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Army Wins 2006 Armed Forces Wrestling Championship

By Jamie Cameron
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., March 30, 2006 – Army wrestlers overcame the Marine Corps' home field advantage to win both the Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines in the 2006 Armed Forces Wrestling Championship here March 23 and 24.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Cpl. Steven Forrest, Camp Lejeune, N.C., attacks Navy Lt. Grant Whitmer, Mobile Security Squad 3, in the freestyle 74-kilogram class competition. Forrest was a silver medalist in the freestyle competition. Whitmer won the gold medal in the 74-kilogram Greco-Roman discipline. Photo by Jamie Cameron
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

All-Army wrestlers won 40 of 42 matches and claimed their fifth consecutive Armed Forces Wrestling Championship March 23 and 24 at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Seven weight classes were contested in both Greco-Roman and freestyle competitions in a round-robin, dual-match format. Army won the team title in both disciplines, followed by the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy, respectively.

The Army led team freestyle results with seven medals. The Marines followed with five; Air Force, two, and Navy, none. In Greco-Roman team competition, the Army garnered seven medals; the Marines, five; and the Navy and Air Force, one each.

All-Army coach Staff Sgt. Shon Lewis was pleased but not content with soldiers' performances.

"I'm happy when I see the entire team doing 99.9 percent of the techniques in the positions and doing things right that we worked on in the (wrestling) room," he said. "I was pleased at this time of the year that guys were executing the way they were. I'll be happy when we go to the world championships and come back with four or five medals."

Retired Marine Maj. Ken Berger, who has served as the master of ceremonies at the Armed Forces Wrestling Championship for several years, kept the enthusiastic crowd well-informed of the mat action.

"This is such a competitive thing for these guys," he said. "The work together in unison on the battlefield, but when they get on the mat, they want to beat each other's brains in. It's just like you were when you competed against your best friends - you wanted to beat them more than anything."

Berger wrestled for three years on the All-Marine Corps wrestling team during the early 1970s at 125 pounds.

"It's one of those sports that gets in your blood," he said. "My role is for those fans who walk in and see a Greco-Roman match going on with two guys pushing each other around. They have no idea what's going on, but I can tell them from the perspective of someone who knows what the wrestlers are doing and how they are feeling."

Army Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers of Fort Carson, Colo., won the Greco-Roman 120-kilogram weight class by going undefeated in the March 23 competition - an all too familiar result for the man who some consider as Armed Forces wrestling royalty.

Byers was the 1993 high school state champion in his home state of North Carolina, a five-time national champion and was crowned world champion in his class in 2002. The nearly immovable big man has set his sights on a medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

"I will never say that I have reached my pinnacle," Byers said. "I promised my grandfather that I'd get that gold medal. He passed away last year and so that's my goal. It's not a beautiful Olympic dream - it's an obsession and I won't rest until I get it."

In spite of coming up a little short against the powerful Army team, Maj. Dan Hicks, head coach of the Marine Corps squad, was pleased with the effort he got from his grapplers.

"I couldn't be more pleased with my guys," said Hicks. "We wrestled tough and lost a couple of tight matches. All of my guys wrestled well."

Hicks was obviously happy with the prospect of bringing the Marine team to Camp Lejeune for good next spring, especially when he looked up into the stands at Goettge Memorial Field House and saw the dedicated Marine Corps cheering section in spite of the two-day competition taking place during duty hours.

"We can't wait to move to Camp Lejeune," he said. "We love it down here. This is our house now."

The steady support helped Marine Cpl. Steven Forrest, of Camp Lejeune, achieve a silver medal at the 74-kilogram weight class in the freestyle competition March 24.

"I have a lot of friends here and that keeps the adrenaline level up," said the first-year Marine Corps team member.

"It's a great experience to be here, especially since I just got back from Iraq. Nothing is like the tight-knit feeling you get with your fellow Marines over there, but this is the next best thing."

If a strong feeling of camaraderie between the service branches and the team members from across the nation and the world is the purpose of Armed Forces competition, organizers of the 2006 Wrestling Championship can consider this year's event a success.

Individual results follow:

Freestyle competition:

55 kg: Gold, Army Capt. Eric Albarracin, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Senior Airman Jared Moreland, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

60 kg: Gold, Army Spc. Joshua Habeck, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony Zender, 29 Palms, Calif.

66 kg: Gold, Army Spc. Aaron Holker, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Capt. Ryan Montanez, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

74 kg: Gold, Army Lt. Phillip Simpson, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Cpl. Steven Forrest, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

84 kg: Gold, Army Sgt. Kevin Ahearn, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Cpl. Ryan Cunningham, Quantico, Va.

96 kg: Gold, Marine Sgt. Jacob Clark, Okinawa, Japan; Silver, Army Spc. Anton Talamantes, Fort Lewis, Wash.

120 kg: Gold, Army Spc. Timothy Taylor, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Lance Cpl. David Arendt, Marine Barracks 8th & I, Washington, D.C.

Greco-Roman competition:

55 kg: Gold, Army Pfc. Jermaine Hodge, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Senior Airman Jared Moreland, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

60 kg: Gold, Army Staff Sgt. James Johnson, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Sgt. Jeremy McLean, Quantico, Va.

66 kg: Gold, Army Sgt. Glenn Garrison, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Staff Sgt. James Shillow, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

74 kg: Gold, Navy Lt. Grant Whitmer, Mobile Security Squad 3; Silver, Army Pfc. Brandon McNab, Fort Carson, Colo.

84 kg: Gold, Army Spc. Aaron Sieracki, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy Pederson, Quantico, Va.

96 kg: Gold, Army Capt. Phillip Johnston, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Sgt. Jacob Clark, Okinawa, Japan.

120 kg: Gold, Army Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers, Fort Carson, Colo.; Silver, Marine Capt. Frank Workman, Quantico, Va.

(Jamie Cameron is assistant managing editor for The Globe, weekly base newspaper for Camp Lejeune, N.C. Tim Hipps, who works in the Army's Community and Family Support Center, Alexandria, Va., contributed to this story.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Aaron Holker (top) works a winning combination against Air Force Capt. Ryan Montanez during their 66-kilogram freestyle match in the 2006 Armed Forces Wrestling Championships at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Holker won the match to take the gold medal. Photo by Jamie Cameron  
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