FORT BLISS, Texas –
18. That is how many consecutive times U.S. Army has defeated the U.S. Marine Corps in the Armed Forces Championships.
Every year wrestlers from the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps come together to battle it out, and for the past 18 years, Army has gone home victorious.
Although the Marine Corps brought as strong of a squad as any from the past several years, Army proved its dominance once again. A dominance they take great pride in.
“We take it seriously every year,” U.S. Army SSG Max Nowry said. “We think about it the whole month leading up to this. It’s not something we look over. We’re not thinking about Nationals, we’re thinking about Armed Forces. It’s a battle and we know it. Every year it’s a battle with the Marines.”
“The thing we focus on is carrying out the legacy,” U.S. Army MAJ Jon Anderson said. “So many great wrestlers and soldiers that went before us helped establish the program, sacrificed and made it happen. We’re just doing our part. None of us are super extraordinary. We just do our mission and work hard every day. We have the will to win and the will to prepare to win.”
Winning seven out of the 10 matches in the Greco-Roman final against the Marine Corps, the Army use each other as a source of energy and motivation when competing and training. They are a close-knit group of athletes. One theme always comes up when the U.S. Army talks about their teammates and fellow soldiers – brotherhood.
“We’re brothers,” said U.S. Army SGT Lucas Sheridan. “We have each other’s back when it comes to anything. We have each other’s back in life, so us having to pick each other up after a match is nothing compared to when we’ve had to pick each other up in this life. It’s a really great blessing to be a part of such a great team. Coach Lewis, Coach Robinson and Sgt. Mango take care of us far beyond the wrestling mat. These people take care of us in our life goals and everything along those lines.”
U.S. Army SPC Isaac Dukes, who won a freestyle gold medal this year, agreed.
“I love these guys. I love them to death,” said Dukes. “It’s family. We sweat and bleed every day in practice. It’s a brotherhood. We bond on and off the mat. It’s a great relationship we have. It’s everything you could ask for in a Greco room.”
U.S. Army Assistant Coach Bruce Robinson credits this brotherhood between the Army teammates as a reason why the Army has been able to be as dominate at the Armed Forces Championships as they have.
“When people see us come into the gym, they say, ‘the Army’s a team, they’re always sitting together, they’re always behind each other,’” Robinson said. “I even heard some people say they’re a little intimidated by our guys because of the bravo they have. That’s how we are. Tuma got hurt and couldn’t finish the match (in the freestyle final) strong, so we had to pick him up. That’s our brother and we’re not going to leave him fallen. We had to step up for him and that’s what we did.”
Although the Armed Forces Championships are always heated and teams want to represent their branch of the military well, all athletes recognize there is also a proud brotherhood among all U.S. members of the Armed Forces.
“It’s just a camaraderie between all the forces,” Robinson said. “Everybody here puts on a uniform every single day and defends our country. So, at the end of the day, we’re all brothers trying to battle and beat each other up, but tonight we have a banquet and we’re going to have some fun. We’re all brothers in arms, so it just makes it fun to get together one time a year, all these guys in the Armed Forces, and have fun.”
U.S. Army Head Coach Shon Lewis emphasized this as well.
“It’s the smallest tournament, but the most rivalry and tradition in the United States,” Lewis said. “I’m glad and proud of the guys. I’m proud of everybody in all the branches. I’m proud of all the services. They came out and competed well.”