The Tiger Balm International is the biggest martial arts competition in North America, which doesn’t make it ideal for a new mixed martial arts gym to start off at.
But don’t say that at Whitehorse’s Chaos Combat Club.
In the club’s first competition, Chaos got a pair of wins and a pair of medals at Tiger Balm last weekend in North Vancouver.
Representing the club, which opened in September, were Dwight Snowshoe and Cody Ball in freestyle grappling.
“Both of them, in my eyes, did awesome,” said Chaos owner and coach Sheldon Casselman. “You go down there, win-lose-or-draw, you have fun and get experience.
“Both of them made me proud.”
Snowshoe won silver in the 136-146 pound weight class beginner division. The 24-year-old won his first two bouts within minutes and went the full distance in the gold-medal match.
“I didn’t know what to expect in my first couple of matches – it was my first time competing,” said Snowshoe. “I was surprised that I caught them so quick.
“(In the final) if he had dominated me I would have been hard on myself, but it was a close last match and he had to work for it.”
Snowshoe came very close to taking gold in the bout, almost getting his opponent in a few locks and chokes. In fact, he got his opponent in an Achilles lock, a legal hold that the ref mistook for an illegal heel hook, said Casselman.
“He almost had him in a rear-naked choke,” said Casselman. “He had him in an Achilles lock and the guy was reaching up to tap and the ref jumped in to block it. In the beginner division, you’re not allowed heel hooks and they are very similar.
“It’s very subjective. I’m not making excuses, but judging is very subjective.”
Snowshoe, a native of Fort McPherson, N.W.T., has a boxing background and only began expanding into different fighting styles since moving to Whitehorse for school in the fall.
“I’ve been boxing for a few years,” said Snowshoe. “I met Sheldon when he first opened up (the gym) and I’ve been here ever since.
“This has bits of everything, so you practise everything during your daily training – you’re grappling, you’re boxing, you’re kickboxing, you’re wrestling.”
Ball was also competing for the first time. With six other fighters in the 167-173-pound weight class beginner division, Ball got a bye through the first round before losing in the semifinal.
“If he had won that match he would have gone into the gold medal match, but unfortunately he was put out by a rear-naked choke,” said Casselman. “He doesn’t know it, but he placed fourth.
“A lot of guys don’t understand that it takes a lot of guts to go and compete at a competition like that. Especially in your first competition – jumping into Tiger Balm. That’s the biggest competition in North America.”
Ball, 21, has been training at Chaos for about four months and it hasn’t been easy. A resident of Watson Lake, Ball hitchhikes back and forth between home and Whitehorse to train.
“He had a little bit of a rough go in his first tournament – not that he didn’t compete well, but he was a little rough on himself,” said Casselman. “It’s a sport where you only win some of the time. It’s a high level of competition.
“He lives seven hours away and hitchhikes to Whitehorse to come to my gym. He’ll hitchhike at 40-below, show up for one of two nights and train.”
As for Chaos’ other medal, Casselman was awarded a gold for being the loudest coach at Tiger Balm.
“I lost my voice, like three times,” said the still-raspy Casselman.
Avalanche juniors pin hardware
Whitehorse’s other fight gym, Avalanche MMA, also took in medals at Tiger Balm.
Avalanche’s Ryley Johnson won three matches on the way to gold in freestyle grappling in the junior 15-17 age category.
“His performance was really good. I was really impressed,” said Avalanche owner and coach Cliff Schultz. “He controlled every fight that he was in right till the end.”
Whitehorse’s Tristan Walsh, 15, also medalled with a bronze in the junior division.
“His first fight was actually against a kid who was 16, and he was a really good opponent because he did jiu-jitsu at Warpath (MMA competition),” said Schultz. “He was really good and Tristan ended up beating him in about a minute-and-a-half with a triangle choke. That was really impressive.”
Other results for Avalanche include Felix Russell placing fourth in 15-17, Jarvis Scheffen placing fourth in the 12-14 category. Teammate Nick Hayden lost his first match but, “was a great supporter of the team and helped coach them through the rest of the tournament,” wrote Avalanche’s Erin Schultz in an email to the News.
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