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UP ends 16-year drought in UAAP men’s judo

A STACKED lineup can surely make such a team a champion, but for University of the Philippines, everything was earned on the mats.

The Fighting Maroons dominated the second and final day of the UAAP Season 86 Judo championships to snap a 16-year-long title drought, Friday at the Marikina Sports Complex.

The fifth UAAP title for the squad in men’s judo is the second for the university this season after regaining the women’s swimming tiara last Sunday.

For head coach Edgar Ordillas, the feat was all about trusting the process, saying, “Yung words na ‘yun pinanghawakan lang namin ‘yun. In-instill lang sa isa’t isa na maging faithful lang sa ginagawa at huwag titigil, kasi ‘pag tumigil ka, doon ka lang matatalo.

“It has been seven, eight years nung hinawakan ko ‘yung team, but it was 16 years in the making. Wala kang ibang choice kundi pagkatiwalaan ‘yung proseso,” said Ordillas, who, coincidentally, was part of that last UP championship squad in Season 70.

It was no less than a World Grappling champion in Fierre Afan who took the spotlight for the Fighting Maroons in the day, taking the gold in the lightweight (under 73 kg) class against his returning teammate Edward Figueroa.

Such brilliance saw the freshman out of University of Santo Tomas High School bag the Rookie of the Year award.

Two more golds in the featherweight (under 55 kg) division — with captain Hyejun Lee keeping the title in Diliman — and the extra-lightweight (under 60 kg) division — with national athlete Sean Levyn Panganiban returning from injury with the plum — all but sealed the deal for UP, with both victories coming at the expense of closest pursuer UST.

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The Fighting Maroons added the said titles to that of Zarchie Garay in the middleweight (under 90 kg) class and to that of Jayvee Ferer in the half-middleweight (under 81 kg) division on the first day for a total of five golds along with three silvers and four bronzes.

Ferrer, a pride of Pulilan, Bulacan, annexed the Most Valuable Player award.

“Sobrang fulfilling kasi nga sa last two editions ng UAAP, lagi kaming first runner-up, kaya iba ‘yung feeling ngayon kasi finally nakuha na namin,” said Ferrer, who was the Season 82 Rookie of the Year.

“Isa rin ‘to sa mga rason kung bakit bumalik ako. Kasi sinabi ko kay Coach Edgar na bago ko magpatuloy sa career ko sa judo internationally para sa Philippines, gusto ko siyang iwanan ng magandang memory, which is ito nga, ‘yung championship.”

After fending off the Fighting Maroons in the past two seasons, the title run came to a screeching halt at five for the UST Tiger Judokas, who found themselves head-to-head against their UP counterparts for most of the afternoon.

Ryan Benavidez was the lone bright spot on the second day for the season’s runner-up in the 30-point finish of the competition, with the 23-year-old senior winning the gold in the half-lightweight (under 66 kg) division past Fighting Maroon Anthony Maala.

Chino Sy bagged the only other gold for UST in the half-heavyweight (under 100 kg) as the 14-time titleholders finished with a haul of two golds, four silvers, and four bronzes.

De La Salle University completed the team podium with 14 points as George Baclagan’s title in the heavyweight (over 100 kg) division sure stood enough along with three more bronzes from Ron Novino in the featherweight division, Eivan Donaire in the extra-lightweight division, and John Chrisian Hernandez in the lightweight division.

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The Green Judokas added a silver and another bronze to that haul for a 1-1-4 gold-silver-bronze medal tally.

Ateneo de Manila University rounded up the field with four bronzes with Trevor Apostol and Aldwyn Thor adding the second day’s medals from half-lightweight and lightweight (under 77 kg), respectively.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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