FORT IRWIN, Calif., May 16, 2011 -- Soldiers from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment took first place in six out of seven weight divisions at the Warrior Challenge Combatives Tournament at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 9-10, 2011.

Eighty-three Soldiers from the National Training Center, or NTC, entered the tournament for a chance to represent the post at the U.S. Army Combatives Tournament championship at Fort Hood, Texas, in July.

Championship organizers said that the winning team at the Fort Hood championship would be afforded the honor of hosting the following year's tournament.

Blackhorse Troopers were primed and ready for this year's competition with competitors' skill sets greatly improved from the previous year. One of the competitors, Capt. Kyle Yanowski, commander of K Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th ACR, said the increased level of competition stems from the popularity of the combatives program and improved training.

"(The competition) was great. You can tell that combatives is really starting to take root at Fort Irwin," said Yanowski. "The caliber of what the competitors know is evident when we train them. It's cool to see."

Yanowski studied under renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Helio "Soneca" Moreira in Clarksville, Tn., and has been training in mixed-martial arts for a number of years now. He admitted that he was not in prime shape coming into the competition and entered at the last minute.

"I was not prepared," he said. "A lot of guys in the troop are into combatives so I was (pushed) to enter."

Although unprepared, Yanowksi's MMA background proved effective as he walked away as the cruiserweight division champion.

Another champion from the event was equally surprised at his success following the tournament.

"I did not think I was going to do as well as I did," said Pfc. Ryan Mann, D Co., 1st Squadron, 11th ACR. "I feel really great about it."

Mann, a certified Level 2 Modern Army Combatives practitioner, has been doing martial arts for almost a decade. In that span, Mann has studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, and Judo. While having a deep martial arts background helped him win his division, he admitted it was still challenging.

One of the challenges he faced was adjusting to the Modern Army Combatives rules and the significant increase in skill-level from the previous year's tournament.

"It was actually really tough. This year was a lot harder," said Mann. "I went in there (the finals) kind of light-headed."

With the Fort Irwin tournament complete, the fighters can set their eyes on the Army championship in July. They have just a little over two months to fine-tune their skills and conditioning. The stakes are significantly higher this year as the winning team will get to host the following year's championship event.

Mann said he is looking forward to the tournament to represent the 11th ACR and bring home the championship. Yanowski, however, said he will be using this time before the championship to improve himself and his skills.

"I have got to get into shape," he said. "I have a long road ahead of me."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16