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Welterweight Fight Club 29 team member James Clark pins his opponent from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendlton, Calif., team during the California State Pankration Championships in Santa Ana, Calif., Sunday.

Photo by Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

Fight Club 29 earns second in state

5 Apr 2009 | Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

Four members of the Combat Center’s Mixed Martial Arts club added their team’s name to the list of notable California MMA competitors in a statewide tournament in Santa Ana, Calif., Sunday.

Nate Wolf, Allen McBroom, Omar Askew and James Clark, members of Fight Club 29, fought their way through their respective weight classes and claimed second place overall at the California State Pankration Championships, which is an MMA tournament open to competitors of all levels.

Three of the fighters earned medals at the event, even though their team was the smallest in the tournament.

Clark, a welterweight fighter, claimed the gold, making him the top MMA 160-pound fighter in the entire state. Askew followed with a silver, and Wolf took bronze.

“We work really hard for these competitions,” Clark said on behalf of his team. “For us, five minutes in the ring is nothing. We just sprint for those five minutes and they can’t keep up.”

The last time Clark, a native of Spokane, Wash., was awarded an all-state gold medal was when he claimed both Greco-Roman and Free-style wrestling gold medals in high school, he said.

It was his extensive wrestling background and conditioning that gave him the cutting edge above his challengers, Clark explained.

“We have a very competitive room,” Clark said of his teammates and training. “We each have our strengths and weaknesses, but we really push each other.”

Mark M. Geletko, the team’s head coach, agreed.

“I’m not the only coach on this team,” said the Pittsburgh native. “They coach and support each other. They’re a true team.”

Askew, who was fighting after recently overcoming an ankle injury, took down each of his opponents, but then lost his final match due to an accidental disqualifying strike. Regardless of his close loss, Askew said he still learns from each fight.

“I fought 100 percent today,” said the Atlanta native. “So it’s disappointing that it ended in a DQ [disqualification], but I did enjoy not knowing who my competitor was going to be since it was an open tournament. You went in blindfolded and had to fight your way out.”

Wolf, the team’s heavyweight fighter, said the tournament held more significance to him since it would be his last with the team.

Wolf said he plans on continuing his MMA training after he returns home to Jefferson, Wis., and is very grateful for the skills he attained from his current teammates.

“I’m really excited I had the opportunity to fight with the team,” Wolf said. “Everyone welcomed me from the beginning.”

Although Wolf claimed the bronze medal for his weight class, he said he was disappointed he couldn’t earn the team more points in his first two matches.

However, Wolf had a chance to bring the team more points during his final bout with opponent Billy Cotton in an overtime match.

At the end of the five-minute match, Wolf held a commanding two point lead on Cotton. Attendees of the event pressed their way forward to the stadium railings to watch two of the biggest fighters in the arena duke it out. Wolf won by submission when Cotton tapped to a rear choke.

As the timer chimed its tune and the referee threw the towel onto the mat, the two exhausted men helped each other up and congratulated one another before Wolf’s hand was raised. 

“It’s going to be hard leaving this,” Wolf said after the match. “The competition is top-notch out here. I’ve learned a plethora of new things that can help me along the way.”

Geletko said he felt very proud of his fighters earning the silver medal, especially considering the size of their competition.

The next major event the fighters expect to compete in is the Armed Forces Pankration Championships at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 16.

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