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Grappling with the Champ


When I was in journalism classes I was taught that it was always frowned upon to write articles in the first person and to write about subjects that you are too close to. Sometimes I adhere to that train of thought, and at other times I do not.

This will be one of those times. I have a story that is simply too good not to tell. It was so good that I considered writing an article for about it but doing a first-person account about my wife competing at the U.S. Grappling Championships in Delaware yesterday may not make for proper “journalism.” It’s a story more appropriate for this blog and while we’re past the point of being my personal diary, consider this a personal e-mail that I’m sharing with everyone.

What I experienced yesterday was without question one of the most surreal moments in my life and I’m afraid I may not be able to properly convey its magnitude. But I will give it a shot anyway.

Imagine you’re an amateur golfer and you decide one weekend to enter an amateur tournament in your area and either Tiger Woods or Annika Sorenstam show up out of nowhere because they were in the area and had nothing better do on a Saturday afternoon than compete. Then imagine you are assigned to play 18 holes of golf with one of them.

Sounds kind of far fetched?

Well, my wife has never played golf and probably never will but she is a competitive martial artist, and a pretty good one at that. And what she experienced on Saturday is probably the martial arts equivalent to the golf analogy mentioned above.

While female grappling has grown in recent years, it still has plenty of room to expand. Too often female martial artists find themselves in positions where they train hard for tournaments and travel great distances only to find that there is no one for them to compete against.

When my wife and I arrived at the tournament we soon learned that the only other white belt for her to compete against weighed 104 pounds. My wife is 5’9” and simply had too much of a weight advantage. The other white belt was also trained at a Lloyd Irvin affiliate school and our head instructor at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu United, Jared Weiner, received his black belt from Irvin. Needless to say he wasn’t keen on the idea of my wife competing against another Irvin student in an Absolute (no weight class) division.

We were getting ready to call it a day at that point and head home when all of a sudden we saw a female arrive that had a purple belt hanging out of her gym bag. Jokingly, I asked Sharon, one of the instructors at BJJ United and one of my wife’s coaches, if Andria (my wife) could face her knowing that white belts and purple belts are almost never allowed to compete against each other in Gi tournaments.

After taking a closer look, Sharon responded by saying, “Well, I think that’s Tara LaRosa, actually.” Without realizing she was serious, I just kind of laughed. While the U.S. Grappling Championships had a good turnout, it’s not yet one of the bigger grappling tournaments around. If someone like Tara LaRosa was going to walk up to a grappling tournament, you’d expect it to be an event like NAGA or Grappler’s Quest.

I started focusing on the purple belt and thought to myself, “Damn, that does look a lot like Tara LaRosa.”

Wouldn’t you know, it was indeed BodogFIGHT women’s champion Tara LaRosa. The same Tara LaRosa who competed at Abu Dhabi in Trenton, NJ this summer and also regarded by many as the pound-for-pound number one female mixed martial artist in the world.

My wife and I kind of joked about her competing against Tara.


  • d-train says:

    are u posting the pics?

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted most because I don’t know how to work my camera phone properly.

    However, there were two other photographers there who took high quality images. Once I receive them, I will post a few.

    Someone also took video as well.

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  • Brad says:

    That is an amazing story Sam. Congrats to your wife on a terrific performance. I was at the ADCC in Trenton, and couldn’t imagine a match like that even occuring, let alone being competitive! I am glad you wrote about the experience. You really should invest in a nice digital camera, especially if you go to events like this as often as you do!

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Brad, thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    And actually, we own a digital camera, believe it or not. We just got lazy and forgot it! Of all days to forget the camera.

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  • koolpaw says:

    Plus Tara is the first gold medalist at 63kg division of FILA World Championships in Grappling.

    omg, ur wify is ok?

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  • Brent says:

    Tara mentioned she would be there with the Fight Factory crew on the thread about that tournament – I didn’t realize your wife was competing!

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  • JiuJitsu365 says:

    Cool story…

    This kind of story is why I love Jiu-jitsu, submission grappling and MMA….

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  • Rich says:

    Congrats to your wife. I bet it was a thrill for her just as it was for us to read the article. These are the stories that make beginners strive to be better and what a great motovation that was for her.

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  • Jay K. says:

    Congrats to your wife Sam! That’s an amazing story!! Very glad you chose to share this and write about it.

    Jay K.

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  • phyteguru says:

    Great story Sam!

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  • Mike Wolfe says:

    The article didn’t mention your wife’s weight, proving you are a gentleman and a shrewd one at that.

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  • Dizzle says:

    congrats to your wife Sam.

    Maybe you will do an article on me one of these days?

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  • Big D D says:

    congrats to your wife, sam. Two Martial artists in one family I would hate to see how skilled your kids will be!

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