, I was fast to hop on it,” he said. “It’s pretty cool they let privates in.”

After getting beat in the opener, Combs won his final six matches to claim third in the cruiserweight division. He’s going to Airborne School next before joining the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., but said he hopes to make the U.S. Army Combatives Tournament at Fort Benning this fall.

“I love fighting,” said Combs, who has a background in wrestling, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. “(Combatives is) competition between you and the other Soldier. You got no help — it’s one on one. It’s an adrenaline rush. I get so pumped up right before a fight.”

CPT Tanner Garrett, a Maneuver Captains Career Course student, won the heavyweight championship by going the distance against 2LT Ivan Iochkolovsky of the 199th Infantry Brigade. A collegiate grappler at the Naval Academy before making the move to the Army, Garrett finished 5-0 in the tournament.

“I haven’t competed at this level in a long time,” he said. “It feels good to step out and do well … (The competition was) pretty tough. Everybody had something different to offer.”

Garrett got his first taste of combatives three years ago while attending the Basic Officer Leader Course II at Fort Benning, he said.

“The Modern Army Combatives Program is great for combat, but also teaches Soldiers about life: flexibility, working hard and rolling with the punches,” he said.

A cruiserweight, Ballejo’s only two losses Friday came against teammates. He said getting time to train together and having Soldiers motivated about combatives is key to Rock Force’s success in post tournaments.

“You’ve got to be willing to go in there at close distance and win the fight,” Ballejo said. “We got a lot of guys who are not afraid to compete.”