(Photo by Matthew Wilson, Missouri National Guard)
"It felt really good to win again," said Toombs, who enjoyed the chance to fight in front of many Missouri Guard leaders in attendance. "Everyone is expecting you to win, and it feels good to know I didn't let them or myself down."
Combatives is the Army's name for hand-to-hand combat which incorporates fighting techniques from conventional martial arts and combat sports the Army Soldiers are trained in during basic training.
This year's competitors were tougher and stronger, but he liked the challenge.
"I think everyone is getting better each year," said Toombs. "It takes more than just going through the combatives courses, you have to train up for it weeks in advance and be committed to it."
Toombs interest in martial arts began when he was young and would watch wrestling with his dad. When he was 16-years-old he began watching Ultimate Fighting Championship matches and was impressed by the fighters' talents.
"I thought 'whoa, that's really cool you can stop a fight without even throwing a punch'," said Toombs.
While most of his classmates and friends were playing football, basketball and other traditional high school sports, Toombs would drive to Cape Girardeau, a two-hour round trip, twice a week to take jiu jitsu lessons.
In 2006, he began participating in local and state fighting events and competitions, taking him throughout east Missouri, west Tennessee and west Kentucky.
In 2009, he joined the 1140th Engineer Battalion in Cape Girardeau and his acquired skills came in handy to be a better Soldier and prove his worth in the annual combatives tournaments.
The ability to fight has positively changed and affected his life, said Toombs.
"For me combatives is not only about defending myself, which a big part of it, but it's helped me gain a lot of friends, expanded my horizons and given me a sense of responsibility in other areas in my life, like with school and homework," said Toombs, who is a senior at Southeast Missouri State University.
His experience and dependability has led him to help a friend open a gym in Cape Girardeau where he gives jiu jitsu lessons.
Leaders in the Missouri Guard have also recognized his talents and have invited Toombs on several occasions to teach during his unit and the Recruit Sustainment Program's drill weekends.
Toombs' knowledge and experience prepares new recruits for basic training, said Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuire, coordinator for Company E, Recruit Sustainment Program in Cape Girardeau.
"His skills are outstanding and our new recruits get to learn a key component of being a warrior from one of the state's best," said McGuire. "They get to see that a local, young Soldier can have the expertise to affect his own and others' military careers and work one-on-one with him."
Saving lives, particularly the lives of his fellow Guardsmen is important to him.
"You never know when you'll need to defend yourself," said Toombs. "Any time I can save lives I want to share my experience and help Soldiers."
He hopes to alleviate any self-doubt they may have of their abilities.
"I want Soldiers to feel comfortable with combatives and do it confidently without a second thought if they needed to defend themselves downrange," said Toombs.
For now, Toombs is focused on refining his skills.
Along with the Guard national competition he also has the Missouri State Jiu Jitsu Championship in March.
He has a lot to do over the next couple of months with a training regiment of three to four hours of daily practice, he said.
But he knows it will all be worth it.
At last year's national tournament Toombs took third place in his weight class and he is looking forward to improving at this year's event.
"I definitely want to take first but all I can do is just train the best that I can and do everything right and to the best of my ability," said Toombs. "I want to have a clear mind and be prepared when I get there."
Even if he can't take first he hopes to fight the Soldier who beat him last year.
"It would be nice to kind of get him back and know that I've improved," he said.
Other winners in their respective weight class and their units include:
Flyweight: Spc. Miles McDonald, of Ozark, 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment.
Lightweight: Sgt. Stephen Atkins, of Higginsville, 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment.
Middleweight: Cadet Thomas C. McGinnis, of Columbia, Mo., 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment.
Cruiserweight: Sgt. 1st Class Evenson Turner, of Florissant, 70th Troop Command
Light Heavyweight: Sgt. Jason M. McVey, of south St. Louis County, 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment.
Heavyweight: Sgt. Stephen C. Kirkbride, of Warrensburg, 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment.
For pictures of the entire combatives tournament visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missourigua...
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