On Saturday, April 9th and Sunday, April 10th, Team Crazy 88 competed in the 2016 New York Spring Open. But judging by the 40 degree weather, it could have easily been mistaken for the New York Winter Open. Day 1 began after the team had braved the cold and upon entering the City College of New York, the competitors changed and took to the bullpen.
Vannessa Griffin, the sole Purple Belt from Team Crazy 88, ventured into the venue first thing in the morning and was immediately rushed to the bullpen. Fortunately, she was able to make it just in time and was sent straight to her mat after checking in and making weight. For Griffin, the division had only four people, so she was already in the Semi Finals. Her first match took place entirely in the closed guard, where she was able to submit her opponent with a Kimura roughly five minutes into the match. With this momentum, Griffin won the Finals 16-0 to secure her spot on the top of the podium.
Minutes after Griffin was finished, Tye Ryan Murphy was up. Tye drove up that morning with his pregnant wife and was scheduled to fight a little before 11am. At 11, Tye stepped off of the mat the winner by 2 points to advance to the Finals. Due to taking a loss in the Finals, Tye put himself on the podium at second place, and earned a spot in the Open Weight Class later in the day.
Next up were the Blue Belt girls and Crazy 88 had four of them entered in weight classes from Featherweight to Heavyweight. Out of the four, they were able to get three medals from their weight classes starting with Amanda Riggs. Riggs won her first match in the Featherweight division via north-south kimura after being up 5-0 from a sweep and a guard pass. Unfortunately, she suffered a loss in the Semi Finals and ended the morning with a Bronze Medal.
After Riggs, Lauren “LaLaRocks” Crino was up in the Lightweight division. After a rather tough weight cut, LaLaRocks recovered well and prepared to fight. Her first match started explosively with a take down attempt from her opponent and a scramble that ended with LaLaRocks on top of open guard. She was quickly able to pass to side control, where she remained for the duration of the match, winning 3-0. She lost in the Semi-finals by a last-minute sweep and ended up with Bronze.
Last up in the morning was Heavyweight competitor, Kayla Dehm. This is Dehm’s second tournament fighting at Heavyweight and she was still getting acclimated to the pacing. Because of that, her first match went off to a bit of a messy start and she ended up giving up an advantage. After a quick adjustment in focus, she was able to win the match 5-0. In the finals, Dehm’s focus and pacing was a bit off yet again in the beginning. The match started slow and Dehm fell victim to a sweep. Quickly after being swept, she regained her focus two-fold and dominated the match. She walked away with her first Gold Medal at the Regional IBJJF Blue Belt level winning via submission after being up 21-2.
In the mid afternoon, Master 1 competitor, Lloyd Piar had three matches in his journey to the top of the podium. Lloyd easily won his first match then secured his spot in the Finals with a 9-3 win in the Semis. Then, in the Finals, he submitted his opponent with a head and arm choke to take First Place in the Ultra Heavyweight division.
Day 1 continued a few hours later with the Open Weight Classes at around 5PM. The morning competitors made it back just in time after an Italian lunch and jelly-filled donuts. They all geared up and got into the bullpen with full stomachs, feeling much better than they did earlier in the day.
Fortunately, all three of the Blue Belt medalists from the team were able to enter into the Open Weight Class under different team names while Vannessa Griffin faced her Open alone. Due to several no shows in the blue belt open, Kayla Dehm and Amanda Riggs were bracketed to fight in the second round, forcing Riggs to bow out so Dehm could advance. Riggs did not get the chance to fight again, but was still grateful for the opportunity to compete and felt that Dehm would fare much better in the rounds to come. On account of these mishaps, Dehm bypassed the first two rounds and landed right in the Semi-Finals. Her match was a bit messy and Dehm would need a referee’s decision to secure the W. She advanced to the finals but was unable to claim victory and landed on the podium at Second Place, earning a 100% medal rate for the Crazy 88 Blue Belt female team.
At the same time, Vannessa Griffin began her foray in the Purple Belt Open. The first match went very smoothly as she pulled her opponent right into her game and ended the match with a bow and arrow choke to advance to the finals. Unfortunately, Griffin lost her Finals match 4-2 after being swept in the last 30 seconds to get Second Place.
Another medalist that earned a shot at the open was Tye Ryan Murphy. Tye entered into the Open Weight Class and flew right through his first two matches. He won the first 8-0 and the second 11-0. These two wins placed Tye in the medal rounds. In the Semi-Finals, Tye went to war. He and his opponent spent the match on the feet, neither one resorting to pulling guard. After multiple scrambles, some of which ended with the two fighters flinging each other off the mat and onto the wood, Tye was announced the winner with a 2-2 tie on points and 2-1 advantages. In the Finals, Tye was unable to get the win and ended up with Silver in the Brown Belt Open.
Day 2 consisted of the White belts and Blue belt men. First up was Byung Ju Lee. Byung was recently sponsored by the gi company VHTS due to his outstanding performances in the recent IBJJF tournaments he competed in. Byung fought in the Lightweight division and caught his first opponent with a north south armbar quickly to advance to the sweet 16. He then ran through the rest of his division, racking up a total of 39 points with zero points scored against him. His second match was won 2-0 and then his next two were 9-0 and his Finals match was won 10-0 to take yet another Gold Medal in New York.
The first White Belt up was Crazy 88 Owings Mills student, Leah Mays. She fought in an 8-woman bracket in her second IBJJF tournament ever. Leah pulled her first opponent right into her game and won the match 6-0 with a sweep and a mount to put herself in the medal rounds. Unfortunately, she was unable to win the Semis and took Bronze.
Later in the day were both the No-Gi divisions and the Open Weight Class for the Blue Belt men. First up in the evening was Tafon Nchukwi. Tafon jumps between competing in Muay Thai, where he is undefeated in the amateur leagues, and Jiu Jitsu, in which he recently won his first ever IBJJF as a White Belt.
Tafon redeemed himself from his loss in his weight and avenged Byung Ju Lee by beating their mutual opponent by 2 points in the First Round. The “Cameroon Express” crushed his second opponent and then went to war in the Finals. After passing his opponents guard early in the match, Tafon got swept and forced into a bad half-guard position. Tafon squeezed his legs tight and held onto his opponent’s foot for dear life until the timer buzzed. Tafon became the 2016 NY Spring Open Blue Belt Open Weight Champion!
Last up for the weekend was Lloyd Piar, the lone No-Gi competitor from Team Crazy 88. Lloyd faced all new opponents in his Master 1 Ultra Heavyweight division. His first match went very smoothly and he finished via mounted arm bar. Since he had a three man division, his win put him in the Finals of a round robin style bracket. He was scheduled to fight a few minutes later but unfortunately, he was unable to pull off the win and took Second Place.
For some, the New York Spring Open served as redemption from the Pan. For others, it was a last chance to prepare for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships, And to others, it was just another tournament to test their skills and get another chance to compete. Team Crazy 88 all went in with different goals, but as a team performed very well and brought home 13 medals (118% medal rate) and aided in the achievement of earning Second Place as a team overall in the Gi divisions.