News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 6, 2008

Hughes News & Views: Terre Haute's McVicker is one-man wrecking crew

Jiu-jitsu black belt recently won world championship

By David Hughes

TERRE HAUTE — If Jack McVicker were to stroll into a Terre Haute bar, few patrons would feel intimidated by his presence.

But don’t let his boyish smile or his 5-foot-11, 163-pound physique fool you.

When motivated, he’s a one-man wrecking crew.

McVicker, 36, recently won the men’s 36-40 lightweight black-belt title with a 3-0 record in the Master Senior World Championships of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In the championship match July 27, the Terre Haute resident and Indiana State University graduate outpointed his Brazilian opponent 2-0. McVicker used a double-leg takedown to post the two points midway through the five-minute clash.

“He was pretty good,” McVicker said. “The second-round guy was supposed to be pretty good, but I didn’t have that much trouble with him.”

McVicker sounds relieved that he finally won this championship as a black belt. “This is the title I’ve been chasing for a while,” he acknowledged.

A student of jiu-jitsu for 15 years (13 as a competitor), McVicker previously tried for this championship as a black belt three times in a lower age division. He lost in the first round once and finished 1-1 twice.

Now that he’s achieved his latest goal, don’t think he’s ready to turn into the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Still in top shape, McVicker will travel today to Carson, Calif., to compete in the World Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championships on Sunday. He won his division at this tournament in 2007.

McVicker said the rules will be similar to regular jiu-jitsu, but no-gi is faster paced because combatants are not allowed to grab jackets or clothing.

The confident McVicker admits that he’s considered entering the increasingly popular mixed martial arts (MMA) events that are popping up on almost every television channel.

“The ground fighting of MMA is jiu-jitsu,” he mentioned. “It’s an essential aspect of MMA.”

But the punching and kicking of MMA are not part of jiu-jitsu and McVicker doesn’t want to relocate to a big city to learn those elements at an MMA camp.

So we’re not likely to see him brawling in a cage near us anytime soon.

When he’s not sparring or competing in jiu-jitsu, McVicker — a certified senior instructor in Jeet Kune Do and Filipino martial arts — trains more than 100 students between his two academies in Terre Haute and Champaign, Ill. He teaches in Terre Haute three days a week, while assistant Justin Leigh teaches here once a week.

Despite his expertise in martial arts, McVicker isn’t above learning new tricks whenever he can. That’s why he is grateful for the help provided by former Rose-Hulman assistant wrestling coach Greg Archer, who’s been advising him on takedown techniques.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge,” McVicker said.

On a personal note, I’ve written about McVicker’s accomplishments several times in column or story form over the years. Although I’ve still never seen him compete, I did ask him and Leigh to put on a demonstration last weekend so I’d have a better understanding of jiu-jitsu.

On the mat inside his Terre Haute academy on South Seventh Street, McVicker showed how to apply a Kimura arm lock — described by Leigh as “very painful” — and a guillotine from the guard (bottom position) with his legs wrapped around Leigh’s waist.

“Our job is to submit the opponent or to get the top position to be able to strike,” McVicker explained.

Later in the demonstration, McVicker moved smoothly and quickly in applying a rear-naked choke hold on Leigh.

Leigh said he enjoys working out with McVicker, who knows when to lighten up and knows when to make the session challenging for his sparring partners.

“He makes it easy,” Leigh noted. “Whenever he’s ready to crank it up a notch, it’s usually a short fight. I must say we’re lucky to have someone of Jack’s caliber in Terre Haute.”

McVicker also showed yours truly how to apply certain holds on him, then he applied a few on me.

Needless to say, I tapped quickly.

• • •

• Belated coaching note — Last month, former Terre Haute resident Ben Reel was named head baseball coach at Indiana University Southeast.

He succeeded Josh Schultz, who resigned in June to become an assistant baseball coach at IPFW in Fort Wayne.

With the hiring, the 24-year-old Reel became one of the youngest college head baseball coaches in the nation.

As a youngster, Reel attended Hoosier Prairie Elementary School in Terre Haute until his family moved to West Virginia in 1994.

His proud parents, Brian and Ann Reel, graduated from Terre Haute South High School in the 1970s.

David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.