After ending up in a tie on the top a season ago, the University of Santo Tomas Golden Judokas left no stones unturned this time around.
Behind golden performances by rookie Ryan Benavides and former Most Valuable Player Russel Lorenzo, the Golden Judokas secured the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Judo Championship by an overwhelming margin, Sunday at the Enrique Razon Sports Complex in Manila.
“Pinatunayan namin na kami talaga champion. Sinigurado namin na wala ng tiebreaker,” shared the 18-year-old Benavides.
UST ended the two-day competition with 45 points. Gold medal winners were Lorenzo (Extra Lightweight), Benavides (Half Lightweight), Mitchell Salcedo (Middleweight), George Kim (Half Heavyweight) and Dither Tablan (Heavyweight). Moreover, the Golden Judokas also hauled two silvers and three bronzes.
This is UST’s 13th championship in the Men’s Judo competition. In addition, this is the school’s sixth championship this season as UST also won the Men’s and Women’s Beach Volleyball championship; the Men’s and Women’s Table Tennis tournament; and the Women’s Track and Field crown.
And it was Benavides’ performance in the tough half lightweight division that sealed the deal for UST.
The product of Manila Central University stunned former champion Gabriel Fernandez of UP in just a little more than a minute to advance to the finale.
“Nung siya na kalaban ko, kinakabahan ako. Sigurista kasi ako e kaya kinapa ko muna. Buti na lang naka-throw ako ng mabilis,” he recalled.
Teammate Thomas Huckstep bested Nami Clemente of Ateneo to set up the all UST showdown. Benavidez then scored his second ippon of the tournament in the final to secure the Rookie of the Year crown as well.
“Naging motivation ko dito yung team ko. Simula three years old ako, nagjujudo na ako. Pero nung nakita ko sila naghihirap, dun ako na-motivate. Sobrang solid namin mag-training, laging masaya,” Benavidez shared.
UAAP Season 80 MVP Lorenzo secured UST’s fifth gold after outlasting Jed Pumay of UE in the finale of the Extra Lightweight division.
Heavyweight Tablan was crowned as this season’s top individual judoka.
Last season’s co-champions Ateneo Blue Eagles were able to seal off the UP Fighting Maroons for second place as the former had more golds than the latter. The two teams were knotted with 18 points each but Ateneo had two golds compared to just one for UP.
Ralph de Leon was able to top the Lightweight division for Ateneo’s second gold of the tournament. The rookie finished off UST’s Czar Bayas with 12 seconds left in the final.
UP’s sole gold of the tourney came from rookie Sean Panganiban, who topped the Featherweight division.