Payson Martial Arts Students Finish In Top Three At State

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The thrill of the right technique at the right moment and the rush of a good contest drew 13 Payson martial arts students to the Arizona Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu state championships.

During the gold-medal games, held June 28 at the Broadway Recreation Center in Phoenix, 10 of the Rim Country youths finished among the top three in their age/weight divisions.

"We did really well, we're happy with what was accomplished," said Payson Pankration owner and teacher Wyatt Shepherd.

All who entered the state games from the Rim Country are students of Shepherd at his local studio.

"Some of them are new and this was just their first (competition)," he said.

In the 7-9-years lightweight division, Jon Perry battled his way to a first-place finish.

In the 7-9-years super heavy division, Pankration's Sammy Bland was second and Trenton Cline took third.

Among the 11-12-years students, Colten Creasy was second in the rooster division.

Among the feather weights, Steven Martinez took second.

Pankration dominated the 11-12 super weights with Clinton Denney taking first, Jessica White second and Chris Perry third.

Among the 13-15-year-olds entered in the unlimited division, Steve Perry battled to a bronze medal.

Gustavo Dantas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu sponsored the tournament.

While Dantas might have been a new face to the Payson youths entered in the state showdown, he is no stranger in Payson.

The native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has made two appearances in Payson as a guest of Shepherd and his Pankration martial arts school.

In Tempe, where Dantas now lives, he is a member of the Nova Uniao martial arts team and is a coach of jiu-jitsu and other martial arts at Arizona Combat Sports.

In his career, the 32-year-old Dantas racked up a jiu-jitsu record that includes winning the 1997 and 1998 world championships.

He also was an international champion in 1998 and 1999, finished third in the 1996 and 2002 world championships and won the Rio de Janeiro state championship in 1988.

In judo, he has been a Nevada state champion and is a two-time Rio de Janeiro titleholder.

At Arizona Combat Sports, Dantas has turned out some exceptional cage fighters.

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