9-year-old judo champ ‘determined to be the best’ | Local Education

PAMELA COTANT For the State Journal

Nine-year-old Iliyan Hoskins has competed on a big stage before — winning his weight class in the USA Judo Youth National Championships — but he is excited for the next step that will be even greater.

He’s now preparing for the USA Judo National and International Junior Olympic Championships in San Jose, California, June 24-26.

Iliyan, of Madison, will be competing in both the national and international competitions. He won the USA Judo Youth National Championships March 19 in Lansing, Michigan, to become the 2022 USA Judo Junior Male Bantam (5-37 kg) National Champion.

“I get to be in California and I get to compete in a really, really big tournament,” Iliyan said.

Iliyan will travel to California with his dad, Reggie Hoskins, and meet up with his sister, Yoanna Hoskins, who will be near San Jose after being chosen for the Intensive Law & Trial program at Stanford University.

It will be just another step for Iliyan, who has aspirations to compete in judo in the Olympics some day.

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His coach, Os Millan, who is known as “Sensei Os” — “sensei” is the name for a martial arts teacher — believes Iliyan has the right stuff to compete internationally.

“He is determined to be the best, not just in judo but at school,” said Millan, who substitute teaches at Nuestro Mundo Community School, where Iliyan will be in fourth grade this fall.

Millan, who came to the United States from Cuba in 1962, started judo when he was 9 and has an eighth-degree black belt. He started coaching in 1981, while he was still competing, and is an international coach and referee. He is the sensei at JudoJujitsu Madison, where Iliyan trains.

“Iliyan is very focused. He absorbs everything he is being taught and goes right after it,” Millan said.

“He is such a pleasure to coach.”

Iliyan comes by this athleticism naturally. Reggie Hoskins lettered in baseball, football and wrestling in high school and played baseball at Jackson State in Mississippi. Iliyan’s mother, Vanya Hoskins, who has played tennis recreationally, is from Bulgaria, where her mother was a coxswain on the Bulgarian National Rowing team as well as a trainer/coach.

As for what has gotten him to this point in judo, Iliyan said it comes from practicing hard and having a good sensei. He said Millan is strict but nice.

“He teaches a lot of good things,” Iliyan said.

Reggie Hoskins said Millan is “old school” with the way he instills discipline and makes sure his students know the techniques.

Iliyan also has his big sister to look up for inspiration. Yoanna Hoskins, who will be a senior in the fall, holds a third-degree black belt in karate. Some of her other accomplishments include being a three- time World Karate & Kickboxing Association World Champion, World Association of Kickboxing Organizations Junior World Championships bronze medalist, ranked 1 in the World for WAKO kickboxing in 2021, and World Karate Commission World Championship bronze medalist.

Both children maintain good grades and speak English, Bulgarian and Spanish.

A 4.0 grade-point average is required in the family to compete in sports because education comes first, Reggie Hoskins said. The family home also has an area set up for the children to practice, which helped when Judo Jujitsu Madison was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Reggie Hoskins, who practiced Tae kwon do, said he introduced Iliyan to judo for self-defense because he knows bullying exists.

“To learn how to fall is a big thing for boys. You can break bones and things. But it is more for self-defense,” Reggie Hoskins said.

Iliyan has succeeded in judo because of his competitive nature, his father said.

“He takes practice seriously and he practices at home,” Reggie Hoskins said.

Despite how Iliyan does at the USA Judo National and International Junior Olympic Championships, his father has told him, “There’s no losers and there’s only winners and learners,” which is a philosophy Millan maintains.

“It is OK to lose, but you correct yourself and learn from that,” Millan said.

Reggie Hoskins said no matter how you do in judo, you shake your competitor’s hand afterward.

“I love the discipline and respect they teach in martial arts,” he said.

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