by Dev Kostal
The Lake Tahoe Open, held by Charles Gracie Academy of Truckee/Tahoe, and run by Marc and Kelly Cramer, was a superb event.
The timing of the tournament was a bit rough – March in Lake Tahoe is prime ski season, which means that 1) there’s going to be snow, and 2) there’s going to be traffic. I won’t bore you with the details except to say it took us almost 11 hours to make a 5-hour drive. That said, they also have the Lake Tahoe Classic in October, for which the commute is much better.
This tournament, run for the first time, was set up as a regular tournament with all your standard brackets and whatnot, but they included a team concept and prizes. 10-person teams could compete for team trophies – each team had to include a child competitor, a female competitor, a white belt, and a blue belt, and additional points were awarded for brown or black belts. Points were awarded for wins, wins by more than 7 points, wins by submission, gold, silver, and bronze medals. The team points were calculated separately from the individual stuff, which meant that you still competed as an individual – the team results were transparent in the background.
The major IBJJF tournaments also have team points, but they’re not really marketed as team events, since smaller teams are at a disadvantage. For the Lake Tahoe Open, naming only 10 people to a team evened up the odds, so every team had the same chance. My team, Zeus BJJ, coached by Daniel Thomas in Monterey, CA, fielded 14 competitors, and we really embraced the team concept of this tournament.
The venue for the tournament was fantastic. Last year’s Lake Tahoe Classic was held in the Truckee Middle School gymnasium, and had three mats going, which was nice for a small tournament. This time, they were able to use the brand-new Truckee Community Center, and got 6 mats running concurrently! That’s as many mats as they had running at the Mundials on white belt day. The Community Center was spacious an well-lit, and aside from a sporadic microphone, was a superb venue for a BJJ tournament. A decent amount of spectator seating, and Kelly Cramer said the center promised to have the bleachers out next time, so it should be even better. There was also an upper level, which allowed viewing and filming from above.
Because of the weather, they tried to stall the beginning of the tournament a little to allow some of the commuting teams to get there. Frustrating for the guys that were ready to go, but I thought it was a classy move to try to get everyone there first.
The kids went first, starting around 1030. There were over 100 kids registered for the tournament (picture attached), which is the largest kids’ division I’ve personally ever seen outside of the recent Pan kids event. It was awesome. Each kid was guaranteed at least two fights, and if they won, they generally got a third. The experience gained was great, and all of the kids received medals. Concurrently with the kids’ divisions, they ran the junior (16-17) divisions.
The women’s division started next, at roughly 1130. It was a fairly small division, with maybe 20 girls split between white and blues. Fantastic matches, though, with a lot of skill being displayed on the mats.
After a short break for lunch and a raffle, the adult divisions started around 2 PM. White belts and blue belts were split up evenly across the 6 mats, with about 3 brackets on each match. There were also a few purple belt fights, and I think 1 brown belt fight. This division made things progress fairly quickly, and from my perspective it really seemed like all the mats were doing a good job at spreading the matches between brackets to keep things moving while giving competitors a rest between fights, always appreciated.
The reffing was very professional, as you would expect, and overall, the tournament was a really professional event. At the same time, they were able to keep a familial atmosphere, and everyone really had a good time. With other competitors sitting on the side of the mats, we were able to really support teammates and friends.
For me, the best part of this tournament (and the Lake Tahoe Classic) is that they had a consolation bracket. This is the only tournament series I’ve been to personally that guarantees each competitor at least two fights, which makes it PERFECT for new competitors. Even if you get crushed in your first fight, you get a chance to come back to fight for a bronze medal.
At other tournaments, you tend to get the building workers shooing you away from the fences, but there was none of that here. Because of the layout of the center, there was enough room to move around while still being able to have coaches and spectators get close to the action by the fences. There really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
The only “complaint” I heard about the whole thing was not getting the team results before we left. I personally saw several folks working the numbers for most of the afternoon, but the mountain of bracket paperwork just didn’t seem to get any smaller. That’s hard work, and I absolutely appreciate the effort they were putting in – it’s tough to get those numbers done. Unfortunately, they just weren’t able to announce the results before people started taking off. Anyway, as soon as they’re finished, we’ll get team results by email, and the Cramers said they’d mail team trophies out appropriately.
After the dust settled, Zeus BJJ walked away with 2 golds, 4 silvers, and 6 bronzes! Everyone had a great time, and it really was a fantastic way to reinforce the team concept of this BJJ stuff we all enjoy. I’d actually love to see other tournaments use this same model for future events. Thanks again to the Cramers for a fantastic event, and we’re really looking forward to the next one.
Dev Kostal is a blue belt under Daniel Thomas at Zeus BJJ in Monterey and blogs at devbjj.blogspot.com.
This is an installment in our Tournament Review Tuesdays column, where FightWorks Podcast listeners submit reports about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and grappling competitions that happened the weekend prior. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of The FightWorks Podcast.