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Father, son go to the mat

Wrestling on the living-room carpet with dad has risen to a whole new level in the Huertas home.

Kurt Huertas, 42, and his son Jason, 7, train in judo together two to three days a week, under the guidance of Brandon black belt professor Ed Maley. After nearly two years of training, Kurt has a brown belt and Jason an orange.

Jason challenges his dad at judo nearly every day.

"It is like the old Pink Panther movies, when Kato would attack his boss every time he came home," Kurt Huertas said. "Jason likes to hide in different places and come out after me when I get home from work."

Even before judo lessons, the two liked to wrestle.

"When he started the lessons and said he wanted to compete, I told him he would have to get serious and train hard, because his competition was tough," the father said.

Hard training hasn't hindered Jason's determination to compete and improve. The two Huertas train weekly with Maley, and, on off days, Jason exercises to stay fit.

The work paid off June 14 in the judo competition of the Sunshine State Games.

Jason won the gold medal for his weight and age in orange-belt competition, and Kurt Huertas won a bronze.

"As long as it remains fun for him, we plan to continue encouraging him in the sport," Kurt Huertas said. "In the games tournament, he went 3-0 with pins in his first two matches and a win by points in the finals. I went 2-1. When he called his grandfather to tell him the results, he said he finished in first place in his category and dad was last."

Like most parents looking for an activity other than school, the Huertas allowed Jason to experiment. He tried soccer, flag football and baseball, then found his sport in judo.

"I love the idea of being in the same sport with Dad," he said. "It is really fun and I love to wrestle. The work helps get my energy up and helps me get bigger muscles. This is the first gold medal I ever won in the Sunshine games. Some day I want to have a red belt in judo and compete in the Olympics."

In addition to judo, Kurt Huertas has brown belts in karate and pankration, a kick-boxing form of martial arts.