Popp making noise in judo

Ian Popp, 14, wears the medal he won after taking second place at the state Judo competition recently. The Fruita Monument High School sophomore studies the sport at High Desert Martial Arts.

Ian Popp has been in his fair share of judo competitions, but his latest was probably the most unique for the 14-year-old.

Popp finished second in the light heavyweight division at the State Games of America in Colorado Springs on Aug. 1.

“It was a great experience being at the Olympic Training Center with all the other athletes,” said Popp, who is entering his sophomore year at Fruita Monument High School. “I felt like I could have done better if I didn’t let myself get so nervous.”

Popp said competing in front of big crowds was stressful, but also helped provide one of the most memorable experiences of the games.

“In my second match, there was a point where we were both going toward the mat, the cheering was drowned out and it was just me and my opponent,” Popp said. “It was all about trying to get the other person to land on the mat first.”

Popp has been practicing judo for seven years with the Grand Mesa Judo Club, and has been competing around Colorado for the past five years.

Judo has been an Olympic sport since 1964, and the goal is to throw the opponent to the mat.

Once there, competitors are looking to immobilize the opponent with a choke or hold. Judo doesn’t allow strikes or kicks during competition, and is focused on throws and groundwork.

Popp’s interest in the sport stemmed from wanting to participate in a martial art at a young age.

He saw a judo competition and was hooked.

“I saw practices, and thought it would be an interesting thing to do,” Popp said. “Through it I’ve learned how important self-discipline is.”

Popp is a green belt, and spends three hours a week working on his skills. Ed Reynolds is one of the trainers with the Grand Mesa Judo club, and said Popp has done everything he’s had to working his way up the ranks.

“He has worked hard to get each belt,” Reynolds said. “That’s something we require, and he hasn’t had any problems. His competition is getting better, and he’s doing better against them.”

In judo tournaments, Popp has been a little overmatched at times, because the competitors are paired up by weight as opposed to skill level.

“I end up going against brown belts and people who were way up there, and they just nail me,” Popp said. “It’s upsetting to lose, but it also motivates me to get to their level.”

But regardless of how his matches turn out, Popp loves the martial art of Japanese origin. He said one of his goals is to not only make it to black belt someday, but also operate his own dojo.

“What I like about judo is the philosophy,” Popp said. “A big part of it is respecting your opponent.”

On the mat, Popp won’t have another competition until January, which will give him time to keep improving.

“I’m working on continuing to get coordinated with the throws,” Popp said. “I want to be less nervous in my next tournament.”


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