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Gunfighter grapples his way to the top

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Left, Dean Maraj, RAF Croughton, United Kingdom, and Thamir Rimbert, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron here, practice their wrestling moves in preparation for the Armed Forces Championship at the fitness center here March 5. Beginning Feb. 13, almost two dozen potential candidates for the All Air Force Wrestling Team began tryouts for the 2008 wrestling season. After more than 120 candidates sent applications to Richard Estrella, the Air Force wrestling coach for 21 years, he chose the 13 most-talented athletes to join the team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Stephany Miller)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Left, Thamir Rimbert, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron, and Dean Maraj, RAF Croughton, United Kingdom, practice their wrestling moves in preparation for the Armed Forces Championship at the fitness center here March 5. Rimbert was one of four Mountain Home AFB Airmen who participated in All Air Force Wrestling Team tryouts in hopes of being selected for the 2008 team, but Rimbert was the only one selected to join the 13-athlete group. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Stephany Miller)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- With sweat rolling off his brow, Thamir Rimbert looks for an opening to use against his opponent. Seeing one, he moves in quickly, bringing his foe to the mat.

Rimbert, 366th Component Maintenance Squadron, found out he earned one of the 13 slots on the 2008 All Air Force wrestling team March 1, after a month of intense practice culminating in a "wrestle-off" to determine who would represent the Air Force this year.

"I was very excited to find out I made the team," said Rimbert. "It was something I was hoping for since I made the initial try-outs."

During the month-long camp, athletes trained from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. They began their day with a two-mile run followed by weightlifting, wrestling training, drills and other workouts. Some wrestlers, like Rimbert, had to step outside their comfort zones.

"Some of the training was tough," said Rimbert. "In the 18 years I've been wrestling, I've never wrestled Greco-Roman style before, only Freestyle. Greco-Roman style is all upper body strength, you can't attack your opponent's legs, time periods are shorter and there's more emphasis on a burst of strength to overpower your opponent instead of wrestling for a longer period. It really tests your endurance."

More than 120 Airmen responded to the chance to join the team, and only 23 were selected to travel here for the All Air Force wrestling camp. Out of the 23 hopeful candidates, only 13 wrestlers made the final cut.

"I'm very excited that Mountain Home AFB will have a representative on the All Air Force team," said Coach Richard Estrella. "Not only did he work hard to make the team, but he made a tremendous transition to the Greco-Roman style from Freestyle. Rimbert has the kind of talent that we can build upon to make it greater and take to higher levels."

Following training, the 13-athlete team will travel to Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans to participate in the Armed Forces Championship and then to Las Vegas to participate in the National Championship April 22-27. The team will then travel to compete in the Conseil International du Sport Militaire Championship in Croatia later this year with the Olympics set as the ultimate goal.

"I wrestled at the high school level and then at the college level," said Rimbert. "I wanted to see if I had the ability to wrestle at a higher level."

Though they didn't make the final cut, two Airmen from the 366th CMS, Steve Laird and Joseph Frick, will continue to train with the wrestlers but will not be going to the Armed Forces Championship.

"I want to thank Mountain Home AFB and the 366th CMS for allowing them to be here," said Coach Estrella. "Without their support we wouldn't be unable to accomplish what we have."


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