At the American Nationals, the women in the brown/black belt open came out of the gates, no holds barred. There were only three women in the brackets, black belt Fabiana Borges from Gracie Barra, brown belt Emily Wetzel, from Rodrigo Medeiros, and brown belt Kiri Liao from Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu, but each one of them laid it all out on the mats.
The first open match was between Fabiana Borges and Kiri Liao. Liao went at Borges aggressively. Early in the match Borges had Liao in a foot lock and it looked certain that she would submit her, but Liao refused to tap and eventually escaped the hold and earned her way to a win by points.
Borges and Emily Wetzel also had a match with Wetzel submitting Borges with a triangle to arm bar. “She’s so little,” the 6’4 ½” tall Wetzel says, “I train with guys. It’s really different to compete with women.”
Wetzel says it’s not as easy for her to spar and compete against smaller opponents, as some may think. “Little people slip away,” she laughs, “When people are smaller than me, the things I normally rely on, they wiggle out of. It’s a challenge.”
The final open match was between Wetzel and Liao. Wetzel says that match was a bit of a “scramble” because Liao was so tough. “I got her in guard, which I don’t like,” Wetzel says, “She did a good job breaking my post. That position is my kryptonite.” Wetzel was stuck in that position for a while, but eventually got to mount. The fighter that she is, Liao did not give up easily, and she escaped and then swept Wetzel.
“I wrapped my legs around her at the end,” Wetzel says, “I was going to go for a triangle, but ran out of time.” Wetzel won the match 6-4, giving her the brown/black open gold.
Wetzel’s been training for about ten years. She started her training with Renzo Gracie in New York and can’t say enough good things about him. “He was really kind to me, “ she says, “He’s so supportive of women in Jiu-Jitsu. He gave me my purple belt.” When she moved to California, she began training with Nelson Monteiro of Gracie Barra Encinitas. He gave her the brown belt. These days, she’s training with and competing for Rodrigo Medeiros in San Diego.