‘I’ve always been freakishly strong’: Central Valley graduate Kasey Eslick now a national Jiu Jitsu champion

Kasey Eslick’s journey to becoming a national Jiu Jitsu champion can be traced to a high school bully. Not really surprising, until you actually see Kasey Eslick.

It’s hard to imagine anyone bullying Eslick, a mountain of a human being.

Eslick, 40, a 2000 graduate of Central Valley High School, recently won a gold medal in the ultra-heavyweight no-gi division of the International Brazilian Jui-Jitsu Federation American National Championships in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Quite a feat for the one-time high school cross country runner who barely tipped the scales at 160 pounds back then. Eslick, now 260 pounds, says the bullying he endured even prevented him from enlisting in the Marines after he found out that same bully would deploy with him.

Looking for a mental and physical outlet to cope with the abuse, he started weightlifting.

“I’ve always been freakishly strong,” Eslick said.

For years, he focused on weightlifting competitions, becoming a World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters champion, but there was still something missing.

It was when he was introduced to martial arts and Jiu Jitsu that he found the missing piece that made him “bullyproof.”

“Most kids that are bullied that come into Jiu Jitsu, they don’t beat their bully up,” Eslick said. “They usually talk their way through and say ‘What you’re doing is not okay. Don’t do it to me.’”

Outthinking others is what drew Eslick to the sport 13 years ago. Back then, the Jiu Jitsu community in Spokane was much smaller and more focused on self-defense. However, as the sport grew and evolved to be more competitive, the Central Valley alum also expanded his horizons.

“With other sports there is an end game to them,” he said.

Not so for Jiu Jitsu.

“You (are) constantly learning, constantly evolving … with somebody that likes complex situations like chess, it’s really perfect for that personality.”

It’s that strategy that allowed Eslick to shine at the most recent IBJJF tournament, where he also earned a silver medal in the gi division.

Going against other black belts, some who have trained for over 25 years, may be a daunting prospect for some people, but Eslick relished the opportunity to overcome the mental blocks of competing at that level.

“It felt good to go out there and say, hey, I can hang with the highest level, and enjoy it.”

For a professional athlete, there is a higher level of accountability along with the satisfaction of success.

“The diet, the mental game; piecing that all together, it just makes you a better person outside (of Jiu Jitsu),” Eslick said. “I’m a better father; I’m a better husband.”

Through this experience, Eslick believes that Jiu Jitsu “allows people from all backgrounds to come together to become better versions of themselves.”

From lawyers to construction workers and adults to youth, he pointed to the different walks of life that come through the doors of Newborn Cascão Jiu Jitsu, but all have the same outcome.

“If you put in the hard work, the dedication, you’re gonna excel and succeed and hit those next levels. So ultimately that’s what martial arts does … it prepares you for real life.”

As a black belt, Eslick says his journey is no longer as focused on himself, rather, he has a duty to pass on his knowledge to other students in the gym. Especially for the youth that train at the gym, the Spokane native sees the importance of a mentor.

“The camaraderie and Jiu Jitsu as a whole, really changes a younger person’s outlook on life,” he said.

In addition to giving back to the Jiu Jitsu community through coaching and mentorship, Eslick plans on competing in the World Master IBJJF Jiu Jitsu Championship in Las Vegas in September, citing he could be “lazy” and just coach classes, or he could test his limits.

“What can I bring back as far as experiences, to help out our team? Ultimately, it’s about not only my personal development, but paying it forward.”

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