After ending up knotted with the Ateneo Blue Eagles last season, the University of Santo Tomas Golden Judokas made sure to break the tie this season, pocketing three golds to open the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Judo Championships.
Mitchell Salcedo, George Kim, and Dither Tablan ruled over the Middleweight, Half Heavyweight, and Heavyweight divisions, respectively, to give UST a total of 23 points to end Day One at the Enrique Razon Sports Complex in Manila, Saturday.
Out of the three, it was Kim who had the inspirational run for the Golden Judokas, as he stunned early favorites en route to gold.
“I didn’t really have a motivation right. I just trained hard everyday, not expecting anything,” said the 22-year-old Half Heavyweight, who picked up his first-ever UAAP gold. “I did not expect to win the gold medal. It’s all a result of hard work.”
Kim began his improbably run by stunning last season’s silver medalist Noah Lee of UP by way of an ippon 27 seconds in.
“I just know it’s a blessing from God and hard work. There’s also luck because of the pairing,” admitted the product of Colegio of San Benildo-Rizal.
In the finals, the third-year Golden Judoka was able to score a wazari against defending two-time Half Heavyweight champion Keith Reyes of La Salle in the middle of the contest. Kim protected this lead as the buzzer sounded to win gold.
Tablan retained his Heavyweight crown for the third straight year in the five-man division.
The fourth-year Thomasian needed just a total of two minutes of mat time, capped by a masterful 29 second-win over Carlos Sandoval of UP.
UST sophomore Salcedo secured his first-ever UAAP gold in the middleweight division. Taking over from Renzo Cazenas, Salcedo outlasted Leon Avendano of UP in the finale.
Other medalists for UST are bronze finishers Luis Sandiego (Half Middleweight) and Randolph Dalupiri (Middleweight).
The sole gold of the day for last season’s co-champions Blue Eagles came from Half Middleweight Henry Margulies. The American student-athlete – who is leading the way in the Rookie of the Year race – tallied three ippons.
Ateneo enter Day 2 with 10 points courtesy of Marguilies’ gold and three bronze finishes from Hermogenes Arayata IV (Half Middleweight); Miguel Sadorra (Middleweight); and Rafael Cadiente (Half Heavyweight).
Close behind Ateneo are the UP Fighting Maroons (8 points) and the De La Salle Green Judokas (6 points).
On Sunday, December 9, the featherweights, the extra lightweights, the middle lightweights, and the lightweights take over the mat. And Kim hopes his teammates could sustain the momentum they gained.
“We should continue this momentum until tomorrow,” he said as UST is 17 points away from winning the championship. “We are still not champions yet. Hopefully, we will be by tomorrow. At least three golds today, tomorrow hopefully, four more golds.”