Well, We are back from yet another successful trip to on of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation’s Biggest Tournaments, The Pan Jiu Jitsu Tournament. The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation or IBJJF is the official sanctioning body of BJJ and there for is responsible for operating the biggest and most prestigious Brazilian Jiu Jiu Jitsu tournaments in the world’s. The Pan Jiu Jitsu Tournament is known as one of the big four, along with the World Championships, The European Championships, and the Brazilian Nationals. These are widely consider the most prestigious tournaments in the art of BJJ. As a team, Alliance is the only team ever two win all four in a single year. A matter of fact, we have done that twice in the history of these tournaments. Pretty soon it will be the Big 5, as the Master World Championships has surpassed some of these others in terms of attendance and prestige.
From here at Twisted Fitness/Alliance of Madison, we sent only 5 athletes to compete this year. That said, we returned with Three Medals. Over all we had Two Golds and a Bronze. First off was White Belt, Jason Meehan. Jason definitely has a lot of ability and it showed at this tournament. Jason had several tough fights in his division and showed some great technique. While Jason won some of his matches on points, he also won two by submission, including an omoplata shoulder lock in his Finals match. Jason has proven to be one of the best white belts in the Nation, and soon we will get to see how he performs at Blue belt, I’m sure!
Next up was Edward Flick. Eddie, as we call him, had a huge division of more than 75 Lightweight blue belts. There was a very high talent level in this division and Eddie was right in the mix. Eddie ended up losing a close match to a phenomenal opponent by only two points. Then next round that same opponent lost a referee’s decision (definitely a controversial one) to the eventual winner of the division. After seeing how well Eddie performed, there was no doubt he was among some of the best in that division.
Maxine Knetter would be the next competitor of the weekend. Maxine went into the Pans ranked #1 in the US and #9 in the world at female blue belts among all weight classes. That alone is a great achievement. Unfortunately, Max lost a battle of a match with the eventual winner of the division. She fought well, but unfortunately a few slight mistakes cost her the match. Making the podium at Pans requires a near flawless tournament performance. Max is already focused on fixing her mistakes and getting ready for the world championships.
The Black belt divisions are fought over two days on both Saturday and Sunday. People making it to the semifinals on Saturday will then fight the semifinals and finals on Sunday. Both Instructors Mark and Sonya Plavcan decided to compete again this year. Sonya had fought last year, earning a silver medal, losing the finals match by two advantages. She was looking to redeem herself and earn a Gold. Mark had suffered a lower back disc injury just days before the Pans last year, and while registered, could not compete. So for Mark, it would be his first BJJ competition in over a year and just a chance to get back on the mat and get back on track. Both Mark and Sonya would end up making it to Sunday and fighting in the semifinals.
First up on Sunday was Sonya. Mark was able to coach her during her first match of the day, but was called to the bullpen immediately after her victory. Sonya would then move on to the Finals match, while Mark was off to warm up for the Semifinals. As luck would have it, Mark and Sonya ended up competing at the same exact time, which was captured on a screen shot by one of our students. It was kind of special to see both instructors competing at the highest level in BJJ at the same time. Unfortunately Mark would lose by one advantage in the semifinals, not without a fair amount of controversy by a bad restart by the referees, which is clearly visible on the replay. That said, Mark was happy to get back out and compete at such a great event and after a very trying year of injury, return back to Madison with a Medal from such a high level tournament. Mark got done with his semifinals match and could only wonder what happened with Sonya’s finals match. He has always been able to coach her, so obviously he was nervous. But, Sonya being the champion she is, pulled out a submission win in the finals against her Brazilian opponent. Sonya was up 5-0 with a take down and guard pass and then secured the bread slicer choke for her victory and first Pan Am Gold Medal! Mark was just bowing off the mat from his competition when he heard Sonya’s name announced over the loud speaker as the Champion. Upset about his own performance, this was definitely some uplifting news! Sonya is now both a World and Pan Am Champion, making her the most accomplished Black Belt in WI. We are all very proud her, as well as everyone else who competed. It was a great tournament for a small BJJ academy in Madison, WI to be able to showcase how world class their BJJ really is! Next up is Chicago Open and then only a month to Atlanta Open and then the World Championships. The competition season is off to a strong start!