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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Matt Garber finally broke through.

After several years of taking second and third place at national and world Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, the 2002 Woodmore graduate took first place at the 2012 Pan Am Championships Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament held March 29-April 1 in Irvine, Calif.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Garber competed in the purple belt adult ultra heavyweight division (225 and up).

“I was so happy,” Garber said. “I gave my coach (Deon Thompson, of Brasa Warrior International) the biggest hug, and my wife (Charity) was there to see me. I was pumped up and very happy. I expect to win. I’m a pretty confident person, and this was a huge tournament. This was a major accomplishment to win this in our sport.”

Garber, 28, who lives in Woodville, took up jiu-jitsu in 2007 and has more than 100 career matches under his belt. None were probably bigger than the two matches he had in Irvine.

There were seven competitors in his bracket; Garber had a first-round bye, which automatically put him into the semifinals. There, he faced off against a Brazilian named Marcelo Strada.

“I had kind of a good draw,” Garber said. “Both guys I beat were former world champions, which was nice. I had never fought either one of them.”

Garber beat Strada on points, 4-0, to advance to the finals.

“It was really close,” Garber said. “I try to submit guys, but I’m kind of a really patient guy. I just try to win any way I can. I’m kind of a takedown guy, being a former wrestler, and I play a strong top game.”

Garber met Michael Quintero of the U.S. in the championship match.

“I was really ready for the finals,” Garber said. “I’ve placed so many times in these big tournaments and I haven’t won. I really wanted to win. I worked hard to get ready for this tournament. I was ready to go. I’ve placed second and third so many times, I haven’t gotten over the hump and won one. I thought I worked hard and had a really good training camp leading up to the tournament. I felt I was ready.”

Garber held a 4-0 lead in the final seconds against Quintero and ultimately won by disqualification.

“It was kind of a technical rule,” Garber said. “Jiu-Jitsu rules are really weird. He kept grabbing the inside of the pant leg. He did it four times and got DQ’d, but I was going to win either way. He was very good, but I got a takedown early in the match. He was playing bottom and I was trying to pass his guard. You’re always trying to improve your position where you can attack and look for a submission. Everybody at the purple belt level is very good and experienced.”

Garber will compete in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships on May 31-June 3 in Long Beach, Calif. Garber said that tournament does not seed the competitors, and he knows he’ll probably have a bulls-eye on his back after winning in Irvine.

“Guys know who you are,” he said. “They look you up on the Internet. If I do what I’m supposed to do, I think I’ll win. If I work hard and I’m in shape and use my head when I’m competing, I don’t think guys can beat me. When I’m not focused and not ready, that’s when I’ll lose. If I’m at my best, they’re not going to beat me.”

 

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