Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club competitors Jeremy Williams and Garth Rivers have long been considered two of the top fighters in their weight class in the province.
Now they're two of the best in Canada.
The duo finished second and third respectively in the under-55 kilogram division at the national junior and juvenile judo championships this past weekend in Edmonton, becoming the first double-medalists in the club's history.
"I'm telling you, you don't know how much pride you can feel until you see two of your guys on the medal podium at the same time," Koseikan head instructor Cliff Wiens said shortly after returning from the championships.
"You could see it in how hard they were working over the last two months, it might have been their first time going to nationals but they still wanted to do well. And then they went out and did it."
Williams' performance was made all the more spectacular in the fact he was the lightest competitor in the class and, as a blue belt, the lowest ranked fighter as well.
That did little to deter his impressive run, though, as he rolled off victories over Quebec's Jean Francois-Roy and Johnathon Lanthier in his first two matches.
"My first match, I thought I'd go in there and just see what happens, but I didn't expect to get that far," Williams, 16, explained. "I really had the butterflies but then when I was on the mat I thought 'screw it, I'm just going to give it a go'. Then was I was able to win the match and I realized I might be able to do well."
He carried that attitude into his bout against Lanthier and recorded two half-point throws early to bring the contest to a swift end.
That victory set up Williams' appearance in the gold medal match against Ontario's Shujon Mazunder, a bout that came with it's share of intimidation -- also the reigning senior menšs national champion, Mazunder had defeated Rivers in his semifinal match and done so in dominating fashion.
"When I saw him throw Garth, I told myself I wasn't going to let that happen to me," Williams said. "I went in there and tried to do what I could against him, but he was just too good. I tried my best but just wasn't quite able to get him."
Mazunder managed to put two eighth-points (koka) and a quarter-point (yuko) on the board before Williams' defensive style caught up with him, resulting in a disqualification with a minute remaining in the match.
"Jeremy actually fought a pretty good fight, especially when you think he went three minutes with the senior national champion," Wiens said. "That really shows how well he did, he was a minute away from possibly winning that match."
Rivers, 16, had already made the tournament an unparalleled success for Koseikan earlier in the day after he defeated Francois-Roy for the bronze medal.
"It was pretty cool to have him up (on the podium), too," Williams said. "We always train together and everything, so it was really neat for us to both win medals at our first nationals."
The duo were part of a seven-fighter contingent representing Koseikan, with the club's other first year competitor, Tom Glasrud, posting a 2-2 record and finishing seventh in the juvenile under-81 kg class.
Veteran junior competitor Brian Smith -- who currently lives and trains in Edmonton -- finished fourth overall after losing the under-90 kg class bronze medal bout, while clubmate Mark Kerr finished 11th in the same division and lost to Smith along the way.
Junior women's competitors Kailey Large (under-54 kg) and Stephanie Legault (under-61 kg) both lost out two straight.
"Just with the number of kids we sent this year it was a great tournament for Moose Jaw, but to have that kind of success, too, is really special," Wiens said. "It looks really good for the future."
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald July 9, 2002