Metro-East Living

Teen is beginner in jiu-jitsu, but he’s already earned a sponsor

Jacob Bornemann, 15, is a student at the Illinois Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Mascoutah.
Jacob Bornemann, 15, is a student at the Illinois Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Mascoutah.

Jacob Bornemann, of Addieville, is a master at manipulation, at least on the mat.

The 15-year-old’s winning record and potential path in jui-jitsu earned him a sponsor in clothing company Head Nod Squad. The business sells t-shirts and hoodies with jui-jitsu logos, as well as badges for the fighters’ clothing.

The Midwest-based company supports Jiu Jitsu practitioners and mixed martial artists, saying the athletes are a lot like a family and he and others in the company manage the professional fighters. The sponsorship provides clothing to Jacob, in return he is considered part of the company and has some social media requirements. Jacob is still an amateur, but the Head Nod Squad is watching.

“Anybody that’s 15 years old and in the sport now ... just wait ’til he’s 18 or 19, he’s probably going to be doing very well,” said Adam Marburger, the president and CEO of the Head Nod Squad.

Jacob’s record is 29-3. He began training in March.

“I was fine with two (losses) – well, I wasn’t really fine with any one of them,” Jacob said. But in the last match, his opponent “put me in a triangle, and I leaned too far forward.”

Since the Okawville High School freshman has been in jui-jitsu training such a short time, he recognizes he still has a lot to learn about a sport based on submission. It’s not about being pinned; opponents earn points for technique and can win by getting the other to submit. With adults and professionals, submission can come after one is choked unconscious; or one’s arm breaks.

“It does sound kind of brutal, but the meaning of jui-jitsu is the gentle art,” said Owen Brickell, 31, of the Illinois Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Owen has trained Jacob since meeting him and some other kids at the Mascoutah wrestling club last March. He opened the Academy in October at 10 Railway Street in Mascoutah, sharing space with Crosspointe Christian Church.

Owen says jiu-jitsu uses the minimal force necessary to control an attacker, or an opponent. He has a very high regard for Jacob’s work ethic. Owen says he pulled Jacob and his mom aside after practice one night recently to tell them about the sponsorship offer and to sign contracts. He said Jacob then went home and worked out for two more hours.

“He never gives up,” Owen said. “He could be losing by a landslide, but he never gives up.”

“You can’t train a kid to want it that bad.”

“That’s just Jacob, he’s intense,” says his mom, Lisa. “The sport of jui-jitsu gave him an opportunity to use it.” She also takes jiu-jitsu, as does his sister Sarah, 6.

“I like it better than all my sports,” said Jacob, who has also played football, baseball and basketball. “It’s more of a live situation … it feels more realistic. Wrestling (does get) aggressive; jui-jitsu is more pain. You try harder not to get into that.”

Owen approached Head Nod Squad, a Midwest-based clothing company that was looking for athletes to sponsor. Basically, Jacob was given some T-shirts with the company logo on them to wear and sell to his friends.

“It’s an entry level sponsorship, … something he can grow into,” Owen said. “Not every kid is sponsored; hopefully he grows with the company.”

At the same time he’s trying to avoid the pain that comes with being held in a choke or bar, Jacob says it’s a calm sport.

“Wrestling is all fast motion. You don’t have to be so amped up (in jui-jitsu) until you do the move. Then it’s fast,” Jacob said, citing Coach Owen Brickell’s saying that jui-jitsu is “like a gorilla playing chess.”

There’s no striking, no kicking in jui-jitsu.

“So many people come up to me and say, ‘How’s karate?’ Oh, no. It’s not that at all,” Jacob said.

It’s not trying to pin one’s opponent, either, unlike in wrestling familiar to high schools.

“In wrestling, you don’t want to go on your back,” Owen said. “Here you do. You want to go to your back to have your hands in front of you.”

Owen says Jacob has an “unorthodox style.”

“He’s acrobatic, I guess is a good term for it,” Owen said, trying to explain how Jacob can go from standing to pinning an opponent in an arm bar.

He says he’s never hurt anybody, nor has he been hurt in jui-jitsu.

His mom, Lisa, said he’s broken an ankle playing football and had other sports injuries, but nothing in jui-jitsu.

“It’s a good sport. Especially for the kids, there’s always a ref there to stop the match,” Jacob said, adding that younger kids may not remember to “tap out” when they have been beaten, so the ref will step in to protect them.

Jacob Bornemann

Age 15, from Addieville. He’s a freshman at Okawville High School and trains at the Illinois Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Mascoutah


Fuji-Springfield: Gi 2nd Place, Nogi Champion

Fuji-Paducah: Gi Champion, Nogi Champion

International Submission Only Federation-STL: Gi Champion, Nogi Champion

Fuji Nationals: Gi Champion, Nogi Champion

NewBreed Ultimate Challenge-STL: Gi Champion, Nogi Champion

Fuji Fall Classic: Expert Gi Champion, Expert Nogi 2nd Place