Peterson, Puopolo, Runez & Co: the brown belts at American Nationals

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The brown belts came out to win at the American Nationals in Carson, CA over the September 25th and 26th weekend. There were a variety of Jiu-Jitsu players who were really hot, even though it was already a sweltering 103 degrees in the gym.

On Saturday, in the adult super heavy brown belt division, James Puopolo, from Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu was the big winner of the day, winning gold in both his weight class and the absolute.

Puopolo, Saulo, and his father. Photos: Deb Blyth

In the adult brown belt absolute, Puopolo had three matches on Saturday. In his first match, he won by submission. “I was able to get a triangle right off the bat,” Puopolo says. In his second match, Puopolo fought Sean Roberts. “He gave me some problems,” he says, “He swept me and tried to submit me. It was 4-4 when I caught him with an armbar and submitted him.” In his third and final match, Puopolo was victorious with a 9-0 win.

On Sunday, he fought Brett Aldrich from Rodrigo Teixeira in his divisional final. Puopolo had two matches in his weight division and he did not mess around. In his first match, he went up against Ricardo Buffara from BJJ Revolution and got him in a triangle choke. In his final match with Aldrich, Puopolo pulled guard and got a deep collar grip in. “I opened my guard, and worked the pass,” he says, “He had a good pass defense. I got around, got into mount, and submitted him with a choke from mount.”

This gave him two gold medals for the weekend. “That was the goal,” he says, “I love these tournaments. They aren’t too big or too small, and I always get good matches.” Puopolo says he loves the American Nationals and won gold at both blue and purple belts as well.

Runez with his teacher Bruno Bastos

In the lightweight, adult brown belt division, Peter Runez of Nova Uniao and Noah Tillis of BJJ Revolution met in the final match, with Runez pulling off the big win. He had three matches and a bye on Sunday.

In his first match, Runez says he fought a “great kid.” Runez says he won the fight 10-0, but “I couldn’t get a submission on him. He was a really tough guy.” In his second match, he won by guillotine and in his third and final match, he faced off with Tillis. Showing true jiu-jitsu sportsmanship, Runez says, “He’s (Tillis) a wrestler. I was lucky to hang on.”

The final match was very aggressive and explosive. Both players tried to take each other down, sometimes ending up out of bounds or beyond the mat borders.

Peter Runez vs. Tillis

Runez says, “He (Tillis) was great. It was a good tournament.” Runez trains at three schools, Peak Performance, Team Lutter, and Octagon, and can next be found at the No-Gi Worlds in November.

In the adult medium weight brown belt finals, Sean Roberts from Ralph Gracie and Tim Peterson from Lotus Club BJJ promised to put on a good show. Roberts was in Peterson’s guard the majority of the match. Peterson swept and mounted Roberts, but Roberts eventually escaped. Peterson ended up taking gold, beating Roberts by points.

Peterson had three matches that day. In the first match he finished his opponent with an arm bar from guard. The second match he tried to take his competitor’s back from the closed guard. “I worked in half-guard then went to a 50/50,” Peterson says, “I swept him and he tried a foot lock, but he made an illegal move and was DQ’d.”

As for the final match with Roberts, Peterson says, “he likes to submit from closed guard. I pulled guard because I wanted to feel him out. I wanted to make the right decisions.” With time running out, Roberts tried a foot lock, but Peterson waited him out and won gold on points. “The experience was great,” Peterson says, “the IBJJF tournaments are so well run, and organized, and the refs are great. It was fun.”

Seraile and Yoshida

In the adult brown belt ultra heavy weight division, Raymond “Kong” Seraile of Undisputed prevailed over 42-year old, former NFL football player Jarrod Bunch of Werdum Combat Club. These, surprisingly agile, 250-pound giants shook the building as they each tried to win the gold medal in their division. They definitely did not spar by using judo grips and pushing each other back and forth. These two were standing up, going for takedowns, and fighting hard from the ground.

They had one match, which Seraile won by points. “I’ve had a match with Jarrod at purple in the 2008 No Gi Worlds,” Seraile says, “I know he’s tough. He’s an ex pro football player. He’s very active. There are not a lot of guys out there competing like that. I knew it would be intense and hard.”

Seraile was happy to fight Bunch at a lower weight. “He was much bigger at the No-Gi Worlds,” he says, “He’s smaller now and it’s gi fighting. I felt like had the advantage. I took what I was given.”

Seraile trains with Baret Yoshida, who’s 135 pounds. This helps him perfect his techniques and requires him to use less strength. “I have to be technical and have finesse,” he says, “That’s where my agility comes from.”

Seraile says it can be frustrating for someone in his weight class because he can train really hard for a tournament and then show up and have no one in his bracket, so he’s happy to have Bunch around to challenge him. “I would like to see how I match up against him this year in the No-Gi Worlds since he beat me last time,” he says. We have a big rematch on the horizon.

In the master’s brown belt division, Scott Carr of Gracie Barra Costa Mesa, was the big winner of the master’s absolute.  In the open, Carr had three matches. In his first fight, he won on points. In his second, he submitted his opponent from half-guard with a straight armbar.

His third and final match was against fellow Gracie Barra competitor, Felipe “the brown brick” Guedes of Gracie Barra Dana Point. Guedes took Carr down, but Carr then locked in the armbar from the guard, submitting him to take gold.

As for his divisional matches, Carr just shrugs his shoulders, “I won and then I lost. I got silver in the final.” So Carr went home with a gold in the absolute and a silver medal in his weight class.

“It’s been a great experience,” Carr says, “All my competitors were excellent. It was nice to have a Gracie Barra final open match. I felt really confident at this tournament. I trained really hard for it.”

As for Felipe Guedes, he had a big day himself. After winning silver on Saturday, he came back to his master’s medium brown belt division and took gold on Sunday.  Guedes had three fights that day. He won the first and second matches by points and the final by Ezekiel choke.

Felipe Guedes and his GB crew

“I was on top trying to pass guard,” Guedes says of his final match, “and I sunk in the Ezekiel from half-guard. Then he recovered full guard, but the choke got tighter and I finished him.”

This is Guedes’s second tournament and first gold medal as a brown belt. “I’m very happy right now,” Guedes says, “Professor Flavio (Almeida) came to coach me in my weight class. He said I was good, but I need to make some improvements to my game. I’m happy to go back to the gym to work on my mistakes now.”

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