Fort Campbell's Stelly shines at combatives competition
July 28, 2011
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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., July 28, 2011 -- A group of 101st Airborne Division and 5th Special Forces Group Soldiers traveled to Fort Hood, Texas, July 20-23 to face the best of the best in the 2011 U.S. Army Combatives Championship.
Although III Corps enjoyed the hometown advantage and grabbed 1st place overall with 462 points, several Fort Campbell Soldiers performed well throughout the weekend.
Fort Campbell brought two teams to the All-Army competition, one for the 101st Airborne and one for 5th Special Forces Group. However, the 5th Special Forces Group team consisted of the installation’s top Soldiers, resulting in a mix of units outside of Special Forces.
Sgt. 1st Class James Stelly, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, clinched the title in the light heavyweight class at 205 pounds. While victory is sweet, it came at the expense of another Fort Campbell competitor, 5th Special Forces Group’s Sgt. 1st Class Chris Kyle, his fellow teammate in the light heavyweight class.
The championship bout at Abrams Fitness Center became one of the highlights, but also one of the most intense parts, of the event for one the team’s coaches.
“We had two guys fighting for first and second,” said Coach Sgt. 1st Class Brian Marvin, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. “I think it was one of the best fights of the tournament.”
The Soldiers trained as a team for a short amount of time due to deployments. Marvin looks forward to bringing the team back to next year’s competition.
“I thought they did really good, especially for the time we had to train,” explained Marvin. “We’ve only been training for six weeks or so.”
More than 600 Soldiers came out to participate in eight separate weight classes.
“There was the highest number that they’ve ever had,” Marvin said. “I thought the team did great. I’m sure that if they continue to train, they’ll do even better.”
Stelly ultimately fought five rounds to receive the top prize in his weight class, an impressive championship belt.
“I figured that Chris was going to make it to the finals, and chances were I’d be going against him,” Stelly said, who has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “So I was prepared for that.”
The pair agreed they did not want to take it easy on each other just because they were teammates. Ultimately, the fight was fair and exhibited sportsmanship.
“We just went out there hard against each other,” Stelly explained. “As long as we’re both OK at the end [and] neither one of us is injured, that’s all you can ask for.
“At the end of the day, he’s my friend and I would go through a door with him any day,” Stelly said.
Stelly had to surpass about 60 other Soldiers in his weight class to take home the title. This year marks his third appearance at the All-Army competition in his 11-year career. He became interested in combatives almost immediately after joining the Army.
“I’ve been training in combatives for about 11 years,” he said. “It’s basically a tool for us to be better Soldiers. Obviously, we’re training for war. We’re training for the battlefield. It’s just another crucible we’re putting ourselves through to make us better warfighters, better Soldiers. I think it’s one of the best things in the Army, short of jumping out of airplanes.”
Staff Sgt. Leonard Lane, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, placed 3rd in the cruiserweight division. Weighing in at 185 pounds, Lane said he enjoyed participating. He competed against the No. 1 Soldier in his weight class from Fort Hood in his defeat.
“I figured he was the favorite to win,” Lane said. “I didn’t get a chance to watch him throughout the competition. He was a big, physical kind of guy.”
Combatives requires Soldiers to transition from standing positions to ground fighting, using mixed martial arts techniques and other skills. Lane credits both his coaches and conditioning for his finish.
“I kept the pressure on,” Lane said.
Combatives is a sport designed for those in the military that is reminiscent of boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts. While the Soldiers travel as teams, it is very individualized. Lane thanked his wife for putting up with his intense training and dieting for the competition since his return from deployment in March.
“We went down there as a team, but you’re only as good as you push yourself,” Lane explained. “It’s a very diverse sport.”
Combatives are used as training in every Army unit, by incorporating forms of hand-to-hand combat. Shelly looks forward to the combatives scheduled during Fort Campbell’s Week of the Eagles in August.
“My brigade is pushing for us to get ready for it,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be competing in the Week of the Eagles tournament. We’re so competitive here on Fort Campbell between the brigades, there’s a lot of competition. Everyone wants to be the best fighting brigade.”