The 2015 World Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu were held in Long Beach, California on May 28th through May 31st. This four day event is considered the biggest and the toughest tournament in the world. Crazy 88 sent eleven competitors to go compete one last time in the 2015-2016 competition season.
During Day 1 of the World Championships, Kayla Dehm fought in the ultra heavyweight division in the later hours of the day. Kayla had to win three fights in her path to the gold and gained some momentum in her first match after dominating it by points. After a long wait due to simultaneous referee breaks and inactive mats, Kayla finally stepped into the mats about an hour later to fight in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, she was not able to take away the win and ended up taking third place, her second World medal at the World Championship.
The speed greatly increased the next day. From Crazy 88, Alfonso “Big Sal” Washington fought in the Ultra Heavyweight division at Purple Belt. His first match was won by default after his opponent failed to show up, but this did not throw Washington off at all. He beat his first official opponent off of a takedown and then won his next match via groin injury to secure his spot in the semi finals. In the medal round, Big Sal fell back on advantage early but came back with a sweep in the last 30 seconds to get ahead 2-0. It looked like Sal would enter the Finals but his opponent swept him back in the final seconds. Big Sal lost by advantages, putting him on the podium at third place. This is Big Sal’s second medal at the World Championship at the Purple Belt level.
Next up that day was Vannessa Griffin, who competed in the lightweight division at blue belt. Her first match was touch-and-go for the first half, but she was able to take away the win on a 7-0 lead. Next, she caught the second girl in an early triangle, but her inability to finish caused her to the win via advantage. The third match ended 11-0 and then she won the semi-finals by cross-choke to enter the finals. Her last match was a close match, full of close calls and mini-heart attacks she would have to hear about later. But finally, after a suspenseful six minutes, Vannessa Griffin stood up, had her hand raised, and became the 2015 blue belt lightweight World Champion, the first female World Champion for Crazy 88 and the Baltimore Area. She then accepted her nickname as “The Champ.”
Last up for Crazy 88 was first year black belt, Timothy Spriggs. Tim fought in the Open weight and heavyweight divisions, both brackets were full of heavy hitters and big name black belts, but that did not scare Tim.
On Saturday, Tim submitted Paulo Tarcisio Pessoa Jardim (Checkmat BJJ) in the first round of the heavyweight division and had to wait until Sunday for the rest of his division. When Sunday came, Tim was scheduled for a rematch against Keenan Cornelius (Atos), who beat him 8-2 the day before in the Open weight class.
For the first half of the match, Keenan held off Tim’s passing and eventually, Tim was given a penalty for backing away, causing his gi to come off again after several previous occurrences. Then, with three minutes left, the referee stood Tim and Keenan up and Tim was able to score a quick 2 points from a foot sweep. Keenan was not able to match the points, and Tim walked off the mat, with an avenged loss and a spot in the semi-finals.
Next, he was scheduled to fight Lucas Leite (Checkmat BJJ). In that match, no points were scored and the match went to referee’s decision. Disappointingly, Tim was not able to win the decision and ended up taking third place, but Team Crazy 88 was still proud since he became the 7th American to place at the Worlds at the Black Belt level, a very impressive accomplishment. The list reads as a who’s who of BJJ: BJ Penn, Rafael Lovato, Bill Cooper, JT Torres, Keenan Cornelius, Gianni Grippo, and now Timothy-Michael Spriggs.
Overall, Team Crazy 88 brought home four medals, and even though that doesn’t sound like much, two of those medals made history. Crazy 88 remains the only Baltimore-area school to produce any World Medalists ever. Everyone who participated gained a lot of valuable experience and had fun being a part of the biggest tournament of the year.