Tournament Season Begins (Athlete Journal Entry 25)

My first tournament of the year didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped. But I still enjoyed it and am happy that competition season is in full swing!

The Goodfight didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I was confident leading up to the tournament, but it didn’t turn out in my favor. It didn’t ruin my day, though. I had a lot of fun running around coaching the rest of the team. I also got to meet a lot of new people and see old faces as well.

We got to the tournament right on time to weigh in on Saturday. After weighing in, I had about an hour until my division was scheduled to start. I took about ten minutes to talk to some people and then I changed into my gi. The tournament was at a college, so I found a clear hallway away from all the people to get warmed up. I put my music on, pushed the rest of the world out, and did the warm up my trainer set up for me. I felt great. I was warm and loose, and I didn’t feel a shred of nervousness. I honestly thought I was going to tear it up. I felt that good.

Eventually my division was called and we all gathered at our mat. I was arranged to fight the girl who none of us knew. I was okay with that, because I didn’t want to fight one of my friends for my first match. We were called out onto the mat, where the ref went over some of the rules with us. We then shook hands, and the match began.

I played low and slid in to play guard. I attempted 50/50 guard but it was more like 25/75 guard, in her advantage. After a few minutes of that I gained closed guard. While she was trying to pass, she put her hand back to open my guard, so I shoved it through and started to set up a triangle.

“I’m winning!” I thought. I had the triangle set up, but I wasn’t at the right angle to finish it. While continuing to squeeze my legs, I kept turning my hips, little by little. By the time I had the perfect angle to finish the choke, my legs were so tired from trying to keep the position. I couldn’t squeeze anymore and she ended up passing my triangle. I felt so awful. I had the submission. I shouldn’t have lost it. I could have squeezed more, or swept her to a mounted triangle, but no. I gave up because my legs were tired. After that it was all downhill. I was exhausted, and she got me in an arm bar.

She was respectful, and we shook hands and hugged afterward. I still felt like poopy. I lost in front of our students. I know they don’t care that I lost, but I still wish I could have showed them I’m a good competitor. There will be other opportunities, though. I’m only a blue belt, and I have lots of time to improve and become a world champ!

I quickly got over my loss, got changed, and set out to talk to some new and old faces. It’s nice seeing people you know at tournaments. They always genuinely care about how you did in your division. They understand how challenging it is to get out there and fight another human being.

I also had the opportunity to coach a lot of our students that day. Coaching is my favorite. I always scream way too loud, though, and it leaves me with a sore throat. Everyone on the team did great, and I’m proud of them. But I’m especially proud of my teammate Tyler and my boyfriend, Frank. Tyler took gold in gi and no-gi, which is really impressive. I hope he starts doing IBJJF tournaments with us because I think he’ll do well in them. Frank took gold in gi and silver in no-gi. He looked so cool, calm, and collected out there. I think he’s going to tear up the tournament scene this year. I’m so happy for him.

So I lost my match this past weekend, but it didn’t put me down too much. I got right back to training on Monday. I have to get ready for the IBJJF Boston Open in two weeks! I’m so happy that tournament season is starting up again. It gives me something to work towards and look forward to.

So, that was my week. You got to hear exciting stuff this week instead of the usual boring “I hate school” rant. Have a great week!

Jess Papi is a blue belt at Scranton MMA and also pursuing her degree in exercise science. Read her entries every week for insights on competing, training, and juggling BJJ and life.