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Jiu jitsu gives Ohio State-bound Thompson a leg up on foes


Central Catholic senior and Ohio State football recruit Jayme Thompson, on the mat, works on his jiu jitsu techniques against Grant Curavo as his father, Deon Thompson, instructs him. Jayme is a blue belt in the martial arts discipline.

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The football prospect and the black belt are fighting again.

Some day, Jayme Thompson is sure he will hold off the master’s go-to triangle choke, counter with a submission move of his own — say, the guillotine or a straight ankle lock — and make his father tap out.

"Probably after that summer weight training," said Thompson, a Central Catholic senior who will play football at Ohio State next season.

But this recent training session is not that day.

"I don’t see it happening," Deon Thompson said with a smile. "I’ll get older and smarter."

For the past dozen years, father and son have bonded over an unlikely pastime: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Deon, a former All-City League basketball player at DeVilbiss, is an accomplished instructor, while Jayme, a four-star safety who helped the Fighting Irish capture the Division II state championship this season, credits the discipline in part to his football success.

Even now, Jayme’s training includes a steady regimen of lifting, plyometrics, and ... clock chokes. Though football intervened with his one-time cage-fighting ambitions, he still hones his blue-belt skills three nights per week in Deon’s classes at Ohio Brasa Brazilian Jiu Jitsu inside Premier Martial Arts on Monroe Street.

"If you asked anybody, I’m a real aggressive kid, so this is just really fun to do," Jayme said. "And it’s always nice to be able to protect yourself."

It’s not hard to figure out how his passion developed. Deon became hooked on jiu jitsu after watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout in 2000 and has since gained a core of area disciples.

That included a 9-year-old Jayme and a host of others who never imagined foraying into the martial arts, from men and women at every level to schoolteachers and dentists.

His first student was Joshua Archer, a brawny former football player who competed in the shot put, discus, and hammer throw for the University of Toledo. Deon met Archer as the adviser of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, at Toledo.

"We would goof off," said Deon, who earned his black belt under Rodrigo "Comprido" Medeiros. "I was trying to show what I knew [in jiu jitsu], and I would challenge the biggest guys in the fraternity."

One day at the house in 2006, Archer accepted, thinking he would flick aside his slender friend.

"I work out every day, I'm stronger," Archer recalled thinking. "I should kill this guy."

Instead, in a less literal sense, it was the other way around.

"As soon as you try it, you’re a believer," Archer said. "Somebody 100 pounds lighter than you chokes you, and you're like, ‘How does this happen?’"

Archer has since won more than a dozen regional tournaments and is one of two instructors along with Matt Garber under Thompson at Ohio Brasa Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Jayme, too, promptly bought in to the brains-over-brawn art, earning one belt after another. For football, he said the sport helped develop his agility, mental discipline, and confidence.

Think the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Thompson is afraid of bulling into a tackle on a blitz off the edge? He was fighting opponents twice his age in middle school. In one tournament, Deon said a 12-year-old Jayme was crushed when he narrowly lost the championship bout to a 17-year-old who had driven to the meet.

"I knew then that he had the heart to compete," Deon said.

Among those Jayme has challenged include his sophomore math teacher at St. Francis de Sales, where he spent his first two years of high school. The teacher, Andrew Stanford, knew little about jiu jitsu. But he was a 300-pound former lineman at Bowling Green State University. Jayme, whom he had mentored as an assistant football coach, could take him down? Ha.

Still, he came out for a lesson.

"The first day, I probably tapped 10 times," said Stanford, a 2008 BGSU graduate.

Now, he can’t get enough and is 4-2 through two tournaments.

"It’s a mental game," Stanford said. "You need to outthink your opponent. That's the appeal to this."

Jayme, meanwhile, plans to continue his jiu jitsu training through his high school graduation before reporting this summer to Ohio State, where he expects the Buckeyes’ strength staff will give him the edge he needs to — just once — catch the master off guard and take down dad.

Deon is not convinced.

"I’ll still be here training," he said, laughing.

Contact David Briggs at:,

419-724-6084 or on

Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.

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