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|For Immediate Release- Denver, CO
( 10/22/11 )
Howard Wilson took another huge step on the road to Paralympic glory with a dominant performance at the 11th Annual Denver Classic. By taking gold in the visually impaired men’s heavyweight division and silver in the men’s masters -220lbs division, he showed that he’s a force to be reckoned with.
The “business” trip to Colorado included participating in a four day camp for elite visually impaired Judoka ( Judo player ) held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Many of the players who attended the camp where preparing to represent the United States at the Para Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. ” It was a good experience and I learned quite a bit, but I’ve still got lots of room to improve. ” said Wilson upon arrival back in Chicago.
He trains with Sensei Brett Wolf at the Menomonee Judo Club. At the dojo he trains alongside of some of the top junior players in the country, including 2011 Jr World Team members Max Schneider and Andrew Varga. Plus 2011 Jr Pan Am Team member Max Bermont. He also trains at 5 additional Paralympic clubs that Sensei Wolf runs. Wilson is part of a growing number of visually impaired Judoka from Chicago. ”
Great organizations like World Sport Chicago, the Chicago Park District, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and the Menomonee Judo Club have come together to create these fantastic opportunities for our athletes. ” explained Sensei Brett Wolf. ” I’m currently training five to six days a week. It’s like cramming for a big test. ” Howard said with a smile. Howard Wilson is not your typical elite Judoka. He’s 47 years old and started Judo less than a year ago. Through hard work and sheer determination, he has moved up the ladder quickly. ” Howard is an inspiration to us all. He takes his training and tournament preparation very seriously. I wish I had 50 more players just like him ” proclaimed a proud Sensei Wolf.
Howard started his day with competition in the men’s masters 220 lbs division. He fought Ron Kaplanis ( After School Judo Academy, Kansas ) first. It marked his first match ever against another visually impaired player. After a short feeling out process, Howard countered a technique and scored an Ippon ( full point, instant victory ). In his next match, he lost a long and hard battle against the eventual gold medalist, Diego Krapf ( Ft Collins Judo, Colorado ). As in most matches, Howard was fighting someone younger, more experienced and with better vision. A defiant Wilson came off the mat and proclaimed, ” I’m not losing again today ! “. true to his word, he made sure that losing was not an option.
Historically, the Denver Classic is one of the top Judo tournaments in the country for visually impaired Judo players. This year was no different. Howard faced a tough group of seasoned players in the visually impaired men’s heavyweight division. The gap in experience made no difference as he swept the division with four consecutive Ippons. First, he repeated his earlier victory over Kaplanis with another quick ippon. His next match proved to be his toughest and most impressive of the day. His opponent was Ryan Jones ( Denver Judo, Colorado ), a member of the 2010 Visually Impaired World Team and also a member of the Para Pan American Team that competes next month in Mexico. The match was fought at a brisk pace, but points were tough to come by. A minute and thirty seconds into the match, Howard attempted a sacrifice technique that backfired. It ended with him on his back and Jones securing a tight pin. The outlook looked bleak for Wilson, but that didn’t keep him from summoning up the strength that he learned in the Marines. At the 24 second mark he was able to break free from the pin. One second longer and victory would have been in Jones’ back pocket. ” I felt like I was given a second chance and I needed to make the most of it. I had no intention of letting it slip through my fingers. ” said a philosophical Wilson. Less than a minute later he completed the comeback by reversing one of Jones’ techniques for an Ippon. It was clearly the most important victory in Wilson’s short competitive career. ” That match gave Howard some instant street cred. When you beat a quality player like Ryan Jones, it’s going to open some people’s eyes. ” explained Sensei Wolf.
Howard followed with two more decisive full point victories, including one over experienced, national player Mike Larsen. Those wins helped earn Howard the gold with a 4 – 0, 4 Ippon record. For the day, he went 5 – 1 with all 5 victories being by full point. He was his usual modest and reserved self after the tournament. ” I’m pleased with my results, but my Judo needs to get much better. I promise you that I’m going to improve 25% by the time I compete in my next tournament ” said Wilson. His next tournament will be in late January 2012. He will be competing at the Wahadachi Tournament in Milwaukee. Howard Wilson is a man on a mission and he’s not going to let anything get in his way !
2011 Denver Classic Judo Championships – October 22, 2011 Denver, Colorado
Visually Impaired Men’s Heavyweight:
Men’s Masters -220lbs: