/22/2013 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The United States All-Army wrestling team dominated the 2013 Armed Forces Wrestling Championship March 16-17, 2013, here.
Wrestlers competed in the Greco-Roman style on the first day of the tournament and freestyle on day two in weight classes ranging from 55-120 kg.
Spectators surrounded two side-by-side mats on which two branches of service each faced off in simultaneous matches. The setup allowed representatives from the four teams: All-Army, All-Navy, All-Air Force and All-Marine Corps to compete on the floor at all times.
Day one pitted Army against Air Force on mat 1 while the Marines faced the Navy on neighboring mat 2 in the first of two rounds which would culminate in the championship line up for Round 3. Each round comprises a match with each weight class. The winner in each class is determined by the best-of-three, two-minute periods.
Navy's Darnell Jones' strong first-period lead, 5-0, was soon overshadowed in the 121 kg. class when Marine lead-off wrestler, Ian Moser, subsequently stormed the mat taking Periods 2 and 3, giving him the win.
The Army, boasting three Olympic wrestlers and prior Olympic wrestling coach, finished Round 1 with an authoritative team score of 26-1 over the youngest and least-experienced team in the tournament, the Air Force. The Marines, nearly mirroring the margin, finished Round 1 at 23-6 over Navy who carries the least amount of team members.
"The United States Army has the best Soldiers in the world and that's because our Soldiers can do more than one thing and be good at it," said Shon Lewis, Army Head Coach.
Navy held onto a finishing team score of 6 in Round 2 as they faced Army on mat 1, who took the round with a final team score of 24. Air Force rallied to score points, earning 7 in Round 2 against the Marines who tallied 22 for a team score. The scores earned both the Marines and Army a strong starting point in the fight for the gold in the championship round as Navy and Air Force battled for the bronze.
"We're both 2-0 in the dual-meet competition so far, so we'll go head-to-head and see what happens. We're battling for first, we don't battle for second," Lewis said.
Marine Head Coach Dan Hicks said his team was meeting and exceeding his expectations despite losing some team members to duty requirements and injuries.
"I think we did well; we were down a little bit in numbers. We had three gold medalists last year at this tournament and one of our guys has a severe injury; I don't think anyone really knows that," Hicks said. "Two of our lieutenants who won freestyle last year are deployed now, so that adds to the challenge a little bit. We do have some younger competitors and this is the first competition for three of our starting Marines. I had confidence in them, but also kept in mind that this competition is tough."
Army's Oscar Wood was injured in the 84 kg. weight class against Air Force Terrell Walker, though Wood managed to hold onto the win in a close match up. Wood, Army assistant coach, stepped up to compete in that weight class due to a vacancy.
"I told him two weeks ago, 'hey, you're in,'" Lewis said. "Because of his Army pride, team spirit and intestinal fortitude, he said, 'put me in.' Unfortunately, he dislocated his rib today but he'll be alright."
The assistant coach would be required to forfeit the freestyle class the following day.
"He'll be back tomorrow as a spectator and we'll take the forfeit because there are no substitutes in this type of dual-meet match, but we'll be okay," Lewis explained. "I talked to the guys and said, 'We just gotta put a little extra in the ruck ... not much, but a little."
The Greco-Roman 120 kg. championship paired the two top wrestlers, Marine Charles Fish against Army Pete Gounaridis, a 2012 Olympic alternate.
Period 3 brought a tie breaker finish as Fish, 2010 University Champ, fought off a body attack, countering with a surprise pin bringing the crowd to their feet and earning a much-needed 5-point boost in the team scoring. The boost narrowed the Marine's score deficit to 4 and brought them within reach of the gold with Army up, 14-10.
The Greco- roman gladiators finished day one as Army took first place with a team score of 14 over Marines, 13. Air Force took a strong third place scoring 18 over Navy's 6.
Day two introduced the freestyle competition as wrestlers met once again with a clean slate at Griffith Field House on Dix. Freestyle wrestling allows wrestling from the waist down unlike Greco-Roman which requires competitors to keep all movement above the waste.
Army faced Air Force while Marines met Navy on the mats in Round 1. Both Army and Marines once again nearly mirrored one another's team scores as Army vs. Air Force finished 22-8 and Marines validated their extensive training program with a score of 23-7.
The Army and Marines continued to capitalize on a more-interactive training regimen as most team members are stationed at the same location. Navy and Air Force continued to make the most of their disparate teams, a five-week training camp and permissive temporary duty trips from across the globe in the fight once again for third place.
Marines acceded one point less than Army in Round-2 results as they beat Air Force, 25-4, while Army took Navy with a final team score of 26-6. The first two rounds effectively paired what promised to be a seemingly-even-matched Army vs. Marines in a dual for the gold in the Round 3 championship.
"It's going to be a tough afternoon; it always is with these teams. They have a strong program but we're going to fight down to the last second and see what happens," Hicks said.
In the championship battle for gold, Marine heavyweight, David Arendt, doubled up with dual victories over the two-day event, building on his 2008 Armed Forces Greco Roman gold. Arendt sealed his freestyle victory over Army's Erik Nye with a blast double, freight training Nye off the mat and onto his back for 3 points and a 2-period win for the 120 kg. title.
"As an athlete, I am never happy with where I am at ... even after my two wins this weekend, I want to work on getting better," Arendt said. "I am always striving to improve and be better than the last competition."
Not everyone walked away bearing medals from the tournament, but that's the nature of competition and it drives the fight to win.
"The competition is at such a high level you have to understand you're not going to win every match - but you have to learn from that and move on," Arendt explained. "You can't let it get you down. Some guys have a tough time recovering from a loss, but you can't let it get in your head and you have to correct mistakes."
The 27-year-old Port Washington, Wisc., native and 2003 Wisconsin High School State Champion is no stranger to winning titles. He said he hopes to continue wrestling with the All-Marine team and is setting his sights on the 2016 Olympics.
The full day of freestyle wrestling culminated in Army over Marines, 25-6, and Air Force in third with a final team score of 20-11 over Navy.
Col. John Wood, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst commander, stressed the importance of the competitors' athletic and mental prowess and the value it adds to their daily responsibilities as service members.
"We watch competitions such as this and then we think about what we do as an expeditionary military," Wood said. "Consider a place just like Afghanistan and think of the fitness requirements for all service members there, then look at the athletes we saw here this weekend. They're exceptional ... They are capable of competing for and winning Olympic gold medals. They represent the services and they're fitness is incredible. We need that in the armed forces."
The teams will meet again for the U.S. Open Wrestling National Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 17-20 followed by the U.S. World Team Trials in Budapest in June.