Mateo Wegzyn grew up in a competitive household and has always been an athlete.
“I was always raised with competition in life. Football, wrestling and baseball. My dad went through all the sports with me,” he said.
But the Decatur High School alum really found his passion on the mat.
“What really clicked with me was grappling,” he said.
He was searching for the right material art to continue his passion. At first he didn’t know which to pursue, but Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was his calling.
“I tried to find something in martial arts, but I didn’t know the sports, so I did MMA for a little bit. With that came me finding this sport and that’s when I was like, ‘This is my thing,” he said.
But even with finding this passion, he had no idea that when he started he would make these sorts of strides.
“I was just coming in after work and thinking I’m just going to have a good hobby and kind of get in shape. Then I started to get beat and told myself I’m going to put in the hours,” he said.
After bouncing around from gym to gym, Wegzyn found his home at Gracie Barra.
“With being here, there are a lot of opportunities… It opened a lot of doors for competing,” he said.
His love for competing was met equally by the people at his gym, which made him feel right at home.
“Shannon Higgasson provides a lot for competitors. So it opened doors for competing…I did very well, they saw something in me,” Wegzyn said.
Mateo recently won the IBJJF Portland 2023 Portland International Open. It wasn’t his first ever event win, and certainly won’t be his last.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is you have to prove it to yourself. You can do it because you’ve done it before… All the work got put in, it feels great absolutely,” he said.
After the win, he took a vacation for a week in Mexico.
He prepared for this competition by competing in two brackets the week before. He competed in a Gi and No-Gi: “I did a lot of things that seemed easier, I went tougher because in Portland I had only four matches, but I had eight the competition before.”
On social media Wegzyn posted a handful of posts during his time in Portland. In his pictures were his coaches who helped him along the way.
“I definitely learned a bit. Shannon makes it a big community. It’s a lot like a tribe, where we take care of everybody,” he said.
Mateo even looks out for his own tribe. His younger sister Zella, who is 7 years old, is on a fast track to being better than her big brother.
“My sister plays a big part too. She’s doing Jiu-Jitsu and doing well competing. She wants to be on the same level, and she’s getting ahead of the game,” Wegzyn said.
It was a surreal moment for Wegzyn because he had just finished recovery after tearing his ACL. It was a long road to get back to the competing level he wanted to be, and that made winning that much sweeter.
Upon his return to Renton, he was awarded an upgrade that he had been due for a while. Wegzyn was awarded a blue belt at Gracie Barra. It was something he had been waiting on.
“It felt too good. I was already hungry as a white belt,” he said.
“This is the beginning of what I felt like. This is the big game, I can start applying to big events,” he said. “This is a whole new world for me.”
His next competition is on September 16 in Seattle. For his first blue belt match, he will be participating in a Fight 2 Win event. “I can’t wait,” Wegzyn said.