Six medals for Hedben Bridge club at county championships

A LOCAL judo club scooped six medals at the West Yorkshire championships on Sunday, including a gold.

Judo Excellence, based in Hebden Bridge, sent a nine-strong squad to the tournament at the Richard Dunn Sports Centre in Bradford.

The event attracted more than 100 judo players from various clubs around the region, and the competition was fierce.

It was the first time competing for many of the Judo Excellence team but their youth and inexperience did not hinder them as they went on to secure a gold and five bronzes.

The competition was split into under 12s, 16s and senior sections with various weight categories in each age group.

First up was Rhys Bateman who found himself competing in the under 12s, U34kg section after just tipping over the scales in his expected category.

He finished off his first three fights in seconds after some impressive over the shoulder throwing. After reaching the semi-final, he was unlucky to lose, being taken by surprise by his opponent, but still walked away with the bronze.

There were four of the club’s competitors up next in the under 12s, U30kg category, which attracted the majority of the age group’s entrants.

Kyran Lewis was pitted against strong competition in the first few rounds and unfortunately was knocked out of his pool. Benedict Freeman, Sam Shaw and Dennis Hopley made it through to the knock out stages.

There was some crowd pleasing fighting from all three, with equal amounts of quick finishes and endurance ground fighting.

Hopley and Shaw were up against each other in their final knock out, with Shaw securing his victory with a 20 second hold down.

Freeman won his final match with a quick foot sweep to take his opponent down. Freeman and Shaw secured joint third position and bronze medals.

Meanwhile, Jenson Overton was competing in the under 12, over 46kg group.

With some much considerably weightier opponents, Overton fought hard and left with the team’s fourth bronze of the day.

The competition then moved up a notch when the older players stepped onto the mat, with Tommy Ferrara, Josh Blackhurst and Josh Jackson competing in the under 16 categories.

Ferrara and Blackburst fought hard with Ferrara taking bronze. Josh Jackson was victorious in all his fights and went on to take the gold.

The club is run by Tony Devine, a fifth dan black belt, assisted by Andy Merchant, a fourth dan black belt - both have represented GB at judo. Devine took over Judo Excellence in May 2011 and since then the club has gone from strength to strength with members from age five upwards.

As well as having fun, the club promotes discipline and respect among its members.

Said Devine: “I was really proud of the team. For some of them it was their first time in competition and it was a really valuable experience.

“We were up against some very established clubs and we did really well. It was great to see so much support between everyone involved.”

Training sessions run on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings. Devine also runs a programme for primary and secondary schools. You can find out more by emailing him at