MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Combat Center’s Fight Club 29 participated in California’s highest level amateur Pankration tournament at Santa Ana High School in Orange County, Calif., Saturday.
Six Fight Club 29 members and one 155-pound stand-in teammate from Los Angeles competed in the USA National Pankration Team Championships against nine other amateur teams from across the state.
Before the tournament began the fighters replenished the weight and energy they lost during the week by sipping drinks, eating fruit and mentally preparing themselves to throw down with their opponents.
Edward M. Gonzalez, a 165-pound Fight Club 29 fighter, expressed his confidence by making jokes and small talk before show time.
“I feel very, very, very confident,” said Gonzalez, a Detroit native. “I’m going to hurt somebody today.”
Gonzalez, who has 14 years of fighting experience in freestyle wrestling and Muy Thai, followed through with his word when he dominated opponents from each team Fight Club 29 bouted.
Fight Club 29 competed against Team Vicious out of San Diego, varsity sports Team Apex from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Team Vo out of Fountain Valley, Calif., Team Cleber out of Huntington Beach, Calif., and City Boys from the Sacramento College wrestling team in Sacramento, Calif.
Klaus K. Springer, heavyweight fighter, Fight Club 29, said it took him the beginning of the second round before he was in a warrior’s mindset.
“During the first match, I wasn’t concentrating as much as I should have,” said Springer, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, who won the silver medal in the last Pankration tournament in March. “But in the second match I was more focused. I came out aggressive, and I ended up winning.”
Since a full team billet called for nine weight classes and Fight Club 29 filled only six of those, three other stand-in fighters were called from an MMA pool to fill in the gaps, said Mark M. Geletko, Fight Club 29 coach.
Only one of the three stand-in players, Tony Penluaus, arrived, thus disqualifying the team to compete in the final rounds of the tournament and subtracting team points at the beginning of each match.
Gonzalez, along with teammates Omar Askew and Tyler Mouge, each held at least four wins over opposing teams, with two other teammates bringing winning scores to the table.
Defeating three teams and losing to two others, Vo and Apex, brought the team to fourth place overall.
Geletko said although the team’s time on the mat was cut short due to the lack of teammates, he is proud of how well each individual member fought.
“We did really well, and I’m very pleased with their performances,” said Geletko. “Especially considering that we had the most inexperienced fighters out there. Three quarters of our team were beginners.”
Geletko added although most of his fighters are novices, he is very optimistic for the future of the team due to its potential and team members’ work ethic. He said he believes they will make it to the finals in the next Pankration tournament.
“On our day off, I saw three of my guys hitting the gym and working out,” said Geletko. “They said ‘coach, we got a day off yesterday.’ Their work ethic is boundless.”
The team, which is still looking for experienced fighters interested in joining, is slated to compete in a grappling tournament in Escondido, Calif., Aug 9.
To learn more about the team, call Geletko at (760) 830-6330.