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Marco Sharpei claims absolute gold at the American Nationals

There was lots of excitement in the black belt adult open at the American Nationals on Sunday. Marco Sharpei of CheckMat was primed, ready to fight, and looking forward to getting on the mats, pleased to get in some preparations for the upcoming No-Gi Worlds by facing off against some of the tough competitors on the absolute roster.

In the first open class match, Caio Terra of Gracie Fighter faced off with Rodrigo Simoes of Gracie Barra. Caio took the match with a foot lock and moved on in the bracket. Next, Matthew Jubera of Ribeiro JJ took on Fabiano “Pega Leve” Scherner of Team Quest. The big man, “Pega Leve”, won the match on points and moved on as well. Then Marco Sharpei took on Pedro Elias of Caique JJ. Sharpei took the honors in that one. Marcelo “Lapela” Mafra took on Fabiano Monteiro of American Top Team and won, rounding out the semifinals bracket.

"Pega Leve" (top) wins his match with Matthew Jubera but cannot continue. Photos by Deb Blyth.

At that point, “Pega Leve”, which means “take it easy” in Portuguese, stepped out of the competition, holding an ice bag on his biceps. He came into the tournament with an injury and his match against Matthew Jubera only exacerbated it. “I put so much pressure on my opponent, I hurt myself,” he laughed.

So, with “Pega Leve” out, that left Sharpei with a bye. “Lapela” and Caio got the next matchup. In his ninth  match of the weekend, Caio went past after “Lapela” was left writhing in pain on the mats after his knee popped out.

So it was Caio and Sharpei in the final. The two fought valiantly for 10 minutes, with Sharpei getting the better of Caio by an advantage point. He hooked Caio’s head and spent about eight minutes trying to pass, getting an advantage for his efforts and taking gold in the process.

As the two walked off the mats laughing, Caio was visibly exhausted and Sharpei was holding his forearm talking about how tight and swollen it was from the strong grip he’d had on Caio’s head the whole time. “It was a tough match,” Caio says, “He’s strong and his pressure was really good. He did a good job making me feel uncomfortable.”

Asked whether he felt like he’d “dodged a bullet” not having to face ultraheavyweight Pega Leve, Sharpei laughed and intimated that it was no better having to deal with his smaller opponent, Caio. “I have not fought either of them before,” he says, “Caio moved really well. It was very hard to pass his guard. I had to use my weight to control the match.”

Sharpei says he came to the American Nationals to prepare for the No-Gi Worlds. He’s already got his training camp underway, which includes: Joao Assis, Lucas Leite, Lapela, Yuri Simoes, and others who have really helped him step up his game. He says the American Nationals was a good experience for him and allowed him to test how the camp is working out. “I faced really good competition today, so it was great  preparation for the Worlds. They were all high-level guys.”

Sharpei, who teaches five times a week in the evenings and then trains every day, got his black belt three years ago. He says he’s making good progress. “I’ve had good moments,” he says, “I fought in the gi and did very well early on in the year but then didn’t do so well. Now, it’s turning around again. I like No-Gi. It has more speed and I do well in it.”

"Sharpei" and co.

Currently, Sharpei is working on his takedowns and his wrestling skills in order to help improve his game. “I have such a good team to help me with this,” he says, “I really want to win the No-Gi Worlds. That’s my goal. I really want it and I’m thankful to the guys in my camp for helping me so much to get there.”

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