Riverhead High School junior Elvio Estrada may not have won his division at the World Jiu-Jitsu International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championship in California earlier this month, but he returned to a champion’s welcome.
A large picture of Elvio wearing his jiujitsu uniform was taped to the wall outside his classroom.
“I walked into school and everyone’s clapping,” he said. “This has really been a team effort, everyone coming together and bringing me up.”
Elvio didn’t place, as he was knocked out by the fourth-place finisher. He was among 44 competitors in the white belt division at the world championships for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial arts-based grappling sport similar to wrestling. The 17-year-old was the youngest competitor in the division and said he was representing his hometown — Riverhead — while competing for the international title.
It was Elvio’s first professional experience, one he said he relished.
“At that international world level I got to test myself and I saw how good I really am, and what I really deserve,” he said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Elvio nearly advanced further in the tournament and was 30 seconds away from securing a win during his final match when he and his opponent slid out of bounds. The match was restarted in the center of the fighting area and Elvio’s opponent was able to take him down for the win.
Despite the loss, Elvio said he isn’t discouraged and has vowed to continue competing, especially after getting a taste of professional competition. A highlight was the opportunity to meet Royce Gracie, a legend in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community.
This summer, Elvio is already planning to compete in a competition run by a member of the Gracie family, as well as the New York Open and Chicago Open tournaments. He vowed to return to next year’s world championships in even better shape.
“This summer I’m going to be stepping it up 100 times more — 1,000 times more to make sure I get that gold next year,” he said. “In my heart I’m still the world champion and I can’t wait to be back.”