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Darnell Mason, Fight Club 29, finishes off one of his last opponents during a bout Feb. 14 at Poly Technical High School in Long Beach, Calif. Nearly every fighter with the club received a medal for their performance in the tournament.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Choking out the competition

18 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Fight Club 29, the Combat Center’s mixed martial arts team, showed no love for their fellow grapplers on Valentine’s Day during a Grapplers Xperience tournament held at Poly Technical High School in Long Beach, Calif.

The majority of the fighters medaled in their weight classes. They gained valuable experience preparing for the tournament and during the fights themselves, said Mark M. Geletko, the head coach of the team, and a native of Pittsburgh.

“We trained for a month since our last fight,” Geletko said during the competition. “We had six brand new fighters fight today and five have medals in their weight classes.”

Geletko said he observed the fighters grow as a team and the more experienced members of the club become mentors.

“Training and fighting today in the tournament has been a total team effort,” he said. “The experienced guys have been taking on a kind of player–coach role through passing their knowledge from experience to the novices.”

One of Geletko’s more junior fighters, Arron Stephens, a heavyweight who weighed in at 225 pounds, said he thought highly of his beginner performance.

“I think I did pretty good,” the Reno, Nev., native said. “Considering I was up against a 275-pound guy, I think I handled him pretty good.

“Beating him wasn’t easy, but we trained a lot, and I think winning this time around is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Stephens said he will continue to sharpen his skills as a fighter for upcoming events.

“We’ve got a fight coming up in the middle of March,” he said. “I’ll use what I learned here and we’ll keep training and see how it goes next time around.”

Darnell Mason, a fighter with the club, and an Oakland native, said the experience he has gained in the small world in which the club operates, helps them become a more cohesive unit.

“We always train and fight together as a club,” Mason said. “It makes us better, more well-rounded grapplers.

“Coaching the younger guys especially has helped us eliminate a lot of small mistakes we made when we were getting started,” he said. “The club in our part of the country operates on a small circuit, so if we’ve grappled a guy before, we can give them tips on what they like to do or what their weaknesses are.”

Mason said the sport is not solely an individual event, as most perceive it to be.

“Grappling is really more of a team sport,” he said. “People don’t always see it that way, but the preparation and help we give each other really plays into what we’re doing.”

Fight Club 29 finished with four gold medals, three silver and three bronze, for the fighters in their individual weight classes. The team finished second overall and earned the silver medal. Tyler Moug won gold in the overall, all-weight classes competition, and the gold in his own weight.

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