Taking Home Gold (Athlete Journal Entry 14)

Although I wasn’t as prepared as I usually am, last weekend’s tournament turned out to be a huge success.

I just got home this morning at 6:00am, after driving eight hours home from the Boston Open. For the first time in 2014, I can honestly say that I had a successful competition. I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that I won both my matches at super heavyweight and took gold. Then I went 1-1 in the absolute division and took bronze.

Leading up to my first IBJJF tournament competing at purple belt, I didn’t have high expectations because of my lack of training and conditioning due to missing so much time from injury. It was helpful that I got on the mat two days last week to at least move around a little, but overall I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this competition. I did come up with a game plan over the week or so, when I was sitting at home resting. Unfortunately, some of my opponents wouldn’t let me implement it, so some of the time I had to just wing it.

During the first match my opponent pulled guard, which caught me off guard. Guard pulling isn’t something that happens all that often in my weight class, and a lot of super heavyweights who do pull guard just aren’t that good on the bottom. However, my opponent in this match was probably the best bottom player I’ve gone against at this weight class. This was a problem, since he was constantly trying to sweep me and I would have to base out hard, which was extremely painful. I did manage to keep pushing the pace and passed his guard a couple times to win 6-3. This was one of those “I won the battle, but he may have won the war” type deals. Although I was fortunate (and maybe a little lucky) to get the win, my chest was starting to cause me a lot of pain.

I was now in the finals and that’s good, but I was starting to get gassed, and that’s not good. My second opponent was more of a wrestler and had some powerful takedown attempts and pretty stiff takedown defenses. I just kept pushing the pace and going for takedowns, and I finally got one. Once we hit the mat, there was a nice scramble with me being fortunate and winding up on top with him in the turtle position. From there, I faked an ankle pick and then drug him back the opposite direction to start working back position. I got a hold of one of my opponent’s lapels and went for a bow and arrow choke. He pushed into me and almost got out, but I was able to secure the position, finish the choke, and win my first IBJJF gold medal as a purple belt.

Much to my disappointment, when they called the names for the absolute division, I had to compete against the same guy who was beating me up and throwing me around in my weight class. I seriously debated throwing in the towel, but the idiot in me said to just keep going. Our second match was about the same as our first match. This time I got lucky and got an advantage with about twenty seconds left to seal the win, with a score of 2-2 with one advantage.

My next opponent in the absolute division was an absolute nightmare. He submitted me in about twenty seconds with a loop choke. It’s only the second time in about sixty matches that I’ve ever been submitted, and probably the first time ever by a loop choke. There’s not a lot that can be said about this one. He actually submitted all of his opponents in about ninety seconds combined to win the absolute division. It was quite amazing.

I’m thankful for all of my opponents who I was able compete against, all my coaches who got me ready, and for DO OR DIE Team HyperFly for their support. This week I will continue to rest, heal up, maybe do some light drilling and get ready to compete in the New York Open on Saturday.

James Kearns is an active Brazilian jiu jitsu competitor and also trains and competes in Olympic weightlifting.Follow his journals here every week.