By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD — Annoyed by the uncomfortable tubes protruding from her nose, and the irritating blood rate monitor stuck to one of her toes, 4-year-old Madilyn Lees was only concerned with one thing — her father's upcoming bout.
"She's a champ," Staff Sgt. Shane Lees said with a smile.
Sitting beside his daughter's hospital bed Friday morning following a procedure to extend the Pharyngeal flap near her cleft palate, Lees found all the inspiration he needed in Madilyn's eyes.
"She's been to all of my fights — this was the first one she's missed — but when she woke up she knew where I was going," said Lees, a combatives instructor with the 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West.
"She asked me if I was going to fight and I said, 'Yeah.' And that was all I needed to get in the right mind set to go win."
And win he did, in rather convincing fashion, as the 140-pound lightweight from Fort Hood easily dispatched Sgt. Matthew Bray from the Military District of Washington by decision in their championship semifinal match Friday on the second day of the 2012 U.S. All-Army Combatives championship tournament at Abrams Physical Fitness Center.
"As soon as I left the hospital, on the way in I was already going through things in my head, planning the outcome of the fight in my head," said Lees, nicknamed "Lazarus" after he survived a sniper shot to the chest while serving in Amiriyah, Bagdad in 2007.
Madilyn — born with a cleft palate — underwent a second surgery Friday morning to allow her to speak more clearly.
"She's doing good, still napping, real groggy, but it'll be a week where she's on a liquid diet, so the easy part's done," Lees said. "The recovery (is going to be difficult) because she's like me — we love to eat."
Lees, who gave up a wrestling career at Penn State to enlist in the Army following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, advanced to today's championship round, where he'll face Staff Sgt. Glenn Garrison of Fort Carson (Colo.) for the 140-pound title belt.
Lees is one of several Fort Hood soldiers vying for a chance to represent his post as a member of the All-Army team, with three competing in first-place bouts and four trying for third. The only weight class without a Fort Hood representative today will be cruiserweight.
Despite the numbers, two-time defending All-Army team champion Fort Hood will need to rally if it's going to secure a three-peat on its home turf with Fort Stewart (Ga.) nursing a 367-346 point advantage in the standings entering the third and final day of the tournament.
The tournament concludes tonight with championship and third-place fights set to begin at 4 p.m.
Of course, Lees wasn't the only member of Fort Hood's III Corps team to register a "big" win Friday.
Despite being outweighed by more than 80 pounds, heavyweight Sgt. Jason Reyes of the 41st Fires Brigade excitedly leapt into the arms of middleweight teammate Cpt. James Norwood after forcing 300-pounder Staff Sgt. Lonnie Kincaid of Fort Riley (Kan.) to tap out with an armbar from the bottom position.
"A lot of people get intimidated because of (Kincaid's) size but I wasn't going to let that deter me whatsoever," said Reyes, who weighed in at 219 pounds. "I mean, (it was like) David and Goliath."
Showing no fear, Reyes, who placed fourth in the cruiserweight class last year, began the match with a open-palmed slap across Kincaid's face as the two circled for the first minute. But after Kincaid secured a takedown, putting him in the favorable top position, Reyes took advantage of a mistake and locked in the armbar.
"He underestimated the size factor, and it wasn't going to happen (that way)," Reyes said. "He gave me (his) arm and it got taken."
Second Lt. Nick Shafer is the only other Fort Hood competitor still in the running for a title, parlaying his wrestling experience from three years at Michigan State to control Fort Bragg (N.C) Staff Sgt. Jason Kwast, the two-time defending welterweight All-Army champion, in their welterweight semifinal. Shafer will face First Lt. Matthew Kyler of Fort Carson today.
"Being in control of your own body first is the most important thing," Shafer said. "So before you try to do anything to the other guy, you better make sure you maintain a real stable base and your balance is there before taking advantage of any mistakes he might make."
Fort Hood could have a second welterweight winner today if Sgt. Phillip Platt can win his third-place bout after the III Corps soldier won his consolation quarterfinal over Sgt. First Class Jason Klenk, of 5th Special Forces Group, by decision. Platt then advanced through the semifinals thanks to an injury withdraw.
At the lower weights, both Spc. Larry Jackson and Staff Sgt. Aaron Riley each struggled in their opening championship semifinal matches.
Jackson, of the 502nd Human Resources Company, 4th Sustainment Brigade, secured an early takedown in the batamweight semifinal bout but the defending bantamweight runner-up got caught in an armbar before it was stopped due to injury after Jackson heard a loud pop in his right shoulder.
"I could hear it and I could feel it — that pain was horrible," Jackson said. "But I told myself I have to suck it up, wrap it up and keep going for the next round."
Riley, also in the 393rd Infantry Regiment, was forced to tap out in the flyweight semifinal by Sgt. First Class William Haggerty, of Fort Bragg, on a bow-and-arrow choke.
Both, though, rebounded to win their consolation matches and will fight for third along with Norwood, of III Corps' Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, who battled back from a loss in his first match Thursday to ride an early takedown of First Lt. Chris Wright, of Fort Stewart, to victory in their consolation quarterfinal match. Norwood then bested Spc. Kevin Kent, of Military District of Washington.
Sgt. Jose Espinosa, of Fort Hood's DENTAC, won his light heavyweight consolation quarterfinal match by submission after he forced Pfc. Kevin Mellers, of the 5th Special Forces Group, and will face Spc. Julio De la Cruz, of Fort Leonard Wood (Mo.), in the third-place bout.