Former Army sergeant used wrestling toughness to overcome deadly ambush

Updated: October 7, 2016

By Bryan Van Kley, WIN Publisher

You hear it all the time. Wrestling prepares you for life. Here’s a story of a college-wrestler-turned-military-hero you’re not going to forget. His name is Tom Block.

Growing up in Waseca, Minn., a small town in the south central part of the state, Block was a two-time Minnesota state-placer who went on to wrestle down the road at NCAA Div. II Minnesota-State Mankato.


Tom Block

Tom Block

A self-proclaimed “average” college wrestler, Block decided to join the military after his final season of wrestling in the spring of 2009.

That’s where the U.S. Army got their first taste of Block’s extreme “never-quit” attitude that was forged through thousands of hours in wrestling rooms growing up.

Despite being a bit “disrespectful” to his superiors occasionally with wise cracks in the same fashion he had with his college coach Jim Makovsky, they saw his potential and quickly fast tracked him to Ranger training, where he finished near the top of his class.

Now fast forward to three years ago on the fateful early October night in Afghanistan, and the event that has changed his life forever.

Block was leading a group of Rangers being flown into an extremely dangerous situation in the middle of the night, to flush out a suspected terror- ist cell, when his world turned upside down.

Block was getting his comrades fired up as the group of helicopters flew through the Afghan darkness to do what they were trained to do.

Once dropped on the ground near the strategic site, Block and company quickly found two suspects in the courtyard of the target building with their night-vision goggles.

Guns pulled with sights on the two Afghans, a man and a woman, Block called the man to him and grabbed him as guns were still pointed at the woman sitting on the ground behind him. She was wearing a full “burka” head to toe in the middle of the Afghani hot season.

“Even in Afghanistan they don’t do that,” Block said, remembering the “bad feeling” about this woman and the entire scene. That’s when the woman came running at him.

“I’m telling her to stop, and all of sudden, ‘Boom.’ She had blown herself up,” Block said.

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