CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Grappling is Cpl. Sean Cooley’s passion. As team captain of the Headquarters and Support Battalion grappling team here, he trains with his teammates at the Las Flores gym every week, perfecting their positions, transitions and submissions. Their goal is to take first place in the upcoming Commanding General’s Cup grappling tournament at the Paige Fieldhouse, Oct. 29.
“It is high speed from the get go. Every session, we start with high-intensity drills and practice fundamentals. We train hip escapes, shoulder rolling, and transitions from position to position,” said Cooley. “We then practice the techniques and do live sparring. After that we do even more drills on the techniques.”
According to Cooley, a postal clerk by day, grappling is not merely physical; it is also mental, with many similarities to chess.
“Grappling is all about trapping your opponent and thinking two and three moves ahead of him,” said Cooley. “You cannot just jump on the guy and try to beat him senseless. Strength, speed and brute force can only get you so far. I try to teach my Marines to fight smarter.”
Cooley has some experience under his belt. He has wrestled since his freshman year of high school and has gone 43 - 8 during his junior and senior years. However, his team is diverse and each Marine has a different level of experience when it comes to grappling. For some, the CG’s Cup tournament will be their first time competing.
“I started training when I first joined the Marine Corps and practiced the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program in boot camp,” said Pfc. Ryan Harp, who is also a postal clerk with H&S Bn. “I was hooked. I love learning new techniques and competing against my fellow Marines. This tournament will be the first time I get to do that in a big setting.”
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program trains new recruits in the fundamentals of striking and grappling, and is intended to prepare Marines with a way to defend themselves during melee confrontations in a combat environment.
However, the CG’s Cup grappling tournament is an entirely different ball game.
“The tournament is based on the United World Wrestling rules,” said Jon Frank, event coordinator for the tournament. “Contestants gain points for scoring takedowns, obtaining dominant positions and can win matches by submitting their opponents.”
Cooley said despite some of them being outside their comfort zones, he tries to instill what he believes is the most important thing to keep in mind during a fight.