For some, this would be the first time competing in an IBJJF event, but for the others, this was just the start of yet another season. On January 30th, the Crazy 88 Competition Team flew out to Atlanta, Georgia to compete in the IBJJF Atlanta International Open. The event itself was held at the Georgia International Convention Center on January 31st. Luckily for us, the hotel and the venue were right across from each other, but we would have to walk around half of the Convention Center to get to the actual area where the tournament was held.
The day started at 9 am with the blue belt guys all geared up, waiting in the bull pen, ready for war. The rest of the team spread out across the venue, ready to cheer on and record the first competitors, some nervous, some anxious, some just plain hungry. Crazy 88 sent a six man team into the bullpen for spots in almost every blue belt division.
Out of the five, Chris “Japanese Sexy” Kim and Brentan Morelandius (Wrightson BJJ) were the only ones to emerge off the mat and onto the podium. Kim and Moreland both took home third place in their divisions.
At 11 am, the purple belt guys and the blue belt girls were prepared to pick up the pace and secure more medals for the team. There were a total of four purple belts and one blue belt girl in the bullpen from team Crazy 88. It was a small team, but they were ready.
Vannessa Griffin fought in the lightweight division of the blue belt adult bracket and was able to get three wins for first place.
At the same time, Chris Tran, a purple belt fighting at the rooster weight, fought in a three-man bracket and was able to win first place as well. Tran and Griffin brought the first gold medals to the table, but they wouldn’t be the last.
Alfonso Washington was also able to bring team Crazy 88 a medal. He won second place in the Ultra Heavyweight division. Then, Devon Delbrugge took third in the medium heavy division. Team Lloyd Irvin teammates, Joey Ruggiero and Joe Formica also placed in the purple belt divisions. Ruggiero took first in the middleweight division and Formica took third in the lightweight division. The 11 am team was able to pick up an 80% medal rate and end the morning on a positive note.
Next were the white belt girls. Two of them were making their IBJJF debut, while the other was just dusting off the old gi. Out of the three, we got a gold medal, a silver medal, and a lot of valuable experience. Michelle Ho gave an incredible performance in her matches and earned her first Gold medal – at her very first tournament. Kayla Dehm also gave a notable performance, taking second place in the Super Heavy division.
Last up for the weight class fighters were our brown belts, Tye Ryan Murphy and Keith Cebula. Tye fought hard in his division to win first place in the Brown Belt Medium-Heavy division. Cebula made his valiant return to the competition scene after taking 18 months off (not from training, just competing) and won the Master 2 lightweight division.
Black belt teammate, Roberto Torralbas from Third Law, also took first place in the heavyweight division keeping the Team Lloyd Irvin brown and black belts at a 100% medal rate.
At 5 o’clock, all colored belts who placed in their weight divisions were given a chance to take on everyone in their age group and belt rank in the Open weight classes. The placers included Vannessa Griffin, who took first place to win the blue belt division, Alfonso Washington, who took second in the purple belt division, and Chris Kim and Tye Ryan Murphy, who went on to take third place.
In the end, Team Crazy 88 ended with an overall 93% medal rate (14 medals, 15 competitors) and Team Lloyd Irvin took fourth place in the team title with only 25 competitors. For newcomers and veterans alike, the Atlanta Open provided the needed experience and fixable mistakes to take with them to the next tournament.