Tournament Review Tuesday: NAGA Midwest Championships

NAGA grappling tournament
Action on the mats at the 2009 NAGA Midwest Championship.

by Ben “The Dutch Assassin” Lindhout

A group comprised of myself and 7 other teammates made the 4.5 hour journey from Grand Rapids, MI to Milwaukee, WI for the NAGA Midwest Championship on Saturday 5/30/09. The last couple years this event has been held in suburban Chicago, but this time was brought back to brew city.

Because of the large amount of competitors coming from the Chicagoland area, the NAGA brass decided to have Friday night weigh ins and two separate sites. You could choose to weigh in at the venue, located at a sports complex in suburban Milwaukee, or you could weigh in early at the New Breed Academy BJJ school located just outside Chicago. Since our group would go through Chicago on the way to Milwaukee, we decided to do the Friday night weigh in’s at New Breed. Weigh in’s were from 5-8pm and there was a line of people already when we got there at 4:30pm. This was convenient, but we had one teammate whose weight information did not transfer over to the venue the next morning, and he had to weigh in again right before the event started on Saturday.

The next morning, we got to the venue around 11am. The rules meeting was just finishing up, and they started the kids and teens divisions right away. Most of the big midwest schools were representing, and there were a handful of grappling celebrities; including Carlson Gracie Jr., Miguel Torres, Jeff Curran (who competed), Hillary Williams (who was a referee), and a host of black belt coaches. The sports complex was very large, and easily accommodated the 14 mat setup that NAGA brought for this event. There was limited bleacher seating, but since most people crowd up around the mats anyway, it didn’t really matter. I talked to Kip Kollar, NAGA president, who said that is typical. He said that in their last Dallas event, they had arena seating for thousands, but very few people sit down as they prefer to watch their teammates and family members up close. They were using their new electronic timer and scoring systems at each ring which were very nice, and clearly showed the time, the score, as well as advantages.

The turnout was pretty good for the event, and I would estimate there were maybe about 500 competitors. It seemed just a little less then when they held the event closer to Chicago, and far less then the 1400 grapplers who participated at the NAGA-run Arnold Classic event in Columbus, OH. I saw many good displays of sportsmanship, and only a couple of injuries. Both the injuries I saw were by kneebar in advanced divisions. The quality of the referees varied greatly by mat, but I did see the head of officials, Joe Cuff, review a video when a coach disputed a call that the ref made.

The tournament ended up being well run, and we started getting ready to leave around 6:30pm when all of our divisions were done. There were still a few groups out on the mat, but I can’t imagine it went on too long after that. The venue was great, and had staff working there which meant the trash actually was taken out, and the bathrooms were refreshed throughout the day. This is a welcome change from most of the other large tournaments I have been to. You can’t please all the people, all of the time; but I felt this was the best NAGA event I have ever attended. There was some great grappling being displayed, the venue was big and clean, and it went smoothly getting done on time. I hope they continue improving and taking feedback from the competitors to make future events even better.

Ben trains at Grand Rapids BJJ in Michigan and blogs at Dutch Assassin BJJ. 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.

Don’t forget – we’re getting together for coffee on Sunday morning at the World Championship!
– Caleb

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