Kivel, Horne fighting their way up
Despite a four year age difference, Jiu-Jitsu competitors Jeremy Kivel and Trey Horne have been close for roughly a decade. The two are close enough that Jose Llanas, their coach at Team Tooke MMA, refers to them as cousins even though they aren't related.
Their mothers have worked together since 2001 and have become best friends. Since then, Kivel, 16, has served as a surrogate older brother for Horne, who has adopted many of his same interests. Last summer, both took a liking to Jiu-Jitsu.
Following in the footsteps of his uncle John Bennet, an aspiring mixed martial arts fighter, Kivel watched endless hours of Jiu-Jitsu footage through DVDs and clips on the internet. One day, Kivel, a student at Spring High School, attempted a guillotine move on Horne, a sixth-grader at Bailey Middle School, on a trampoline in his yard by clutching his arm around the 12-year-old's neck and squeezing the middle schooler's back with his legs. Horne joined the martial arts school soon after and Kivel enrolled a month later. Both have enormous potential, according to Llanas.
"Jeremy has a lot of talent and a lot of heart," Llanas said. "Trey can become one of the best grapplers in his age group in Houston. He's a lot like Jeremy, because they work out together. Whatever I teach Jeremy, he'll teach Trey."
Both Kivel and Horne captured medals at the Tournament of Champions VII in Duncanville last month, as Kivel won a gold and silver, while Horne won a bronze. In their quest to earn a medal, each overcame a great deal of adversity. Horne, a white belt, finished third despite competing against higher level yellow belts in a division above. He also continued to fight after being elbowed in the shin early in the competition.
Kivel, meanwhile, stayed in the tournament even after being gouged in the eye by an opponent's finger. The scratch caused Kivel to rupture a blood vessel in his eye. A spot of blood appeared on his eye and it remained red for two weeks after the competition.
"At first I didn't even notice it, but then I went to the bathroom and saw it," Kivel said. "After 5-10 minutes I could barely open it. It was excruciating."
The two young fighters are now preparing for the Fight to Win and World Grappling Circuit Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Texas State Championships April 23 in Houston. Their heavy strength and conditioning training can be arduous. In one drill known as London Bridges, a fighter starts with 15 jumping squats, then does 15 jumping jacks, followed by another set of 15 jumping squats, 15 push-ups, 15 sit-ups and finally 15 push-ups again. With a coach imploring them to push harder, the students then repeat the process with 14, 13, 12, until they finish with one of each.
"My coaches are helping us on cardio and strength," Kivel said. "It helps us get a game plan so we can go in there and dominate. That's why I like my coaches so much because they push me really hard."
Kivel trains at least four days a week and sometimes practices kickboxing at Team Tooke MMA with amateur and professional fighters more than 10 years older than him. His sponge-like ability to retain nearly every technique he's taught helps him holds his own, Llanas said. If his intensity level remains the same for the next couple months there is a "99 percent chance" he'll win the state championship in his class, said Travis Tooke, the owner of the martial arts center.
The strenuous training is necessary, Horne adds.
"If (your opponent) takes you down, you kind of lose your breath for a little bit," Horne said. "You have to work on that because when you lose your breath, you panic and just want to get out. They can submit you easier and get in a dominant position."
Jiu-Jitsu also helps both develop self-discipline off the mat. Gina Helm, Horne's mother, will frequently receive questionnaires from Llanas on Trey's schoolwork and behavior at home. If he turns in poor grades or doesn't help out with household chores, he can be punished with more strenuous exercises. Both Kivel and Horne have exemplary grades.
"If you drop off your kid every once in awhile Jose will be like 'How's he doing at school? How's he doing at home?'" Helm said.
While Kivel has fared well in training versus older amateurs and professionals, Horne has been able to execute a few moves against him in sparring sessions. He's especially proud of a triangle move he used to avoid a submission.
"It felt good," Horne said. "I thought he was going to escape but he didn't."
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