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    Marine's son overcomes odds in, out of the ring

    Marine's Son Overcomes Odds In, Out of the Ring

    Photo By Sgt. Justis Beauregard | Geoffrey Villarreal, son of Master Gunnery Sgt. Juan F. Villarreal, the assistant...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Justis Beauregard 

    Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. - Training in mixed martial arts is very popular, but only a select few have the mental and physical fortitude to step in the ring for a full contact fight, let alone single handed.

    Geoffrey Villarreal, son of Master Gunnery Sgt. Juan F. Villarreal, the assistant aircraft maintenance chief for Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101, was born 22 years ago in North Carolina, with one hand.

    Although doctors don't know why, he believes it is likely because his hand pierced the amniotic sac inside the womb.

    Now, Geogfrey is working to transition from competing in pankration and submission grappling to amateur MMA, with the dream of some day being the first one-handed professional MMA fighter.

    "The only thing that worries me is getting knocked out" said Geoffrey. "I have before in kick boxing but I have learned how to protect myself, and what to avoid."

    At first glance you may not expect Geoffrey to be the skilled fighter that he is. Unlike some fighters you could pick out of a crowd, Geoffrey looks like most Californian college students with a button up shirt and blue jeans.

    When the California Athletic Commission approved full contact amateur MMA fights last month and Geoffrey signed up with Grapplers Experience.

    Geoffrey's last fight was in the 145-pound adult beginner pankration category at the Grappling X, Gi and No-Gi tournament in San Diego, Aug. 22. He took 1st place with ease, winning both of his rounds with an arm bar.

    Although he would like to do nothing but train, Geoffrey heeded his parent's advice to receive a college education. He currently attends Mesa Community College, majoring in international security and conflict resolution.

    With a deep seeded feeling of patriotism passed down from his father, Geoffrey plans to use his degree to pursue a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Central Intelligence Agency.

    "My father was deployed when 9/11 happened and it was scary to know his deployment had changed to send him to the Middle East," said Geoffrey. "That is part of the reason I would like to work in counter terrorism."

    Ignoring the challenge of only having one hand Geoffrey started wrestling in elementary school.

    "Geoffrey competing is scary because of his condition," said Juan. "But he always comes out on top."

    Doctors told him in high school not to participate in contact sports after they discoved he suffered from a rare liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Sholangitis, which can cause liver failure.

    "Once one of my friends noticed that my skin was turning yellow so I had to go to the hospital," said Geoffrey. "They had to remove a gallbladder infection which took me six weeks to recover from."

    Geoffrey continued to wrestle despite periodic surgery for his rare disease.

    "Every once in a while I have to get surgery but a week later I'm back on top," said Geoffrey. "In high school I was one of the strongest wrestlers on my team as far as my record and how I would train and win."

    After his senior year at Yuma Catholic High School in Yuma, Ariz. Geoffrey started training in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu at Yuma Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, run by Fabio Santos.

    "I didn't get into MMA because it was trendy," said Geoffrey. "I saw MMA as something I could put effort into and apply what I had learned in wrestling."

    Geoffrey easily transitioned to a studio in San Diego, also owned by Santos, a year later when his father received orders to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

    In addition to Santos' BJJ academy, Geoffrey also trains with the MCAS Miramar Submission Grappling Club.

    "It's great he is willing to overcome and still train and compete," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Diem, a USA Jiu-Jitsu certified instructor, with the grappling club. "He doesn't allow his hand to be a limitation."

    Geoffrey continues to fight the odds in the cage and out, progressing from wrestling in elementary school to pankration tournaments with plans for full contact MMA fights.

    "I'm not out to prove to everyone else that I can do anything-I'm proving to myself that I can do anything," said Geoffrey.



    Date Taken: 12.22.2009
    Date Posted: 12.22.2009 12:01
    Story ID: 43052

    Web Views: 964
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