Sterling Judo Club took nine of its 27 members to Anchorage for the recently concluded 56th Annual 2015 State Judo Championships. After the dust settled, the scrappy team finished third among the ten teams from all over the state and team from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.
Repeating as State Champion was 12-year-old Kaliesha Hart, but this time in an older and heavier division, in fact two older-heavier divisions. The 2015 two-time champion found herself matched up against a much more experienced Abigail Harvey, Fireweed Judo. Abigail, a 2014 State Champ and veteran national’s competitor, defeated Kaliesha earlier in the year. This time, Kaliesha’s hard training and determined style on the mat showed as she took control of her match from the start and never let up. Her second match against Abigail showed even more determination as this was for the gold medal! Her second division was the next older age group and her opponent from McGrath Judo Club had a 28 pound weight advantage in the ordinarily closely matched weight divisions. Again, Kaliesha went undefeated to take home her second 2015 state championship.
Nine-year-old Logan Hart won with three perfect one point throws against three opponents to claim the championship. Brother Walter Haybeck, also 9, finished with second place having two play-off matches to the reigning state champion, Olijah Armstrong, Mt. View Judo. In the same division Walter and his team mate Charles Fairbanks fought a tough match with Walter winning for the silver and Charles with a 2-2 record finishing in third.
The McConnell family made a good showing with 13-year-old Jacob fighting in two divisions, 12-13 middle weight and 13-14 heavy weight, winning a pair of silver medals. Younger brother Nicholas finished behind Jacob in the 11-12 middle weight division bringing home a bronze medal.
In the Holland family, Tannan fought in an open 15-16 year old division. He fought some very scrappy matches against a much heavier opponent and eventual division winner, Christopher Coulson of Capital City Judo. Tannan was awarded the silver medal. His dad and teaching assistant, Clayton Holland and teammate Alex Coxwell both found themselves in a very challenging Masters open division where there was no weight, rank or age limits. Their most formidable opposition came from Ketchikan’s club sensei, Justin Breeze, fourth degree black belt. Breeze was the class of the day’s competition with near textbook perfect throws to win several matches and gold in two divisions. Disappointed not to repeat his 2014 gold medal performance, Clayton nevertheless finished his most challenging fights to date with a bronze medal and Alex, also with great fighting spirit, finished in fourth place. They both agreed that Sterling Judo needs a bunch more men of all weights to train and practice with.
For the first time in the program’s three year history, all 27 of the current Sterling Judo Club members were eligible to compete in the 2015 State Championships.
The Sterling judo season came to an end May 14 with its annual awards banquet at Sterling Elementary School. Twenty-three judo promotion certificates were awarded.
For additional information when the Sterling Judo Club program resumes practices in September at Sterling Elementary School go to the club’s Facebook page or contact Sensei Bob Brink at 242-9330.
— Submitted by Tannan Holland, Club Web Master