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Mexican judo team trains for nationals

by TED MADDEN / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on April 21, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Sixteen members from a Mexican judo team spent 12 hours on a bus, traveling more than 1,000 miles to North Texas to train with a club from Garland. Oscar Villegas explains why.

"The level here is very strong," says Villegas, in accented English. "This is the reason for why we come here."

Villegas' coach Izzeddin Hamada added, "(In) 2009 we bring 15 kids, and five of them bring gold national."

The Nuevo Leon judo club spent eight days training with the Burt Becerra judo club. The Mexican team is getting ready for a national tournament at the end of this month, and this week was used for intense training against great competition.

"When the students (are) over there in Mexico, they have school, they have families, they have a lot of reasons not to go to class," says Sensei Hamada. "But here, they are in training camp, morning and night, nobody can lose that class."

Bobby Merriman is a member of the Becerra judo club, and a national champion. "We get a great workout too. They're the national ranked team from Mexico, so we get the same benefits they do, because we have a national tournament coming up in July, so they definitely benefit us and getting us prepared for that."

The Nuevo Leon team has made this trip ever year since 2005. The main reason is because the competition is so good. The added benefit is, anytime you fight somebody from a different country, you get exposed to a different style.

"The difference between USA judo and Mexican judo is the thing why we are here, to know other people, to play other types of judo, play different things to prepare for national championship," says the 18-year-old Villegas.

"If it's in the eastern hemisphere, it's more like wrestling," adds 16-year-old Michael Assels, from Garland. "The Russians fight wrestling style because they're always stronger than everybody. Western hemisphere is more stand up -- Japan is very stand up because they brought up the sport and they stick with the original style of it."

A thousand miles is a long way to go for a training session, but not for these Mexican judokas who aspire to be among the best in their country.

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