Ricky Lundell Teaches Cael Sanderson the X-Guard Sweep

Nothing major to this story, but I found it interesting nonetheless. Ricky Lundell, "the youngest Gracie American black belt recipient ever and the 2008 world grappling champion at 154 pounds" is adding to his BJJ game by adding wrestling, but in a fairly unique way:

Enter Cael and Cody Sanderson, now coaching at Iowa State, who have always been intrigued by MMA. They thought putting a jiu-jitsu black belt in the Cyclones wrestling room every day might introduce a new angle to folkstyle wrestling. They were right.

"This sport is still evolving," Cael says. "And Ricky's helping it evolve."

The application of jiu-jitsu into collegiate wrestling is a delicate balancing act, but that's precisely the point. With the right minds collaborating, overlap between jiu-jitsu and wrestling can be found where different techniques and ideas can be used to reach similar ends. With the exchange of information, new wrinkles and adaptations can be achieved. There's probably a ceiling on how much swapping there's actually available, but the tweaks over time help adapt the game.

How's Lundell doing? Good enough, but the future's uncertain:

Lundell struggled early on learning how to wrestle and took his fair share of drubbings in the Cyclones wrestling room, which is to be expected when a rookie enters one of the best rooms in the nation. (ISU is No. 2 right now.)

There is a lot of overlap between wrestling and jiu-jitsu. But historically, one interacted with the other only with wrestlers becoming quick studies at jiu-jitsu. As far as Lundell or the Sandersons have ever heard, a jiu-jitsu player, even a black belt, had never tried to add wrestling on top of his skill set.

The toughest thing for Lundell so far: learning to handle the vast variety of wrestling takedowns.

"In jiu-jitsu, there are lots of moves you can't even attempt," he says, "because you can be submitted if you shoot low."

He also had to ditch working from his back. In jiu-jitsu, players can lay flat on their backs and still be on offense. In wrestling, laying on your back for even a split-second means the match is over. Lundell learned that one the hard way recently, during his first open tournament. After being taken down to his back, Lundell immediately wrapped his legs around his opponent's neck in a modified, wrestling-legal version of a triangle choke. In a span of one second, he went from his back to rolling his opponent to his back, with Lundell coming up in the dominant position. Problem is, the baffled ref had already blown the whistle. He signaled, with some curiosity about what had just happened, that Lundell had lost, by pin. Bystanders were even more confused. The guy who'd just gotten pinned was now pinning his opponent. But the match was over. The ref had seen Lundell's shoulder blades touch the mat and ended it—just as Lundell was taking over the match.

"Oh well," Lundell says. "I'm still learning."

Others are learning from him, too. His ability to maneuver out of traditionally weak wrestling positions, especially escaping from being put on his back, with jiu-jitsu moves is something Iowa State wrestlers have begun to incorporate. During one recent match, Cyler Sanderson gave up a takedown and was headed toward his back when he slipped into "X Guard," where he used a butterfly guard to sweep his opponent and notch a reversal himself.

"I hit it!" Sanderson yelled to Lundell when he came off the mat. "I used the X Guard you taught me!"

Some fans and insider clamor for MMA to be an Olympic sport, but logistically it's probably not a very feasible idea. Instead, it'd be better if sport jiu-jitsu were given a more serious inclusion into the traditional sports arena. Whatever newaza is in Judo, most people do no associate submissions with that sport. There is still a significant cadre of folks who do not understand submissions in addition to those who strictly associate submissions with jiu-jitsu. Giving jiu-jitsu placement in the Olympics (FILA already recognizes submission wrestling) further helps to formalize the idea of submissions being incorporated into "sport", thereby giving MMA an added heave-ho. Sanderson's gesture is small, but over time the more the traditional wrestling community adopts the practice of its grappling cousins, the more MMA can ultimately benefit.

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