Sylvan Lake teen captures international jiu-jitsu silver medal

AJ Sandulac, 16, claimed the silver medal at the jiu-jitsu championships in Las Vegas on Aug. 21

AJ Sandulac, 16, gives a thumbs up on the podium after receiving the silver medal at the International Novice 2019 Las Vegas IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship on Aug. 21. Sandulac’s uniform features patches of local businesses who helped him raise the money to attend the competition held Aug. 21-24. Photo Submitted.

A Sylvan Lake athlete captured silver at his first international competition.

AJ Sandulac, 16, competed in the International Novice 2019 Las Vegas IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship, Aug. 21-24.

Sandulac said it was “cool” to see how a big tournament differed from the ones he usually competes in.

He fought on Aug. 21 and came out with the silver medal after a closely scored match.

“I did something wrong and he took advantage of it,” said Sandulac of the fight.

“It was kind of disappointing, but it was also like I was pretty proud of myself, I was still second best in the world kind of thing, so I guess all that work was there,” he said. “It was good, but it was kind of just mixed emotions.”

Thousands of people from all over the world met up at the Las Vegas Convention Center to try their hand at being the best in the world during the competition.

His coaches, from Arashi Do Martial Arts in Red Deer, were proud to see him keep up with his opponent during the fight.

To get to this point Sandulac has trained and competed all over Alberta and in B.C.

Over the past four years he has taken the top spot in the Samurai Series competition, and often finds himself taking fights with athletes above his weight class.

“I’m always willing to give myself an extra challenge and I find that those are some of the most challenging things,” said Sandulac of fighting above this class.

“They’re bigger than you and they’re not there to play nice, they’re there to win, so it’s always nice to see how far you can push yourself and I quite enjoy pushing myself as far as I can go.”

During his training Sandulac also utilizes seminars and took the time to attend one at the competition in Las Vegas.

“André Galvão would be like the Sidney Crosby of Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” said Sandulac of the seminar’s host.

At the competition he also met and talked with one of his jiu-jitsu idols, Rafael Lovato Jr., a highlight of the trip for Sandulac.

On Oct. 5 Sandulac will find himself back in international competition in Burnaby, B.C.

To prepare for the upcoming competition he is going to work on hammering home his basics.

“I like to play a guard game, which is like from bottom and do submissions from there, so I guess I would just focus a lot on those,” he said, explaining that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a lot of grappling with no strikes.

Sandulac says he is going to add striking to his tool box next year as he plans on starting a career in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) soon.

“I’ve always wanted to do MMA, it’s just I was always too young to do it,” he said.

“That’s what I want to do, I want to be a professional fighter when I grow up. Go to school, get my degree then go to fight,” Sandulac continued, adding he wants a degree in marine biology and wildlife conservation.

Sandulac says jiu-jitsu is his passion and if it ever becomes an Olympic sport he wants to be in it.

He also likes how some of his best friends have come to him through jiu-jitsu, and how competitors can become a big family along the way.

Sandulac and his teammates brought home eight medals from the competition for Arashi Do Martial Arts Red Deer.

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