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Strong showing

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After two years as top judo team in the state, Owen County squad slips to second

By The Staff

The 2009 O.J. Helvey Kentucky State Judo Championship was held Saturday at Greenwood High School in Bowling Green.

After two years at the top, Owen County slipped to second in the state championship with 43 points. However, numerous players still came home with individual honors.

Bowling Green Judo Club took first place with 68 points.

Wakaishu Judo Club, based at Iroquois High School in Louisville, placed third with 40 points.

For the second year in a row, Owen County’s David Gray was awarded the Erroyl Cheatham Presidential Award for Outstanding Player of Junior National Competition for his continual efforts at the national level.

Over the summer, Gray competed in three different national championships, bringing recognition to Kentucky judo by taking a third in Boston, Mass., at the USJA Nationals and a second in Chicago, Ill., at the USJF Nationals.

Emily True is the first Owen County Judo Team player to ever receive the Most Outstanding Junior Female Competitor award for Saturday’s event. Her determination, control of her competitors and flawless execution of techniques drew the attention of numerous referees.

John Thompson took first place in the Tokuri Waza (favorite techniques) competition.

Unfortunately, at age 87, Dr. O.J. Helvey, the coach who the state tournament is named after, passed away Friday prior to the event.

Helvey had coached the Cumberland College Judo Team for decades at numerous local, national, and international championships.

His collegiate program was nationally and internationally well known.

In 1983, he produced three Olympians, including bronze medalist Eddie Liddie, the current Olympic Training Center coach in Colorado Springs, Colo.

As a Cumberland College Judo Alumni member, Owen County Judo Team’s coach, Doris Beverly, understands more than most people the impact Helvey had on American judo.

Helvey coached Cumberland’s judo team from its inception in 1963 until his retirement in 1986. Helvey led the Cumberland jodokas to their first major tournament win and on to win the Mid-West Championship 14 more times. Over the following years, Helvey led the women’s team to claim four National Collegiate Judo Association Championships and the men’s team to three NCJA Championships.

Under Helvey’s watchful eye, Beverly brought home either first, second, or third from the National Collegiate Judo Championships five years in a row, and she competed for the United States on the first women’s World University Team in 1985 with Helvey as the head U.S.A. coach.