By AMY ZAMBRANO
More than 40 years ago, when Pima Community College’s athletes played sports in clubs, a judo martial arts team competed at the national level.
The Judo Club was very successful for five consecutive years in the 1970s. The Pima athletes competed at national championships, but fell short in their quest for a top national title.
In 1974, the Judo Club became the first Pima team to advance to Nationals. PCC hosted the national tournament, and Pima’s team brought home a second-place trophy.
On Nov. 6, 1976, the club swept the University of Texas and University of Arizona to take first place in the sixth-annual Judo Invitational senior division.
In the invitational’s black-belt category, Glenn Summer took first in the 139-pound weight class. Aaron Holck and John Gamez took second and third respectively in the 154-pound weight class.
In the white-belt category, John Bravo took first in the 139-pound weight class and Dan Holladay took first in the 154-pound weight class. Second place winners included Steve Griffin in the 125-pound weight class and Jeff Brown in the 176-pound weight class.
The team’s toughest 1976 opponents were just around the corner, at the national competition in Miami.
Coach Eli Noble said economic issues presented bigger challenges than competing against the 40 best teams in the country. Budget restrictions meant he could only take his best five athletes.
“Even if I’m only able to take five people, we’re going to the Nationals, but it will make it awful hard to win,” he said.
The archives don’t contain any follow-up stories that say how the club did at the 1976 national competition, or how the club came to an end.
However, the newspaper did record Noble’s praise for the judo athletes.
“The first team set a precedent,” he said. “We know we’re the best because we work for it.”