(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
The tournament also had three repeat winners led by Spcs. Miles McDonald and Dalton Tombs, who won the flyweight (111-125 pounds) and welterweight (141-155) titles, respectively, as neither have ever suffered a loss in the event.
"This has been a very humbling experience," said McDonald, who lives in Ozark and is a member of Company D, 1-138th in Anderson. "I'm just glad that I'm healthy enough to be able to come out here and compete. There are so many people that don't get to come out and do anything like this. I'm glad our state is so active in it."
Tombs, who lives in Marble Hill and is a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion of Cape Girardeau, said the key to his success was being prepared for anything from his opponents.
"I was playing everything off my opponent's reaction," said Toombs, whose first championship in 2011 was at middleweight. "However they reacted, I just countered. I just tried to get in a dominant position -- control. And when they started to make mistakes, I tried to finish."
Repeating with the middleweight (156-170) title for the second straight year was Cadet Thomas McGinnis, who lives in Columbia and is a member of Company B, 1-138th of St. Louis. McGinnis finished second in 2011 with his lone tournament loss occurring against Tombs in that year's championship bout.
"The competition level was good," McGinnis said. "The first year it was put on, there were some guys with not much experience. You can definitely tell that this is one of the first times that every single one of these guys had some talent."
Combatives is the Army's name for hand-to-hand combat which incorporates fighting techniques from conventional martial arts and combat sports that Army Soldiers are trained in during basic training.
Rounding out the champions were Sgt. Steven Atkins in lightweight (126-140), Sgt. 1st Class Evenson Turner in cruiserweight (171-185), Sgt. Jason McVey in light heavyweight (186-204) and Sgt. Stephen Kirkbride in heavyweight (205 and over).
Atkins lives in Higginsville and is a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-138th of Kansas City; Turner lives in Florrisant and is a member of 70th Troop Command in St. Louis; McVey lives in St. Louis and is a member of Company B, 1-138th of St. Louis; and Kirkbride lives in Warrensburg and is a member of Company A, 1-138th of Boonville.
Kirkbride did not participate in the tournament the first two years, and decided to participate this year at the last minute.
"Honestly, taking this fight on short notice and being in a higher weight class that I wanted to be, doing the best that I could to come out with this championship was more than I expected," Kirkbride said. "I really did this for morale support for my other infantry brothers."
Despite not much preparation, Kirkbride isn't surprised he was able to win.
"I don't want to sound too cocky, but I'm a good wrestler," he said. "I've competed in mixed martial arts for two years, wrestled for 12 years and made it to nationals twice. I found myself in a dominant position a lot but I didn't have the cardio I should have."
Toombs said he's excited about how combatives has taken off in the Missouri Guard.
"I think it's phenomenal," Toombs said. "For me, it's a lifestyle.
"It's a good way for Soldiers to get in and show what they are learning and just practicing the combatives. So if they are deployed, they can go over and use it in a practical situation."
McDonald and McGinnis said they were proud of the overall infantry performance.
"I'm very biased in military occupational specialty categories -- I think infantry is the best," McDonald said. "It is instilled in us at basic training that we are the ones who go out and get it done. I think we showed that. The 138th has truly represented the Missouri Guard."
McGinnis said the 1-138th success is a reflection on its leadership.
"We place a high priority on things like combatives," McGinnis said. "Hopefully we continue to own the competition."
This is the third consecutive year the Missouri Guard has held the tournament, but the first time in Jefferson City. The event was held at Fort Leonard Wood in 2011 and Saint Charles in 2012.
The top two finishers in each weight are eligible to compete in the national All Guard Combatives Tournament from March 15-17 at Fort Benning, Ga. Those who took third are alternates.
McDonald and Toombs have both placed in the top four nationally the past two years, with McDonald winning in 2012 and Toombs a champion in 2011. As a team, Missouri finished third at the tournament in 2011 and second in 2012.
Most of the champions agreed that the key to being successful at this combatives tournament is training for it months in advance. With not much time spent on combatives during a typical drill weekend, Soldiers like McDonald, Tombs and McGinnis all actively train at local mixed martial arts gyms and sometimes compete in amateur events outside of the Guard.
McDonald said he fell in love with combatives and mixed martial arts after his leadership told him he should volunteer to participate in the first state combatives tournament at Fort Leonard Wood in 2011.
"I won that, took fourth nationally and found my home gym," McDonald said. "They took me under their wing and have been working with me ever since. I'm 7-2 on the civilian side in amateur mixed martial arts bouts. I feel like mixed martial arts is kind of my calling."
Toombs, who said he's going to help open a gym in Cape Girardeau, said Guardsmen who want to do well at the tournament should be as prepared as he is.
"I take my training very seriously," he said. "If you want to win, you need to take it as seriously as I do."
McGinnis said he'd bet they would have the tournament again next year around the same time, so anyone who is interested in competing should start training.
"You definitely want to have some experience before you go out here and compete," McGinnis said. "By the time the competition rolls around, you'll have plenty of experience."
Approximately 50 Soldiers and two Airmen competed in the double-elimination tournament that was open to both male and female competitors.
Missouri National Guard Combatives Tournament
Top three finishers
At Jason Gym, Lincoln University, Jefferson City
Flyweight (125 pounds and under) -- 1. Spc. Miles McDonald, 1-138th Infantry Regiment; 2. Airman 1st Class Jacob King, 139th Air Wing; 3. Spc. Zachary Hubbard, 1-138th.
Lightweight (126-140) -- 1. Sgt. Steven Atkins, 1-138th; 2 Spc. Christian Grebner, 1-129th Field Artillery.
Welterweight (141-155) -- 1. Spc.Dalton Toombs, 1140th Engineer Company; 2. Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Gladbach, 27th Recruiting and Retention Battalion; 3. Spc. Charles Perkins, 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
Middleweight (156-170) -- 1. Cadet Thomas McGinnis, 1-138th; 2. Spc. Blake Pool, 1-138th; 3. Spc. Levi Riley, 1-129th.
Cruiserweight (171-185) -- 1. Sgt. 1st Class Evenson Turner, 70th Troop Command; 2. Staff Sgt. Daniel Schaub, 880th Engineer Haul Team; 3. Sgt. 1st Class Wes Blancet, 1-138th.
Light Heavyweight (186-205) -- 1. Sgt. Jason McVey, 1-138th; 2. Staff Sgt. Derrick Allen, 1-129th; 3. 1st Lt. Dylan Rohr, 1-138th.
Heavyweight (206 and over) -- 1. Sgt. Stephen Kirkbride, 1-138th; 2. Staff Sgt. Cesar Martinez, 1-138th; 3. Sgt. Frank Goben, 1139th Military Police Company.
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For more information about this release, please contact Matthew J. Wilson at 573-638-9500 EXT. 4706 or e-mail him at email@example.com.