GULF BREEZE, Fla. (WKRG) — NAS Pensacola terrorist attack survivor, Ryan Blackwell is hosting the annual Ryan Blackwell invitational wrestling tournament Saturday, Dec. 10 at the University of West Florida.
Just days after the anniversary of the attack, the 4th annual invitational will host over 200 youth wrestlers, almost 20 high school teams and a women’s wrestling tournament.
Blackwell said the wrestling community has always been supportive of him, and hopes tournaments like these will help grow the sport of wrestling in the panhandle.
“The ultimate goal has been to build wrestling here, and just be apart of something, collaborate on that,” said Blackwell. “Going through what I went through on Dec. 6 at NAS Pensacola kind of put things in perspective and gave a sense of wanting to give back, so this is how we’re giving back.”
Blackwell was shot six times during the attack, while shielding a fellow sailor. During the 27 minutes of the attack, he was able to find an escape, transportation and first aid in order to survive.
“It was an experience I’ll never forget, but as much as it was my worse day it lead me to my best days,” said Blackwell.
The navy veteran and former volunteer Gulf Breeze High School wrestling coach has opened up his own wrestling gym, ‘Well Trained’, and uses his experience to empower the youth.
“Overcoming adversity, and finding a positive out of a negative,” said Blackwell. “That’s what we kind of strive to hone in on here, collaborating with other nonprofit groups or wrestling organizations in the panhandle.”
Members of the community are invited to Saturday’s tournament at UWF, with youth matches starting at 8 a.m. and high school wrestling starting at 11 a.m..