Ed Maley has taught judo for more than 60 years, and his students have excelled at competitions around the world, including the Pan American Games and the Olympics.
“We don’t try to make great competitors out of them,” Maley said. “We try to make them quality people first.”
Three of Maley’s current students at the Florida School of Judo — Sarah Subko, 15, and sisters Hannah Wagner, 11, and Chloe Wagner, 9 — are succeeding on both counts.
The trio captured gold and silver medals at the recent Youth and Scholastic National Championship in Doral. Hannah finished first in the Intermediate 2 female division, while Chloe and Sarah earned second place in the Intermediate 1 female and Cadet 15-17 divisions, respectively.
“I got hurt in one of my final matches, so I was glad I came back and finished second,” Sarah said.
Sarah started practicing judo when she was 5 after seeing people practice at the YMCA.
“I was at the Y, my gymnastics class was finishing, and the judo people came in right after,” Sarah said. I remember asking, ‘What is that?’ and ‘Why are they wearing pajamas?’”
Sarah is a sophomore at Strawberry Crest High School, where she is also on the school’s volleyball and wrestling teams. She has been invited to compete on three Pan American teams and has been a Florida State Judo Champion for the past 10 years.
“She’s got a lot of spirit and a lot of humbleness,” Maley said.
Maley — known as “Professor” to his students — has worked with Sarah for 10 years, and Hannah and Chloe for five and four years, respectively. They train at the Campo Family YMCA in Valrico.
Maley said Hannah’s 5-foot-6-inch, 140 to 150-pound frame makes her a formidable opponent.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find people who will even work with her,” he said.
Hannah and Sarah were recently invited to participate in July’s Cuban National School Sports Games.
“It’s amazing to me. I’m very excited,” said Hannah, a sixth-grader at Burns Middle School.
Chloe, a third-grader at Alafia Elementary, admits she can’t quite beat up her older sister yet, but she has a willing spirit.
“She’s a strong girl,” Maley said of Chloe. “I remember her coming in one day carrying a watermelon that was as big as she was and probably weighed more than 40 pounds. She was carrying it like it was nothing.”
Chloe hopes to follow in the successful footsteps of Sarah and Hannah.
“I like that you get to meet new friends and that you get to throw boys,” Chloe said. “I want to keep doing it the rest of my life.”