The 2018 Alaska State No-Gi Grappling Championships were Oct. 27 in Anchorage, Alaska, and a handful of Yukoners fought their way onto the podium.
A group of athletes from Elite Martial Arts Academy in Whitehorse made the 1,200-kilometre trip for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition, earning four medals.
Dan Hombert, instructor and co-owner of Elite, led the way with a gold medal in the men’s 189-pound advanced division finishing ahead of another Yukoner, Harold Schmidt, who was second in the same division.
Kristjan Eyolfson earned bronze in the men’s ultra heavy novice division and Demie Leduc won bronze in the women’s 120 to 139-pound novice division.
The tournament was large — the Yukon participants estimated more than 300 people total — and the quality of competition was high.
“I think we were all kind of surprised,” said Hombert. “They were very good. It’s a big jiu-jitsu scene – you can tell.”
What stood out to Hombert specifically was the quality of wrestling.
“The biggest thing we noticed, because it is a no-gi tournament, was the high level of wrestling,” said Hombert. “(It was) very high level wrestling everywhere from a five-year-old kid to a 35-year-old man.”
On the mats, Eyolfson was making his tournament debut and Hombert said his improvement through the day stood out as impressive.
After winning bronze in his weight category, he entered the absolute tournament with no weight restrictions and lost on a last second submission.
“He just kind of calmed down and started doing jiu-jitsu,” said Hombert about his match in the absolute tournament. “He was up on points 7-0 and there was just one little mistake.”
Unfortunately for Eyolfson, that mistake came with just seconds to go in the bout and a quick stoppage by the referee meant a loss.
The club has already penciled in another trip to Alaska for the upcoming spring gi championships.
Hombert said he heard gi competition is even more popular than no-gi and that the gi tournament will be even larger.
“Something might come up, but for now that’s the one we’re looking towards,” said Hombert.
For the first time seeing the competition in Alaska, Hombert said it was a successful trip for the club.
“It was a really well-run tournament so we’re happy that we went and tried it out,” said Hombert. “No complaints on that.”
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