Crazy 88 “returns” to Competition… US Grappling

By Vannessa Griffin – At 6 am sharp, Saturday morning, I jumped out of bed to finish getting ready to compete in my second Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament in two weeks. I woke up with submissions and gold medals on my mind and eagerly got myself together to meet the squad, Tye and Chris Kim, at the gym. As we headed for Delaware, I zoned out most of the front seat conversations and went over my gameplan in my mind, ready to annihilate the people in the six different divisions I signed up for that day. When we finally reached the Delaware Sportsplex, we weighed in and immediately left and found a place to eat breakfast.

After a hearty breakfast, an hour of downtime, a brisk warm-up, and last minute pump-ups and pep talks, Team Crazy 88 split up and waited patiently by our assigned mats. The disappointing part is that I was only allowed to do four divisions, which meant less matches, and most importantly, less opportunity for submissions. But on the bright side, unlike other tournaments, I didn’t have to wait two hours for my divisions to start. The tournament started at 11am sharp, and after about 10 minutes of check-ins, my division was tossed out onto the mat and I had the opportunity to scout out my opponents for both the weight class and open weight divisions.

After some observations, coaching tips, and Meek Mill Radio pump-up music, I was up. I was given a green band to put around my ankle for identification, shook hands with the ref and my opponent, and walked back a few steps to get ready for war. Almost two minutes later, my hand was raised for winning by rear naked choke. Pumped and ready for my next match, I saw my teammate and wrestling coach Brian Leitzel step onto the mats. I found out that he ended up fighting his way to third place in his intermediate division, not bad for his first jiu-jitsu tournament! After his match I went onto the mat with my green ankle band, staring down my next opponent. I was ready for war again, but unfortunately, lost that battle, twice. I ended up taking second in my weight class and absolute advanced adult nogi division.

Gavin Dixon is currently at the stage of life where its not cool to show emotion.

Gavin Dixon is currently at the stage of life where its not cool to show emotion.

After my nogi matches, I limped away disappointed with a hurt ankle and two silver medals that I didn’t even want. Luckily, I was cheered up by hearing that my teammates and black belt club students did well in their divisions. I learned from coach Keith that Mikaylin Ruano took first place, Omar Khairat and Gavin Dixon took second place, and Quinn Bruce, took third. I was very proud of all of them for being able to fight hard and take home some medals and experience. Last in the no-gi divisions was Chris Kim who pulled off some impressive wins to get first place.

Next was our time to shine, Crazy 88 is well-known for bringing up World Champions and Medalists at the biggest gi tournaments in the World, and we now had the chance to show it even if it was a smaller tournament for the adults. After some more down time and recovery for my ankle, I continued blasing Meek Mill in my ear and got ready to tear it up in my gi. I was blessed with five matches in the gi that day and won every single one of them. I stuck to a pre match routine every time. Get off the mat, put on my green Crazy 88 sweater, check on the kids and an under-caffeinated Coach Keith, go back to my mat, lay down, blast Meek Mill, and wait for the ref to wave me up, except for the last time.

At age 17, Vannessa Griffin is one of our top up-and-coming competition grapplers.

At age 17, Vannessa Griffin is one of our top up-and-coming competition grapplers.

Before my absolute finals match against a girl I fought earlier that day, I went to coach Mikaylin in her second match in the gi. After a long day with not a lot of food, I shouted instructions to Mikaylin in a loud, but very raspy and weak voice. She listened perfectly and did very well, but I had to leave right before the hand raise to fight in my finals match. I limped to the mat with a stiff ankle, but hungry for the win.  My match went pretty well, after dealing with the pain in my ankle in the de la riva guard and exhaustion, my humble opponent helped me up and we stood side by side with the third place winner long enough for me to hold up the Team Lloyd Irvin sign in pride.

After I was all finished and done, I walked to the bathroom to change and met the Ruanos for the last time. We exchanged congratulations and high-fives and I found out that they grabbed second (Damian) and third (Mikaylin). Later I also found out that Quinn Bruce and Gavin Dixon both grabbed a second place and and Omar Khairat walked away with third place. I was impressed! They all put in the work and fought hard all day, and that’s all we can ask for.

Chris Kim submitted his way through the Blue Belt gi division.

Chris Kim submitted his way through the Blue Belt gi division.

Our last Crazy 88 competitor was Chris Kim who followed black belt Kenny Brown who we saw win first place in the black belt absolute division. When Chris Kim went up, the venue stood still. He dominated all three of his matches on points and submissions, going undefeated for the day. Chris Kim walked off the mat with gold medals at hand bringing the adult gold medal rate to 200%. And after seven hours, about 30 matches, and 16 medals, and three proud coaches, Team Crazy 88 finally left the building.

Kenny Brown won the Black Belt Open Division.

Kenny Brown won the Black Belt Open Division.

About Crazy 88

Crazy 88 runs Mixed Martial Arts training centers throughout the Baltimore area. They focus on Combat Sports such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Boxing, and Wrestling for both Adults and Children, Beginners to Pros.

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