Local martial arts fans will have a chance to see some of the best judoka in the province in action up close and personal Saturday during the Moose Jaw Koseikan Judo Club's annual tournament at SIAST Palliser Campus.
A total of 150 competitors from throughout the province -- including the majority of the team that will compete at the Judo Canada national championships in May -- will take part in the event, promising a high level of competition in the sport.
"It's looking good, we're kind of apprehensive because there are so many tournaments in Western Canada this weekend that it might draw away from ours, but we're still expecting to see a lot of really good fighters here this weekend," said club head instructor Cliff Wiens.
"We might not have a lot of people from out of province, but I know we'll get a lot of support from Judo Saskatchewan, so it should be really good."
The tournament is expected to feature the unique aspect of having a loaded heavyweight division, with six 'big guys' from throughout the province making the trip south.
That includes local competitors and provincial team members Jim and Josh Wiens along with North Battleford's Lloyd Bullerwell and Saskatoon's Derek Andrews. Both Bullerwell and Andrews tip the scales at over 300 pounds and are among the largest judoka in the country.
"It should be competitive division, for sure," Wiens said. "Especially when you have that many guys that size, you know you're going to see some interesting matches."
That factor will be taken to a whole new level in the Open Division, which this year will feature a prize pay-out for the tournament champion. Interestingly enough, Wiens doesn't necessarily expect one of the giants to be at the top of the podium at the end of it all.
"It wouldn't surprise me at all to see someone other than the heavyweights take it," he said. "There are a lot of smaller guys who have beaten those big guys and they might be able to do it again."
The tournament will also feature a strong contingent of younger competitors, including the majority of up-and-coming fighters from the local club.
Since the tournament was pre-empted last year by the Koseikan club hosting the prestigious Sask Open, the event will mark the first time many of the younger competitors will have a chance to fight in front of family and friends.
"It's going to be good for the kids and with all the parents and grandmas and grandpas out, it'll be exciting for them, too," Wiens said. "The very beginners will be there, some who have only been in judo for a month, and then you'll have the all-arounders, the Garths and Jeremys and Stephanies."
The tournament weigh-in will take place between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., with youth competition getting underway at 11 a.m. and the adults taking to the mat around 2 p.m. Action is expected to wrap up up around 5 p.m.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald April 16, 2004