North American Freestyle Sambo Championships 2004

Elizabeth, New Jersey: On September 5th, 2004 the American Sambo Association joined forces with USKBA Action Sports to hold the first annual North American Freestyle Sambo Championships. At the event, new “freestyle sambo” rules were launched with the intention of appealing to a wider diversity of grapplers in the United States, where sambo has been historically slow to be accepted as a mainstream sport. The newly formulated rules are more inclusive of technique than traditional sport sambo, allowing for chokes, closed guard, and twisting leg/ankle locks, and are hopefully more attractive to non-sambo fighters. The new techniques were added without sacrificing sambo’s primary focus on throws and fast submissions. Additionally, by holding the event in conjunction with USKBA’s Action Sports World Championships along side sanda, thaiboxing, full contact kickboxing, and traditional continuous contact karate tournaments, sambo was introduced to the American martial arts public at large. Simply stated, the event was a huge success! Sambo, judo, jujitsu, submission wrestling, and MMA players from as far off as California attended the event at RexPlex Center in New Jersey. The freestyle sambo fighters were able to strut their stuff in front of fight teams and spectators from all over the Untied States and world including Mongolia, Russia, the Republic of Georgia, and Scotland. According to Brian Cimins, President of Grappler’s Quest and co-sponsor of the freestyle sambo event, “The North American Freestyle Sambo Championships hosted by the American Sambo Association was a complete success. From a great venue, to food for the sponsors, to great matches on the mats, we were proud to be a part of this great event. I found Sambo to be a beautiful, action-packed and sometimes devastating combat martial art. It was also great to see so many of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors jumping into the various divisions and matching their skills against unknown opponents and different, contrasting styles. I would love to see some of these Sambo champions on the mats at any upcoming Grapplers Quest event.” In addition to Grappler’s Quest, Viper Fight Wear, Prepare For Combat, and United Global Equities, Inc joined hands to co-sponsor the event. Many thanks go out to all the competitors who came to roll, all the event staff and volunteers, as well as Ray Franklin, James Simrell, Vladislav Koulikov, and Rich Dellomo who served as tournament officials after four months of training for the new set of rules. The show went on without a hitch. Action started with three freestyle sambo matches as part of USKBA’s Saturday night supershow on September 4th.

THE SUPERSHOW MATCHESMiddleweights – Nick Fulciniti vs. Vladislav KoulikovVlad and Nick gave the first of three exciting matches and the first public presentations of the new freestyle sambo rules. With over twenty years on the mat, Nick Fulciniti is a 4th Dan in Judo and Jujitsu. He is co-owner and co-chief instructor of Staten Island Judo, Jujitsu and Karate Dojo in New York. This event marked Nicks return to competition after nearly ten years and his first sambo event. The match was dedicated to all his students.Nick’s opponent, no newbie in the grappling arena, was Vladislav Koulikov. Vlad is chief instructor at Ultimate Sambo in Warwick, New York and has a very extensive competition history. A Master of Sport in sambo and graduate of the prestigious Sambo 70 in Moscow, Vlad is an all Soviet Union Sambo Championship gold medallist, Grappler’s Quest most technical fighter award winner, and a Pan Am Games silver medallist.The match started with both players energetically fighting for grips and going to the ground after a failed foot sweep attempt by Koulikov. Fulciniti quickly took a north south position on Koulikov’s back but lost it when Vlad stood to evade. Not willing to lose his advantageous position, Nick held a tight over-the-back grip on Vlad’s and brought the action back down to the mat. Vlad managed to place Fulciniti in his half guard where he defended Nick’s choke attempts. After an unsuccessful knee bar attempt by Vlad and stalling groundwork, Referee James Simrell stood the players back up. Both fighters established their grips and Koulikov quickly executed a front trip, mounted Fulciniti, and ended the match with an arm bar at one minute forty-one seconds into play.

Heavyweights – Juan Berrios vs. Rodney Rappe Rodney Rappe trains out of Liberty Bell Judo and Sambo Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a two time US national sambo champion, two time Pan Am Games gold medallist, Liberty Bell Judo Classic silver medallist, and two time US Sambo team member. Juan Berrios trains out of FIMA Sambo in Oradell, New Jersey and most recently represented the United States at the 2003 FIAS World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia where he placed seventh in the world. This was the longest of the three supershow matches, lasting four minutes and twelve seconds. Berrios and Rappe played a very strategic game, slowly and carefully fighting for grips. Shortly into the match Rappe executed a clean sacrifice throw, landing the two fighters out-of bounds. After getting back on their feet, Berrios attempted and nearly pulled off a sitting arm bar. Rappe escaped to cross body where he attempted an arm bar of his own only for Berrios to escape. Rappe smoothly transitioned to Berrios’ back, got his hooks in, but failed to pull of the potential match-ending choke. After standing up, both players again carefully fought for grips when, with sudden quickness, Rappe executed the match ending sitting arm bar.

Super Heavyweights Lance Campbell vs. Justin Garcia Justin Garcia of Team Groundhog is a BJJ purple belt and no stranger to the US grappling scene. He is a four time Grappler’s Quest champion, two time Copa Atlantica champion, and recently received an invite to the US ADCC trials. Justin was a last minute replacement for Rhadi Ferguson who withdrew after successfully making his US Olympic judo bid. Lance Campbell of Team USA Storm, trains out of California’s Oakdale MMA Academy. Lance is the current Vice President of the United States Sombo Association, is a Pan Am Games gold medallist, FIAS World Cup Silver Medallist, and AAU Greco Roman Silver Medallist.The action began after Campbell evaded Garcia’s attempted sacrifice throw. Lance subsequently ended up in Garcia’s half guard after Justin defended Campbell’s attempt to mount. While Campbell worked to pass Garcia’s half-guard, both fighters simultaneously attacked each other’s legs Justin going for a knee and Lance attacking Justin’s ankle. Both players rolled to avoid submission, stood back up, and locked grips when Campbell quickly attempted a single leg. Justin evaded Campbell’s takedown attempt and subsequent scissor attempt, ending up with knee-on-body. Justin slowly and calmly began to apply his “bread and butter” baseball choke, turned north/south on Campbell, and won the match at one minute and thirty-seven seconds into play.

THE TOURNAMENT After three very exciting Saturday night matches, competitors were all geared up for the Sunday morning freestyle sambo tournament. It was no disappointment! No match went to overtime and the majority ended by submission. Perhaps the most exciting match of the afternoon was for the overall gold medal. Anatoli Sanko of Red Bear Sambo Academy (Brooklyn, New York) faced off against Patrick Hinton of Rival Combat Sambo (Scranton, Pennsylvania). Both fighters were clearly tired after having fought several matches prior in their own and overall divisions. Nevertheless, what a show they gave the crowd in wait! The first takedown was executed by Hinton who smoothly off-balanced Sanko with a quick foot sweep. Hinton successfully executed a foot sweep on every player he faced at the event! However, As if from the Matrix films, Sanko spun 360 horizontally degrees in the air to land on his knees and stand back up, never giving Hinton the ground advantage. After fighting for grips Sanko explosively dove for a rolling knee bar, which, at one minute and fifty seven seconds into play, ended the match.

Division Results:

Beginner, under 150lbsGold: Mark Fileccia Staten Island Judo, Jujitsu, & Karate DojoSilver: Jaeh Lee Tri State BJJBronze: Alejandro Chang-Tang New York Combat Sambo Beginner, 181-195lbsGold: Phillip Lucia Team GroundhogSilver: Scott Hlubik New York Combat Sambo Beginner, 195+lbsGold: Angel Lopez Team GroundhogSilver: Rob Matrisciani – Staten Island Judo, Jujitsu, & Karate DojoBronze: John Faulkner FIMA Sambo Intermediate, 151-165lbsGold: Anatoli Sanko Red Bear Sambo AcademySilver: Tedd Keating New York Combat Sambo Intermediate, 166-180lbsGold: Patrick Hinton Rival Combat SamboSilver: Ryan Ahern Ultimate SamboBronze: David Johnson Southern Mountain Martial Arts Intermediate, 181-195lbsGold: Franklin Ferrer Tri State BJJSilver: Andrew Thomas Rival Combat SamboBronze: Jose Sanchez New York Combat Sambo Advanced, 181-195lbsGold: Josh Griffith Team Grappler’s QuestSilver: Chris Lothian Team Groundhog Advanced, 196+lbsGold: Bryan Vetell Woodhaven MMASilver: Oleg Savitsky Red Bear Sambo AcademyBronze: Anthony Argyros Team Mike Monica Overall ChampionsGold: Anatoli Sanko Red Bear Sambo AcademySilver: Patrick Hinton Rival Combat SamboBronze: Mark Fileccia Staten Island Judo, Jujitsu, & Karate Dojo

For more information about sambo or future freestyle sambo events visit or contact Stephen Koepfer, President of the American Sambo Association at or (718) 728-8054.

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Stephen R. Koepfer