This morning when I woke up, I was a little worried. The bathroom scale read 220.3 - 0.3 lbs over where I wanted to be. I skipped breakfast, and dressed in layers - I also cranked the heat up in the car on the way over. I even parked farther away from the venue and jogged from my car to the registration desk. Whether driving in the heat paid off, or whether my bathroom scale was a few lbs over, I wound up being safe - I weighed in at 217.7.
I must say that for the most part at tournaments, I tried spending as little time at the tournament as possible. i.e. Show up for my matches, and then leave when I was done. This time around, however, I decided to stick around and catch as much of the action as possible, even encourage and/or coach my dojomates. I have to say it was a lot of fun. A lot of our guys managed to bring home the hardware, and I got two watch at least two of my teammates pull off some great moves in matches that they, unfortunately, ultimately lost. Brandon, one of our teenagers, was trapped in Sankaku against a player who had him wrapped up real good. I thought he was done for, but Brandon managed to get out of the Sankaku by sliding his hand in a preventing the choke. Ultimately he lost the match a few seconds later, but it was a great escape. Then there was Chuck. Chuck is one of our lighter adults, and was playing in a division where he was one of the only non-black belts. But Chuck is in awesome shape and is very athletic. I saw one of his opponents throw him with Seoinage, and his feet sailed over his head and I though he would fall into a picture perfect Ippon, but somehow Chuck managed to twist in midair, and landed on his feet. It was amazing. I think that everyone watching that match was stunned that he managed to escape a certain Ippon.
But on to my matches. First and foremost, this wasn't a big competition. My division only had two other competitors and I didn't want to be the 'default' third place guy. I got the luck of the draw in the sense that the other two guys fought first, so a) I would be a little fresher for at least my first match and b) I could see their style. I gleaned a couple of points about their techniques and their gripping styles, and got prepped for my first match.
My first match was against the loser of the first match in our group - a guy from Long Island. We came in a couple of time trying our throws, on the third try I got in deep enough for an O-Uchi-Gari, and I threw him to the mat. Based on the throw, it seemed to me that it wouldn't go for an Ippon, so I immediately began an entry into ne-waza. I pushed him down to the mat and started to attack his arm. Of course, what was really about 4-5 seconds since my throw seemed much longer, and it seems that two judges called off the initial wa-zari in favor of Ippon in my favor. 1 down, 1 to go.
My second match was against a guy from New Rochelle. I knew that he liked playing lefty like I did (from watching the first match) and I thought I would play to my strong, left-handed, side. I came in for O-Uchi, and it failed, so I pulled out. He realized I was stepping back, immediately jumped in for an O-Soto-Gari, I felt him catch my leg, but I knew that I had one shot to wiggle out of it. I spun around to my right and countered him with a Right-handed Harai-Goshi. It was timed almost perfectly, and he landed on the mat with that loud thud that is the telltale sign of a beautiful Ippon. I was told by someone watching the throw that it was a really nice technique. No matter, I was just happy that I had taken home first place.
When I got to the awards table, they had ran out of first place trophies. No matter, I got my win, I played well, and I didn't need no stinking trophy to remind me of that.