Sioux City – National Judo Champion.
Bishop Sheeran high school student Victor Bird didn’t expect those words when he traveled to Lansing, Michigan, last month for the U.S. Judo Junior National Championships. But he should be used to it by now.
Bird, 17, defeated world number one Elias Sabin in the 100kg class on March 20 to claim the national title, securing Bird’s place at this week’s IJF Junior and Junior Pans. Earning a spot at the U.S. Championship, he will represent Team USA this weekend in Lima, Peru.
This isn’t Bird’s first trip abroad for Team USA. Back in 2018, Bird traveled to Ecuador to compete in the Pan American Junior Championships.
This weekend’s race will be Bird’s first international since his trip to Ecuador, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to represent his hometown in South America once again.
People are also reading…
“I’m excited to be there this time,” Bird said. “I didn’t expect to win, so it was really a cool, humbling experience. Most of the team was from Boston, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and Florida, and I was like the only child” from Love Team USA in Sioux City, Iowa. It’s kind of cool that I can represent where I’m from and do what I do. “
Bird has been practicing judo since he was 9 years old and has won many championships to his name. In 2014, Bird won the men’s 9-10 heavyweight championship at the U.S. Judo Junior Olympics. Before that, he won the AAU National Championship and his division titles at the Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa State Championships.
Overall, Bird estimates that he played in about 20 national championships in his lifetime, winning gold in 14 of them.
According to Bird, the secret to his judo success is simple: stay calm.
When he’s on the mat, Bird doesn’t get nervous in big moments, like when he faces No. 1 Sabine in the national championship game. For him, the stakes are what makes it interesting.
“Whenever I go out there, I always lose those tensions,” Bird said. “It’s always cool to play against good guys you know. The bigger the opponent, the bigger the moment, the more fun it is for me. I’m not really obsessed with those moments. He’s number one, but at the end of the day, we all put our pants down on the same road.”
Bird spent most of his judo career working with Johnny Tured of the Sioux City American Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Club and spent time learning from Karen McKee of the Sioux City Judo Club.
Tureaud has seen potential in Bird since he first stepped into his club at the age of nine.
“For (Bird), I don’t think he ever wanted to stop learning,” Tureaud said. “He’s been trying to learn more and do more. When he started out, what was great about him was that he tried to do all the advanced skills at once. For the most part, he could do it. He was a natural athlete. .”
Bird has taken a break from games since high school while training in other sports, including rugby wrestling and soccer.
Bird, a wrestling state qualifier in Sioux City East as a junior, is just one spot behind on the return trip against Sheeran this season after finishing third at 195 pounds in a Division 2A Division 6 match.
Bird has been balancing wrestling and judo throughout the 2021-2022 season, and after struggling through his high school wrestling career, Bird knows judo can help him bounce back.
“I was a little lost, but there was still something inside of me that wanted to go out and do something,” Bird said. “I called my dad and went to judo practice on a Tuesday night that same week and said ‘let’s try it out’. , and see what happens.'”
Bird hopes to move on to judo at the next level once he has completed the Pan American Games. He hopes to get a college scholarship from the Judo Club while majoring in construction management. Eventually, Bird wanted to get his real estate license and start his own business.
“I have big plans that I want to do after high school, and judo can take me where I want to go,” Bird said.
Judo has taken Bird to many places over the years and helped him realize how much there is to see.
The outside world is big, and judo helps Bird more than most 17-year-olds see.
“It gave me an experience that made me feel like there was more to do,” Bird said. “Being able to go to South America twice, to Ecuador, and now to Peru, is a crazy experience for a kid. I feel like everyone should be doing something, and the lesson I’ve learned is to get out there. There’s a lot to do out there. .”
Bird will compete in Saturday’s Pan American Games.