The Keene State Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club took home hardware in a tournament that brought them over state lines.
The five martial artists traveled to Vermont for the Spring Vermont Open Grappling Championship and took home a total of nine medals, five gold and four silver.
The competitors fought in gi and no-gi matches, and, for most of them, this was their first tournament. Still, senior and Club Trainer Arian Deihim said that the group performed better than it had in any other Vermont open they went to over the years.
“As a team we really did the best we’ve ever done,” Deihim said.
Among them was senior Will Holden, who had only been training in BJJ for two months. With the help of his coach and fellow club members, Holden was able to take home one silver medal and one gold medal during the tournament, against the same competitor.
First-year KSC student Jimmy Halkiotis took home two gold medals after he finished every match by submission.Lloyd Baranoski took home two gold while recovering from the flu.
“Lloyd cut weight by catching influenza, which was pretty cool,” Halkiotis said. Paige Bourne took home two silver medals during her first tournament and, Sydnie Kleiman was awarded one silver medal.
The tournament was broken up into divisions based on weight, gender and skill level, but tournament rookie Bourne was forced to move up in division because of the low number of women. She still managed two silver medals.
Holden was also forced to bump up from middleweight to light heavyweight. Holden said that the group was ready to compete when they arrived.
“I think we all showed up there pretty anxious and eager and nervous especially,” Holden said.
Deihim said that, as a trainer, seeing his students excel in a high-pressure situation such as the Vermont Open was very gratifying.
“To see them go out and do so well is really cool,” Deihim said.
He said the group trains during the week on campus, but also spars and works with other trainers at Flow Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Swanzey. The five all attributed much of their success to the hours spent in the gym, where they learned not to underestimate their opponent and to have confidence in their own ability to win.
Although matches are based on individual performance, the group said that the support they gave each other before and during their matches was key in helping them go against their opponents.
“Even though you’re competing alone, you need your team with you,” Klieman said.
The group gave most of the credit to Deihim.
“If you just do what he says, you’ll win,” Halkiotis said.
Holden said that the tournament has boosted the morale and given the club more to work for in the future.
“It definitely puts us on the map more and gives us something to look forward to and train for,” Holden said.
As the year winds down, Diehim said that the club does not have any more competitions planned this semester and that he wants the martial artists to take in their victories and keep training for next year.
“It’s time for them to ride that high and enjoy the fact that they did so well,” Diehim said.
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org