Members of the Top Team Brazilian School of Jiu-Jitsu in Lake Jackson stood high on the podium at the World Masters IBJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Las Vegas last month.
Making quite an impact in his eighth overall tournament was Angleton’s Chris Locke, who placed first in the Ultra-Heavy 220 no max division, while teammate Alia Garcia-Valadez, also of Angleton, placed second in the Super Heavy division.
Locke becomes the third student from Top Team Brazilian to win a Master championship, joining Ruben Gonzalez and Barrett Langham.
Both Lock and Garcia-Valadez fought in the Masters Division for competitors 30 years old and older.
At age 37, Locke has had a lot of success in tournaments. Before his Masters victory Aug. 24, Locke had placed first six times. He finished third in his only non-gold medal placing.
Locke continued to thrive in Las Vegas, beating his three foes by scores of 12-0, 10-2 and 7-2 in the finals.
It was in the championship match that he experienced something he hadn’t faced before.
“Before this tournament I had had tougher matches in my own gym, but these three were the tougher matches that I’ve ever had in tournaments,” Locke said. “Mainly because usually in tournaments the way it’s gone for me is that I have been able to go in and have my way with opponents. But in the championship, I had to go on my back and work on the technique stuff. I was learning as I went, and those were way more technical fights then what I was use to.”
Locke had to regroup despite not having much of a breather between his second and finals match.
“I mean I got taken down, and I had never been taken down before,” Locke said. “So I had to come back and I got a sweep and managed to take his back. I didn’t get the submission, but I did beat him.”
Master Fernando Halfeld, who is in charge of Top Team Brazilian, was pleased with the way his student performed in Las Vegas.
“He showed off a high level of Jiu-Jitsu for his division and is just in a beginner level,” Halfeld said. “He showed a lot of skill off the consequence of training what we do here at the school. He did exactly what we trained. He had some tough matches, but his technique was real sharp that day. His performance was just awesome.”
Going up against competition from all over the world, including Germany, Ireland, Brazil, England, New York and California, Locke had no doubt he was going to come out victorious in the highly competitive tournament.
“I was expecting to win because I have a no-lose mentality from playing sports in Angleton,” Locke said. “It wasn’t like I was going to get out-trained because I train five to six days a week. So I am always prepared. The way Fernando trains us, sometimes it is harder there at Top Team than at the actual tournaments.”
Locke, who stands 6-feet-2 and weighs 255 pounds, went into the Vegas tournament as a white belt but got a surprise once back home.
“I got promoted to a blue belt because of what I did there in Las Vegas,” Locke said.
Locke only has the purple and brown belts to achieve before getting his black belt in the sport.
Also looking for a bit of success in Vegas was Garcia-Valadez, 39.
Garcia-Valadez has been with Top Team Brazilian for the past year, and this trip out West was going to be her toughest competition as well.
“At first I actually wasn’t planning on competing when I started training here with Fernando,” Garcia-Valadez said. “I had suffered a small stroke while doing muay thai (a combat sport of Thailand), but when I got out of the hospital I went back to the gym, and it became a bucket list for me to learn jiu-jitsu. That is when I joined Fernando and his team.”
At 270 pounds, Garcia-Valadez was excited once she saw how many competitors there were in her division.
“Usually in my Super Heavy division we hardly have any opponents,” she said. “I’d been to San Antonio, Houston and Corpus Christi, and I had maybe two matches total. But it was different in Las Vegas because there were 10 of us.”
Garcia-Valadez competed in four matches.
“The first match I won by submission, the second one on points, the third one by submission and in the fourth and final one, we battled it out and she won on points,” Garcia-Valadez said.
Despite placing second, Garcia-Valadez was ecstatic with her results.
“For me I went in with a mindset that I was going to win because of everything that had happened to me,” she said. “Most were saying that I should be happy that I was going to be there, but I was way past that, I wanted to win it all. For Vegas I was on a mission. I would be coming back with a medal.
“Fernando is an amazing coach, and there was no doubt that I was going to earn a medal.”
Halfeld was tremendously proud of what Garcia-Valadez was able to accomplish in Vegas.
“She’s here every day training pretty hard,” Halfeld said. “She had four matches at the Masters, which is a lot of matches, but just did super good.”
Dancing between her matches, for some reason Garcia-Valadez lost some of that gusto in her final match.
“I was fully confident going into final match, but then my energy just went out the window right before the match,” she said. “She was a very strong girl, and we went at it standing up for a while, but if there was anything that I could change, I wish I would have fought just a bit smarter, not necessarily harder.”
Garcia-Valadez and Locke will get back to training and will compete again in October.