Despite 8,000 miles of traveling, getting through six customs stations and managing very little sleep, James “Chico” Hernandez said his recent trip to Ireland over Labor Day weekend was worthwhile.
Hernandez picked up a pair of gold medals and a silver while competing in the North American Grappling Association Championships in Dublin.
The Washburn native went 3-1 during the tournament. He took first in the master’s division and claimed the championship belt in submission grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He was defeated in the open division in submission grappling by Polish wrestler Sebastian Kozok, who possesses a long list of titles and is 23 years younger.
“My attitude was if I lose, I guess I am supposed to lose because of my age, and if I win, I look cool,” Hernandez said. “There was no pressure, and you don’t know unless you try.
“What was a really good feeling to me was the respect many great fighters there gave and showed to me,” he added.
Hernandez was awarded the Gaelic Athletic Association Sports Medal by the Garda, which is the Irish National Police.
He has posted 20 NAGA fight victories and has claimed 16 medals in association tournaments.
NAGA holds submission grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments throughout North America and Europe and is the largest submission grappling association in the world.
“People ask me if it was worth [traveling to Ireland], and I say yes as the sacrifices are a small price to pay,” Hernandez said. “It’s nice to see how the other half live, and life is so exciting I hate to miss a second of it.
“Plus, it’s a very cool feeling to be a champion of Ireland,” he added.