Dallas, Ryan and Kevin

Dallas Downs, right, and Ryan Downs, center, with their sensei, Kevin Scarbrough, after winning the 2018 National Championship. (Photo courtesy the Downs family)

Two Buckeye brothers have been invited to an international Judo tournament in Cuba this April, a prestigious honor awarded to the nation’s premiere youth talent in the sport.

Dallas Downs, 13, and Ryan Downs, 11, have belonged to the Buckeye Thunderbird Club for the last seven years, where they’ve been learning and practicing Judo.

In April, they’ll hone their skills at the international level in Cuba as members of a 15-man youth roster representing the United States.

Judo, according to BuckeyeJudo.com, is “a modern Japanese martial art and Olympic sport. The Japanese word Judo means ‘gentle way.’ The object of Judo is to throw one’s opponent to the ground, immobilize or subdue one’s opponent with a grappling maneuver.”

The selection to the U.S. roster comes courtesy of the two boys winning the 2018 National Championships in their respective weight classes, which they did at Azusa Pacific University in California in December.

Dallas took first place in the 52-kilogram weight class, while Ryan won his 42-kilogram weight class.

Their senseis, Kevin and Shawna Scarbrough, have been amazed in the strides the boys have taken since enrolling in their organization.

“These kids,” Shawna Scarbrough said, “I can’t even explain to you how amazing these kids are. Ryan also scored the highest score on the AZ Merit Test – 100 percent.”

The Downs brothers attend the rigorous BASIS Goodyear school, where they’ve also taken great leaps in the classroom.

Paired with Ryan’s acing of the statewide standardized test, Dallas recently became a referee in judo. At 13 years old, that’s unusual.

“Shawna is a referee and she taught Dallas to ref,” said Daniel Downs, the boys’ father.

“Dallas was 12 years old during the tournament, and he got to ref at the national level, which is very unusual. In Judo, as a ref, you speak in Japanese to the competitors. So, Dallas had to speak in Japanese to the competitors in order to ref. To ref at the national level at his age is unheard of.”

Because of the demanding workload the school requires, Dallas and Ryan are able to practice three times a week, typically for an hour-and-a-half.

Shawna Scarbrough credits the boys’ Judo progression to the support of their parents, Susan and Daniel Downs, who have executed a perfect, yet careful balance juggling school and judo.

“We made our two-car garage into a dojo,” Susan said, giving the boys easy access to the sport without having to leave their house, “and it’s designated for Judo.

“That’s where the medals are hanging,” she said, in reference to the hefty medals the boys were awarded after winning the national tournament last year.

“(Winning nationals) felt amazing,” Dallas said. “I didn’t even believe I won. It was pretty hard to believe. All of that practice was definitely worth it.”

Ryan chimed in, reflecting back on the disbelief after winning the tournament.

“I felt pretty amazed when I realized I was a national champion – I was pretty happy about myself – and so did my family.”

Dallas and Ryan became invested in Judo seven years ago, when Shawna and Kevin Scarbrough started their own after-school judo program at an old recreational school the boys attended.

“Every year they just keep getting better and better,” Daniel said.

The boys are fundraising for their Cuba trip and are accepting donations via GoFundMe. Those interested in donating can do so at gofundme.com/usa-vs-cuba-judo trip.