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Ryan Heilman talks double featherweight gold at American Nationals

Nova Uniao brown belt, Ryan Heilman has some celebrating to do. He won gold in the featherweight division in both the Gi and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu tourneys at the American Nationals on Saturday and Sunday.

Ryan wins the No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu contest. Photos by Deb Blyth.

Ryan had three matches in the gi as a featherweight. His first match ended with his opponent while attempting a a leg lock. During Ryan’s “scuffle” to get out of it, his opponent illegally crossed his leg over Ryan’s. In his second match, Ryan faced Israel Ceron of Ralph Gracie. “He beat me in the finals at Las Vegas,” Ryan says. At the American Nationals, it was a back and forth match that Ryan ended up winning by a sweep.

In the final against Justin Wehr of Ribeiro JJ, Ryan was able to win on points, giving him gold for the day. Ryan opted out of the open class and set his sights on the next day’s No-Gi tournament.

On Sunday, Ryan had two divisional appearances in the No-Gi tournament, winning his first match with a kimura from closed guard and then prepared for his final. Again facing Justin Wehr, this time Ryan was in the flow, tapping Justin out with a toe hold in under a minute. This earned him his second gold medal for the weekend.

Although Ryan didn’t close with any at the American Nationals, he says his favorite move is the triangle because of his long legs. “It comes easy for me,” he says. Ryan competes at least once a month. He is now 20 years old and started training in Jiu-Jitsu when he was 15. “I love it more now,” he says, “I’ve really gotten into the whole Jiu-Jitsu scene. I want to make it a career. One day, after I’m done competing and teaching, I want to open my own academy.”

This was Ryan’s third time winning the No-Gi Nationals. He’s taken third at the No-Gi Worlds twice and he won the Gi Pan as a juvenile. He loves the dedication it takes to be a competitive Jiu-Jitsu athlete and he wants to be at the top level in his competitive life. Ryan wants to thank Gustavo Dantas for all his help.

Ryan and Coach Gustavo Dantas

Speaking of Gustavo Dantas, he was a happy man after the American Nationals. Not only did Ryan do a great job at the tournament but his other student, brown belt heavyweight John Wagoner, also had a great Saturday at the Gi tournament. In his division, he submitted all three of his opponents to take gold on the day.

Gustavo Dantas flanked by his students, Ryan (right) and John Wagoner

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