Occidental welcomes jiujitsu world champion Mario Alvarado to its first-year class

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mario practicing jiujitsu
Photo courtesy of Mario Alvarado

Before enrolling at Occidental on the pre-med track, Mario Alvarado (first year) competed in over 100 jiujitsu tournaments and earned the title of a world champion jiujitsu fighter, according to his coach, Tanner Rice. Alvarado said he started learning jiujitsu because his father wanted him to train in a martial art, and over the years he continued to improve and began competing in tournaments.

“Now, I try to compete as much as I can,” Alvarado said. “The only thing hard about it is balancing an academic schedule because I’m also a pre-med student.”

Jiujitsu is similar to wrestling but focuses on positioning, arm locks, ankle locks and knee bars, according to Alvarado.

Alvarado said competing against other very skilled jiujitsu fighters at high-level tournaments is a fun opportunity, and he has competed in tournaments all over the world, including in the United Arab Emirates and Portugal.

According to the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation website, Alvarado won first place in his juvenile division at the European Championship and the Pan-American Championship, and he placed second at the World Championships in his juvenile division in 2019.

“The competitions are always fun because it’s just an opportunity to showcase what you have learned,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado said he was planning to compete in the World Championships in 2021, but the tournament’s date changed on short notice. His college math final was on the same day, so he decided to prioritize his schoolwork. He said he hopes he can join the competition in 2022. Each week he is training at least five days and going to the gym three to four times in preparation for this year’s tournaments. Alvarado said jiujitsu has taught him valuable life lessons.

“Learning how to live with mistakes — I think that’s one of the main things,” Alvarado said. “Because when you go to a competition and make a mistake that ends up costing you a match, that in itself is pretty devastating, especially when you know you could have done better. So I think that one of the things is just to help you just learn from your mistakes and be able to continue trying to do the best that you can.”

mario and tanner
Mario Alvarado and his coach Tanner Rice. Photo courtesy of Mario Alvarado

According to Alvarado, his jiujitsu teacher Rice has coached him since he was 5 years old.

“He is the toughest nerd I’ve ever met,” Rice said. “He plays Pokemon and collects Pokemon cards and stuff.”

Rice said Alvarado has grown tremendously as a fighter throughout the years not only because he is talented, but also because he is self-disciplined. Rice said his skills and discipline extend to playing piano as well.

“He’s great at everything that he touches because he just has that work ethic,” Rice said.

Rice said in addition to being his former student, Alvarado is also a good friend and was one of the groomsmen at his wedding. Because Rice liked the movie “Interstellar,” Alvarado played him a song from the film on the piano as his wedding gift.

“It almost brought tears to my eyes,” Rice said. “We’re supposed to be these tough guys that try to kill each other every day. And now I’m almost crying.”

Alvarado said he enjoys how positive and challenging the community of jiujitsu is.

“The community is always very fun. It has this little peer pressure thing to it, but it’s positive peer pressure,” Alvarado said. “So when somebody else is getting better, then you always want to get better, and so we’re always helping each other like that.”

Rice said that he has learned a lot about jiujitsu from Alvarado and that he is skilled at brainstorming new techniques. He is especially adept at the berimbolo technique in which he spins upside down and takes his opponent’s back, Rice said.

“I think the way that he took the sport and ran with it and did his own thing with it — that was the most impressive part,” Rice said.

According to director of communications, Jim Tranquada, the Office of Marketing & Communications spotlights incoming students through the Occidental Magazine. In November 2021, the magazine published the article “Nine Lives” which highlighted the talents, backgrounds and goals of nine incoming first years including Alvarado.

“We routinely collaborate with the Admission Office to identify a diverse group of incoming first-years so that we can give alumni a sense of the kind of talented students Oxy has recruited for its latest class,” Tranquada said. “As a student-athlete with an impressive record of success at the highest levels of jiujitsu, Mario caught our eye.”

Alvarado said he has continued training in jiujitsu in LA under the instruction of Isaac Doederlein. Alvarado intends to continue with jiujitsu through his undergraduate years and beyond.

“It definitely has helped build my character,” Alvarado said. “It’s helped me become more goal-oriented, helped me become more confident in what I’m doing. It’s just been a crucial part of my life.”