Armed with a sharp mind, lean body and super-diligent work ethic, Livonia teenager Nick Joseph has rocketed to national stardom in the relentless sport of judo.
Although just 17, the senior-to-be at Novi Detroit Catholic Central High School is currently ranked No. 4 in the country in the IJF division (18-20-year-olds) 73-kilogram weight class.
Training under the supervision of Noboru Saito in Birmingham and coached by his father Ricardo, Joseph recently returned from the Junior U.S. Open Judo Championships and International Training Camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he earned a silver medal while grappling against many of the most-accomplished athletes in the sport.
One week earlier, Joseph started his summer to remember by earning a bronze medal at the USA Judo Junior Olympics National Judo Championships in Irving, Texas.
Joseph’s interest in the challenging sport — which requires participants to deploy holds and leverage to separate opponents from their balance — came at an age when most of his young peers were taking their cuts at T-Ball.
“When I was 5, I went to watch my sister (Alexandra) compete in a judo tournament, and I told my dad, ‘I want to do that,’ ” Joseph remembered.
“I talked to his initial instructor, Jerry Wee, and he told me, ‘Well, 5 is a little early, but bring him down and we’ll work on it’,” Ricardo Joseph added. “He competed in his first tournament when he was 6 and he’s been doing it ever since.”
And doing it well.
By training up to six days a week — mostly at a facility in Birmingham, but he also has a mat in his basement – Joseph has risen to a level in his sport that could be compared to a five-star quarterback in football.
“Judo has not only helped me with discipline, but it helps keep me in shape and it has increased my mental toughness,” Joseph said. “It’s a fun sport, a physical sport and it’s pretty intense, which I like.”
Not surprisingly, given his national ranking — he was ranked No. 1 in his weight class last year — Joseph is being pursued by several collegiate judo programs, including Texas A&M, San Jose State, the service academies, the University of Michigan and Michigan State.
While he still has ample time to make his decision, Joseph admitted A&M is very appealing since he has a strong interest in studying engineering and/or business at the next level – two fields the Texas school is noted for.
Joseph’s passion for grappling and hard work has paid dividends on the wrestling mats at CC, where he was a Division 1 regional qualifier at 145 pounds as a junior.
An injury and a loaded regional site – three of the top five wrestlers in the state at his weight class were at the Saline region – halted his quest for a berth in the individual state meet.
Joseph is an outstanding student, having also has chiseled out a cumulative 3.6 grade-point average at CC.
Once school starts, his weekday regimen includes attending classes, practicing wrestling or judo for up to three hours, then up to four hours of homework.”