Three of the new national judo champions crowned at a two-day competition in Laverne hail from a dojo in Nipomo.

In fact, one of the three was declared the champion in two divisions, said CEM Judo sensei Bob Rush.

“We really hit the big time,” Rush said after the team returned from the U.S. Judo Association/ U.S. Judo Federation tournament.

CEM took 12 students — including six from Santa Maria — to the Winter Nationals held Dec. 1 and 2 at Damien High School, and nine of them placed.

The competition drew more than 600 competitors, with adults taking to the mats last Saturday, followed by the youths on Sunday.

In the youth competition, Cece Benitez was named champion in the novice girls division.

Zach Holland took first place in both the middleweight boys and light heavyweight boys divisions to become a double champion.

His sister, Austria Holland, took second place in the middleweight girls and third place in the lightweight girls divisions, while their brother Jared Holland took second in the lightweight boys.

Jorge Arevalo took third place in the advanced boys division.

In the adult competition, Amy Stowe earned the championship by taking first place in the lightweight women’s division.

Jennifer Shamblin beat every competitor in the lightweight women’s division except her own teammate Stowe to take second place.

Joe Riloquio took second place in the men’s middleweight division, and Sergio Rodriguez took second in the men’s lightweight division.

CEM students are helping raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by collecting pledges for the Thrill-a-thon they have planned in January, Rush said.

Judo students will be near the center of the Santa Maria Town Center from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today collecting pledges.

“It will be a little like the March of Dimes Walk-a-thon,” Rush said of the Thrill-a-thon to be staged in the Town Center. “How much money they collect will determine how many times they’re thrown.

“We’re just going to kind of pound them into the ground,” he said of the students.

Rush said a large portion of the pledges will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

CEM Judo at 671 W. Tefft St., No. 15, is staffed by volunteer instructors and offers competitive martial arts training for all ages as well as women’s self-defense classes.

For more information, call Rush at 305-1465.

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