KOLOA — Seven members of Longman Jiu-Jitsu Koloa competed at one of the biggest jiu-jitsu competitions in the state. They came back to Kauai with eight gold medals.
The NAGA (North American Grappling Association) Hawaii Championships took place Sept. 23 at Mililani High School. Longman Jiu-Jitsu Koloa, as well as other academies from Kauai, took part.
“Of course, losing is a possibility. But I was like, every one of these guys, I know they can get gold,” said Longman coach Luke Hacker on Thursday. “Me and this guy (coach Julian Marquez) both knew that. We were talking about it before the tournament.”
More than 800 practitioners competed at the state tournament, Hacker said.
“It means a lot. It builds the team,” Hacker said of Longman’s success at the competition. “It builds the school. It builds everybody’s morale and confidence. It makes me and Professor Julian feel really proud as teachers, and that we’re doing our job right.”
The Longman Jiu-Jitsu Koloa members who got a first-place finish are:
w Matthew Ebueng, Mens No-gi Beginner Flyweight division.
w Kaena Bergonia, Mens No-gi Intermediate Bantamweight division.
w Ryan Parongao, Mens No-gi Beginner Welterweight division, Mens Gi White Belt Welterweight division.
w Jarrick Ornellas, Mens Gi Purple Belt Featherweight division.
w Ray Keahi, Masters Gi White Belt Heavyweight division.
w Madeleine Greczyn, Womens Gi White Belt Flyweight division.
w Andreas Sanchez, Kids Gi Beginner 100 114.9 Ibs. 10 years old division.
Parongao, of Kalaheo, said he’s only been practicing jiu-jitsu for six months.
“One of my friends trained here. I see that he’s come here a bunch,” Parongao said of starting in the sport. “He said here, I can come check them out. When I came by, everybody was super cool. They just let me jump right in and start drills and whatnot.”
He added that this was his first tournament and he didn’t expect to do so well.
“I’ve seen all the other competitors. I felt I was one of the smaller guys there in my division. The other guys were just bigger,” Parongao said. “I have absolutely no idea (how I won). Good coaching, hard training, listening to what they have to teach me, it’s a combination of all that. … I was stoked. I was pumped everybody got a gold in at least one part of their tournament.”
Ornellas, of Koloa, said for every person on a team to place first in their respective divisions “is pretty unheard of.”
“Usually, some people would maybe get a silver or get a bronze,” he said. “But for every single person to go up there, even the kid got a first place, too. I think it’s kind of rare for every single person that goes up to compete wins first place. … It’s just good affirmation to know that all the time and hard work and sacrifice you put in, it’s worth something.”
Marquez said to have that much success in a single tournament “was a first for us.”
“There was tournament on Kauai a few months ago, the Triple Crown. We did really well then, so that brought the morale up on the team,” Marquez said. “It got some people confident to compete. We all got together. A lot of the guys helped out to get us to Oahu. It was just great to see them work hard and achieve their goals. It’s so cool to watch your student work and believe in what we’re working on, and go out here and achieve it.”
Marquez added for Sanchez, this was his third attempt at getting a first-place finish at the NAGA contest. For the keiki divisions, the winners are awarded a sword rather than a medal.
“He finally won the sword. It was a real accomplishment,” Marquez said.
Up next on Longman Koloa’s schedule is the Kauai Open, part of the Hawaii Triple Crown of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, on Oct. 21 at Kauai High School.
The academy intends to compete at another tournament in the state later this year and then others on the Mainland by next year, Hacker said.
Results at www.nagafighter.com.