By Kevin Posival
Fort Hood Herald
Sgt. Jason Reyes' ribs were sore.
His pride was, too, a little bit.
He'd helped Fort Hood win an unprecedented third-straight U.S. All-Army Combatives tournament championship, but he'd also just lost his heavyweight title fight.
The smallest heavyweight in the field, Reyes, of the 41st Fires Brigade, perservered and outlasted everyone but 6-foot, 280-pound Spc. Nathaniel Freeman.
"Being the lightest heavyweight in the tournament, I did my best all week — I had a lot of good submissions — the weight just ended up being a factor," said the 225-pound Reyes, who finished fourth in the cruiser weight division last year.
Reyes was one of Fort Hood's three combatants to lose championship fights Saturday night at Abrams Physical Fitness Center.
Like Reyes, Staff Sgt. Shane Lees and 2nd Lt. Nick Shafer swallowed defeat long enough to smile in celebration of winning the overall team title, their goal from the beginning.
"I think everybody's individual goal is just perform their best. The first two days, I feel like I performed to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, the third day, the championship round, didn't go so well for me," Shafer said. "That's the hardest thing to deal with, but we came out on top as a team. That kind of offsets a little bit of the sting of losing."
Shafer, 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, lost to Fort Carson, Colo., 1st Lt. Matthew Kyler in the welterweight title fight. Kyler, the 2011 middleweight champion, is the career wins record-holder (146) at the United States Military Academy, where he was a two-time Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association national champion and four-time national qualifier.
"I got worked. I got controlled, I got worked and I didn't show that I had anything to counter his strongest attributes, which is wrestling," Shafer said of Kyler. "I have a lot of work to do and if it's up to me, I'll be back here next year a lot better than I did this year."
Lees, a combatives instructor with the 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, lost to Fort Carson, Colo., Staff Sgt. Glenn Garrison in the lightweight title fight. Garrison was an alternate on the United States' Greco-Roman Olympic wrestling team in 2008.
"That was my first loss in a cage, even in combatives," Lees said. "I know I'm a well-rounded fighter, so I wanted to keep my distance and strike with him. ... But, that's a world-class athlete at wrestling and he got ahold of me and I couldn't defend the takedown.
"I tried to show the fans what this is all about," Lees continued. "We don't quit. In my head, the whole time, no matter how bad I was getting beat up, in my head, I was going to get back to my feet and I was going to win that fight."
No matter how over-matched the three Fort Hood championship fighters were on paper, their opponents had to prove they were better.
Both Shafer and Lees forced their fights to judges' decisions and Reyes had to be TKOed twice before his fight was officially over.
Reyes was pinned to the mat by the 280-pound Freeman late in the first round when the cage official stopped the fight. The head referee later ruled, however, the cage official stopped the fight after the bell had sounded signalling the end of the round. The second chance gave Reyes a second wind.
"I was fine. I was never dazed, he never rocked me. It was like a grace from the Lord," Reyes said of his second chance. "I was going through all of them (my submissions), ... he's just so big. If it was somebody closer to my size, it probably would've been a lot easier to finish a lot of them off."
When his initial attack of the second round failed, Reyes was TKOed for good midway through the round, but Fort Hood's third combatives title was already secured, too, by that point.
"A bunch of individuals came together and this was the one common goal," Reyes said. "We won all our consolations (fights), but in the (championship) finals we could've done better. We ended up taking second-place (individually), which none of us are holding our heads down about because you have the toughest guys in Army here."
U.S. All-Army Combatives Championship Tournament results
At Abrams Physical Fitness Center, Fort Hood
Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Mejil, Fort Sill, Okla., def. Spc. Sean Stebbins, Minnesota National Guard, first-round submission.
Staff Sgt. Francisco Mercado, Fort Bragg, N.C., def. Sgt. 1st Class William Haggerty, Fort Bragg, N.C., injury.
Staff Sgt. Glenn Garrison, Fort Carson, Colo., def. Staff Sgt. Shane Lees, Fort Hood, unanimous judges' decision.
1st Lt. Matthew Kyler, Fort Carson, Colo., def. 2nd Lt. Nick Shafer, Fort Hood, unanimous judges' decision
Cpt. Jon Anderson, Fort Carson, Colo., def. Pfc. Vincent Fairbairn, Fort Stewart, first-round submission.
1st Lt. Daniel Midgett, 5th Special Forces Group def. Staff Sgt. Ashten Richardson, Korea, first-round TKO.
Sgt. 1st Class James Stelly, 5th Special Forces Group, def. Spc. Carlie Williams, Fort Drum, first-round submission.
Spc. Nathaniel Freeman, Fort Stewart, Ga., def. Sgt. Jason Reyes, Fort Hood, second-round TKO.
Spc. Larry Jackson, Fort Hood, def. Sgt. Robert Mitchell, Fort Bragg, N.C., by unanimous judges' decision.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Riley, Fort Hood, def. Pfc. Joshua Young, Fort Stewart, Ga., first-round TKO.
Sgt. Jesse Hertzog, Fort Bragg, N.C., def. Spc. Blaze Schubert, Fort Campbell, Ky., first-round TKO.
Sgt. Philip Platt, Fort Hood, def. Spc. Hobert Hilmotf, 5th Special Forces Group, unanimous judges' decision.
Capt. Jason Norwood, Fort Hood, def. Air Force Tech Sgt. Christopher Davis, Joint Base Lewis McChord, third-round submission by arm-bar.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Miller, Fort Benning, Ga., won due to opponent family emergency, but lost an exhibition match due to first-round TKO.
Sgt. Josey Espinosa, Fort Hood, def. Spc. Julio De la Cruz, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., third-round submission by arm-bar.
Staff Sgt. Lonnie Kincaid, Fort Riley, Kan., def. Sgt. 1st Class William Smith, Fort Carson, Colo., first-round TKO.
1. Fort Hood — 441
2. Fort Stewart, Ga. — 407
3. Fort Carson, Colo. — 365
4. Fifth Special Force Group, Fort Campbell, Ky. — 347
5. Fort Bragg, N.C. — 344
6. Minn. National Guard — 320