By Eric Heubusch

At a 17-and-older national judo competition held on May 2nd and 3rd, 13-year-old Hannah Wagner had to fight to even enter the tournament.

“They didn’t even want her to enter,” said Hannah’s coach Ed Maley. “I had to call them up and yell at them.”

After much hesitation and verbal pressure from the 86-year-old coach, tournament officials allowed Wagner to enter the tournament held in Irving, Texas, and she didn’t disappoint – the Valrico native won the Brown Belt division.

“They were surprised,” Wagner said. “I had the director standing at the side of the mat during my last fight, and he told me congratulations. I thanked him for the opportunity.”

Maley emphasized the importance of judo and the places it can take a student. The coach, who has taught judo since 1949, mentioned two students going to Argentina and Abu Dhabi. He also talked about Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Ronda Rousey, who practiced Maley’s style of judo for only two years and is now making millions of dollars.

Wagner credited her peers in her judo class for her victory.

“There are just so many people here that are just so good to work with,” Wagner said.

Wagner also listed her coaches and family as factors for her success.

“I contribute that success to them – my coaches and my parents – who provide me with everything,” Wagner said. “My sister, especially, who’s always there for me.”

A student at Burns Middle School, Wagner said she also enjoys reading when she’s not throwing the competition onto their backs. Of all the moments in Irving, she said that her favorite came right after the big finale.

“It was definitely seeing my family after my fight,” Wagner said.

Wagner fights at Professor Ed Maley’s Florida School of Judo, and practices at the Campo YMCA. Practices are held also held at South Tampa and New Tampa YMCAs, and for more information please call the facility.