MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
It was another early morning. It was cold. I knew there were going to be nine fighters in the tournament but I didn’t know what to expect.
I went to the meet up spot a little early as usual, just so I wouldn’t miss anything.
The first two people I met were a couple of guys I’ve never seen before. It turned out that one of them was a visiting coach from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and the other was a student from the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School and new to the team.
Finally the van came and one Dahlen Wilson was the driver. You could tell it was Dahlen because the van approached cautiously, well below the speed limit.
Shortly after Dahlen arrived, Arthur “Neno Brown” Powell got there and we were off to coach’s house.
Coach Mark Geletko is a character. He’s a retired sergeant major, former professional Muay Thai fighter and boxer. Coach knows a bit about fighting.
That’s one thing about this fight club, it’s all fun and games until it gets down to fighting. The guys on the team are always talking shop. Everyone has advice for each other to get better.
We got to coach’s house and “Big” Mike Smith was with him. They loaded up and coach sat in the driver seat. I cracked a joke at coach’s expense. I think it was something about his driving or how sitting directly behind him is a danger zone. And coach was going to remember that crack and give me a hard time for it the rest of the trip.
So after three hours of giving directions, in and out of sleeping, we got to the famed Randy Couture’s gym, Extreme Couture for the 2012 USA Pankration World Team Trials and North American Championship.
Now I can get to work.
The guys are serious about the way they fight and the way they prepare to fight. For example, maybe one of the fighters was a few pounds over their weight class, they would work hard to the last minute to drop the pounds and make weight, then have to do a hasty rehydrate to get ready.
The team has a reputation with the event organizers now. Fight Club 29 cleaned up the tournament last year, winning multiple gold medals and having members representing the United States at the world championship in Russia.
This year would be much of the same.
Fight Club 29 had nine competitors in this year’s national tournament.
The team fought well in each of their bouts with only a few hiccups.
All the guys fought in caged rings. It is different from an open-mat environment. The cage can be used to a fighter’s advantage as well as disadvantage.
The guys on the team are hard workers. They trained intensely to qualify just to get to the world trials. This training showed in their matches.
The team showed, in force, just how good they are. Tom Eaton won two gold medals, one in an impromptu entry to the gi competition and one in his schedule no-gi bracket. “Big” Mike fought hard in his heavyweight bracket combined with super-heavyweights to win gold. Dahlen took silver on losing to his teammate Brandon Collins. “Neno” and Nick Kaluza also took silver.
After the tournament, the guys showed a bit more of their human side. They showed how tired they were and how they were proud or how disappointed they were on how they did.
The team looks ahead to their trip to Russia to represent the United States in the world championship. Mark Geletko is scheduled to be head coach of the world team and is pleased to be taking his own guys. The silver medalist may also get their opportunity to fight, currently sitting as back-ups.