On Saturday Red Deer got a small dose of things to come.
With the 2012 competitive martial arts season already underway, local athletes were treated to a new platform — one entirely devoted to showcasing the growing culture of grapplers.
Organized by Red Deer resident and Genki Jiujitsu purple belt Drew Weatherhead, the aptly named Submission Ace Cup was certainly not short on support, drawing an impressive array of sponsors to Crossroads Church.
The round-robin style tournament featured close to 70 Central Alberta competitors. Athletes competed in five-man brackets under a rule set that highly encouraged decisive submission victories.
The winner of each weight category would receive placement in the absolute division and the chance to find out who the top grapplers of the day were.
That distinction seemed to be all but reserved for Gracie-Barra Capo, Josh Russell and Garrett Curran.
In addition to operating his own academy in Calgary, Russell also oversees the advancement of students at Red Deer’s Arashido Martial Arts.
His teachings have obviously been fruitful as the mat technician was met in the finals by one of his top students.
Fresh off a victory against Keto Allen at Hard Knocks 20, Red Deer own Ryan Machan moved through his bracket with impressive ease. Despite packing on a few pounds to avoid potential contests within his own ranks, Russell looked both pleased and invigorated to be met in the absolute finale by one of his top students.
In the day’s most watched contest, Machan and Russell took one another to task.
Although unable to close the deal against his mentor, Machan displayed an advanced skill set and one that exemplified dedication to his craft. Perhaps most impressively he was able to avoid being submitted himself against one of Canada’s top black belts.
For his part, Russell was equally as impressive, emerging the victor via technical superiority.
In the 135-pound tournament final, Garrett Curran squared off against a very game Mike Davis. Steam-rolling his way to the tournament final, Davis showed true gameness in taking the fight to his more experienced opponents.
Curran, who was awarded his black belt last year, showed why he is known on the regional scene as a competitor not to be taken lightly by securing a bout-ending victory choke and his portion of the absolute prize.
Athletes were also given the opportunity to critique individual performances — a feature new to many and well received as a whole.
Prizes for grappler and submission of the day hung in the balance, providing entrants with an extra incentive to finish their bouts in spectacular fashion.
Though he fell short of an absolute victory, Davis nabbed submission-of-the-day honours.
In addition to his sweeping victory over Ryan Machan, Russell was honoured as grappler of the day.
For Weatherhead, who spent the day in an administrative capacity, things could not have gone any better.
“In the last week before the tournament we had just a tonne of interest in both a children’s and women’s division,” he said.
“I’m hoping to make this at the very least an annual event . . . upgrade from two mats to possibly six and expand upon our sponsorship.”
If that should come to fruition, Red Deer could very well become an anticipated destination for grapplers province-wide.
Chris Sullivan is a Red Deer freelance writer