‘It’s a cool experience’: Local teen wins gold medal in Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition

Olivia Schauer, of Maurertown, spars with Jeff Buettner, co-owner and instructor at Winchester Jiu Jitsu Academy in Winchester. The 14-year-old recently won a gold medal in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world competition. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – A few years ago Olivia Schauer was being bullied and she decided that she wanted to do something to learn how to defend herself.

At first, she took a self-defense class, but then decided she wanted to go in another direction – Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It’s been a life-changing decision for her.

“I actually started doing like a self-defense program, but I wanted something that I could compete in,” Schauer said last week in Winchester. “So I switched over to (Brazilian jiu-jitsu).”

Schauer, 14 of Maurertown, said she wanted something that would challenge her mentally and physically and help build her self-confidence. So she decided to give Brazilian jiu-jitsu a try and looked up local gyms where they had the sport. She found the perfect one at the Winchester Jiu-Jitsu Academy.

She said she didn’t know much about the sport before she tried it out.

This is Olivia Schauer's gold medal. Courtesy photo

“I was really confused maybe the first six months,” Schauer said. “It took about six months to really start catching onto stuff.”

Once she caught on, she hasn’t looked back. Schauer has competed in three different big tournaments, winning two gold medals and a silver.

Last month, she competed in the Kids Summer International Open, an International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation tournament in Las Vegas. There are adult and youth competitions being held at the same time with the tournament lasting four days.

Schauer won the gold medal in the Yellow Belt lightweight division on Aug. 25. She defeated two other competitors to win the gold medal. In the first round, Schauer won by submission, and in the final, she won by 2 points. She said the matches are four minutes long.

“It’s really emotional,” Schauer said of winning the gold medal. “It’s a cool experience. I was so nervous, but it was really a neat experience, and I hope that I can use that experience to be a really good coach one day.”

The gold medal almost didn’t happen for Schauer, who was three pounds over the weight limit the day before she was scheduled to compete. She said she stayed in a sauna all morning to make the weight.

Schauer is coached by Bob Gibson and Jeff Buettner, who run the Winchester Jiu-Jitsu Academy. She said they’ve been a big help to her.

“They are both like dads to me,” Schauer said of Gibson and Buettner. “About a year-and-a-half ago my dad started having heart trouble. So they’ve been like really there for me. The whole gym’s been really supportive. And it’s really been nice to have somebody that’s been there for you and see you through stuff.”

Buettner said that they couldn’t have been more proud of her than when she won the gold medal in Las Vegas.

“We were thrilled,” Buettner said. “At the end of the day, we don’t care if she wins or loses; we care that she’s prepared. We care that she gives it a 100 percent. But it’s a nice bonus when they’re able to be successful. And not that the wins and losses are why we do this, but to see her put in all the time that she put in and have to drop a couple pounds and be physically beat up from training so hard. To go down there and perform at the biggest stage on her level and be successful is really rewarding for us as coaches.”

Schauer said her parents have also been supportive and her mom drives her to classes six days a week. Schauer, who has been homeschooled since third grade, said she trains for about 16 1/2 hours a week.

In addition to the three big tournaments she participated in, she said she’s also competed in around 20 other smaller tournaments. She said in the big tournaments there are divisions for boys and girls and they are grouped by age and weight. In the smaller tournaments, she said you can compete against boys or girls, and there aren’t any different weight classes.

Schauer said her first-ever tournament was an eye-opening experience.

“It was kind of scary,” she said. “At my first tournament I got all boys, and it was kind of nerve-wracking. But I guess you get used to it after a while.”

Schauer said that she has beaten some boys, and it was a good feeling. Schauer said before each big event she does a three-month training camp to help her get ready.

“It’s really hard,” she said of the training camps. “I have to focus on my diet, and sometimes I have to cut weight. It’s hard emotionally and physically; weight cuts make you cranky.”

To compete as an adult competitor, competitors have to turn 16 in that calendar year. Next December,  Schauer said she will be turning 16, so she can start competing as an adult in January.

She said she wants to compete in a big event next year in California as an adult.

Schauer also wants to be a coach at the Winchester Jiu-Jitsu Academy and is already well on her way to accomplishing that. She assists Buettner in teaching a fundamentals class to kids and also teaches a class once a week at the academy.

She said she knows that the younger kids look up to her and that means a lot.

“There’s a lot of young girls and young boys, a lot of kids, that look up to me and I don’t want to let them down,” Schauer said. “So I want to be a good role model and help them.”

Schauer said she wants to be a coach someday and help others like her coaches have helped her.

Buettner said one of Schauer’s strongest attributes is her ability to think ahead.

“She’s really smart, and jiu-jitsu is a very cerebral sport,” Buettner said. “You’ve really got to be looking two or three moves ahead, and she’s able, even at the young age of 14, to be able to grasp that. So I think that’s one of the things that really sets her apart. She is very tenacious. She will work on something until she gets it right. If that means coming in twice in one day, she’ll be in here working.”

Schauer has come a long way in two years and said she still has much more she wants to accomplish,  including getting an adult black belt someday.

Schauer said she’s happy that she gave the sport a try and it’s helped her in so many different ways.

“I think that it really has helped me build my self-confidence,” she said. “And it’s a good sport for really anybody. No matter what you want to do, whether it’s for competition, a hobby, weight loss. It’s good for anyone. Anyone can do it. It’s a really good sport, and you meet a lot of cool people.”