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Career Overview

Nick Delpopolo

Twenty-eight year old U.S.A Judo champion Nick Delpopolo is a two time Olympian. In 2009, when he transitioned from junior to senior athlete, Delpopolo was only positioned at #99 in the world rankings. In 2010 he took the Judo world by storm and moved up an amazing 83 spots, rising to #16 in the world by years end. Delpopolo took Gold at the US Open, Venezuela World Cup, and El Salvador World Cup, Silver at the Samoa World Cup and USA Judo Senior National Championships, and a Bronze at the USA World Cup and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, finishing 2010 as the top medal winner in his division.

Nick Delpopolo currently trains and competes both in the United States and abroad as he continues his quest to not only be the best in the nation, but to be the best in the world. Each victory brings him one step closer to qualifying for the 2020 Olympics and achieving his dream of becoming the first American male to win an Olympic gold medal in Judo.


Humble Beginnings

Nick Delpopolo baby picture

Nick Delpopolo (born Petar Perovic) spent the first years of his life in small orphanage in Niksic, Montenegro. He lived amidst poverty in an old disheveled building with deteriorating walls and floors made of dirt. Food was scarce and only the infants were allowed milk. Cribs lined the walls of the crowded quarters and cries of hungry children constantly filled the air. Like most children at the orphanage, Nick’s future was very uncertain.

A married couple from the United States, Dominic and Joyce Delpopolo, came to the orphanage when Nick was 21 months old, a visit that would forever change his life. The couple from Westfield, NJ wanted to adopt a young child and were unable to do so in America (Dominic was in his mid-fifties and Joyce in her forties). Dominic’s family was from Serbia, so they decided to start the adoption process there. The Delpopolo’s traveled back and forth to Serbia many times before they were taken to the small orphanage in Montenegro where they adopted Nick. They returned several years later and adopted a second child, Helen.

Baby Nick Delpopolo

In 2009 Nick accompanied his parents on a trip to Montenegro to re-visit the orphanage. During this visit Nick was given his birth mothers information and still has it to this day. During this same trip, he also found out the identity of his birth father. The Delpopolo’s drove to his place of business in the village, but Nick made them promise that they would not divulge his identity. Nick saw his father that day, but they never spoke. When the time is right Nick plans to send both of his parents a letter with newspaper articles and photos so that they will know what has become of the son that they gave up so long ago.


Nick Delpopolo — Elite Athlete

When Nick was 5 years old his father took him to Cranford Judo and Karate Center in Cranford, NJ and signed him up for Judo classes. The Dojo was run by 1988 and 1992 Olympic Judo Coach Yoshisada “Yone” Yonezuka. Yone produced the very first male World Champion from the United States, Mike Swain (who now owns Swain Mats). Not only did Nick quickly excel in Judo, according to Yone, Nick was a natural. He became one of the best student’s Yone had ever seen and rarely ever lost a match.

Nick Delpopolo NJ State Wrestling Champion

When Nick was 8 years old he began wrestling in the Police athletic League (PAL). A year later he won the New Jersey kids State Wrestling Championships. Nick then went on to medal in the Middle School Wrestling National Championships. Although Nick was an exceptional wrestler, Judo was Nick’s passion. His family encouraged him to follow his heart and resume his Judo training. At the age of 12 Nick’s parents sent him to upstate New York to live and train with 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist Jason Morris. He graduated from middle school in New York and lived with Jason for nearly 2 years before his Mom, who dearly missed her son, asked him to come home.

Nick Graduates

When Nick returned home and started high school he went back to wrestling in hopes to earn a college scholarship, as there were no scholarships offered in Judo. Although it had been several years since he had wrestled, Nick was quickly recruited by Bergen Catholic High School. As a freshman Nick easily dominated the seniors on the team in his weight class (130lbs and 135lbs). Although Nick was undeniably one of their top wrestlers, the coaches did not want a Freshman to wrestle Varsity in those weight classes. As a result, they decided to bump Nick up to Varsity level in the 140lb weight class.

Nick easily dominated the 140lb weight class as well by throwing his opponents to mat using his Judo moves. He quickly gained recognition and was touted one of their most promising up-and-coming wrestlers. Nick competed in seven matches at the “Beast of the East” tournament as a freshman. Upon entering his sophomore year, Nick began receiving “letters of interest” from schools with top wrestling programs such as Lehigh and UPenn. During the end of his sophomore wrestling season Nick suffered a career altering injury. His foot got caught in- between two wrestling mats during practice and he tore almost every ligament in his knee. As a result, Nick had to have a major reconstructive surgery, a consequence that put an end to his wrestling career.


Heart of a Champion

Nick with his Mom and Dad

Nick had a long road of recovery ahead of him. After nearly a year, Nick began making poor choices and was gaining a reputation of a “bad boy” in high school. He was caught smoking cigarettes and began hanging out with a bad crowd. As a result Nick’s father decided to send him back to the Jason Morris Judo Center in upstate New York. Nick quickly got his life back on track and turned his focus, once again, to the sport that he loved.

The year he returned to New York, Nick was as barely 17 and still had three more years of Junior eligibility in Judo. Nick, determined to resurrect his Judo career, was unstoppable. In 2006, Nick made the Junior World Team by defeating heavily favored Bobby Lee, the #1 Junior in the U.S. at the time. He defeated Lee in a sudden death battle and is historically one of the biggest upsets in Junior Judo history. He went on to dominate the Junior rankings for the next 2 years and he made his second Junior World Team in 2008. Although he had a 3 year hiatus, Nick finished his Junior Judo career with 22 Junior National titles.

Nick Jr World Trials

While Nick was still a Junior he began climbing the U.S. Men’s roster. At just 19 years old, Nick qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials in Las Vegas, NV. He was the youngest competitor in the division. Nick advanced to the Semi-Finals and lost a controversial match to Ryan Reser, who was the #1 ranked seed at the trials. Although Nick received a penalty early in the match he went on to throw Reser twice. Unfortunately, neither score was called, therefore Nick lost on the penalty. Reser went on to represent the U.S. in Beijing.


Delpopolo’s Rise to the Top

Nick Wins Gold

At the end of 2008, Nick’s last year of Junior Eligibility, he moved to Boston to train under 1999 World Champion Jimmy Pedro, the most winning player in U.S. Judo history. Pedro is a 4x Olympian (2x bronze) and was heavily favored to be the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in the 73kgs (161lbs) category, the same class in which Nick competes. Pedro’s dojo is a U.S. National Training Center and home to Team FORCE, a team that consists of the best Judo players in the United States.

Nick at the NY Open

Nick spent most of 2009 making the transition from Junior to Senior athlete. During that time, Nick did not feel right and assumed that he was just not used to the rigid training schedule. The athletes on Team FORCE train three times a day. When Nick finally went to the doctor, they found that he had been training and competing with a severe case of Mono. By the time he was diagnosed, it was on its way out of his system.

Although Nick had unknowingly trained for most of the year with Mono, it did not slow him down. In October of 2009, Nick won the “Rendez-Vous” tournament in Canada and overtook Michael Eldred as the #1 ranked Senior in the U.S. When Nick clinched the #1 spot he had only been competing for less than a year as a Senior competitor. Later in 2009 Nick would go on to briefly lose the #1 ranking to Michael Eldred . Eldred travelled to Samoa and won a bronze medal, passing Nick in the rankings. Nick reclaimed the #1 spot in June of 2010 after winning his first World Cup. He went on to defend his #1 ranking three times in 2010.


Road to the 2012 Olympics

Nick at NY Open

2010 was a career defining year for Nick. He rose from being ranked #99 in the World to #16 in the World by years end. Nick moved up in the world rankings an incredible 83 spots and finished the year as the top medal winner in his division on the World Tour.

In September of 2010, Nick competed in his first (Senior) World Championships in Tokyo, reaching the 4th round after 3 ippons (instant wins). During the competition, Nick knocked out the #8 seed in the first round, a competitor who had previously defeated him five consecutive times. Nick finished 9th at the Worlds in a pool of 83 competitors. No American male had reached that far since his coach Jimmy Pedro won the Worlds in 1999.

Nick Delpopolo

Following his World Championship debut in Tokyo, Nick was invited to compete in the “World Masters Tournament”, which took place in Azerbaijan in January of this year. The World Masters is only reserved for the top 16 players in the world. Nick went in as the #16 seed. He lost by Yuko (small score) to the #1 ranked player in the World from Korea, who went on to throw everyone else for ippon on his way to winning the title.

Nick Delpopolo

In 2011 Nick fell into a bit of a slump and although he remained top 16 in the World he had wanted to be doing better than he was. After a hard look at his situation Nick admitted that he had fell out of sync with himself and he needed a drastic change if he wanted to keep his Olympic dreams alive. He moved back to upstate, NY to reconnect with his long-time coach Jason Morris. One month after returning to his roots Delpopolo flew to England and became the first American man ever to win the Liverpool World Cup. 7 months after that Nick flew to Miami for the “Hour of Power” an Olympic Trials between him and long-time rival Michael Eldred. Eldred had kept his ranking inside of the top 22 in the World which forced the two athletes to fight off for the Olympic spot. Nick won the trials in an epic battle with Eldred and credits Jason Morris for turning his career around.


Road to Rio — Nick's Journey to the 2016 Olympics

Nick Delpopolo and Jason Morris

With the blessing of Coach Jason Morris – who Nick consulted and worked with on a regular basis – Nick moved to Miami, FL to prepare for his second Olympics in Rio De Janeiro in 2016. Nick is worked with his own specialized team of Coaches and Physical Trainers to prepare for Rio and called Budokan Judo Club under former assistant Olympic Coach Evelio Garcia his Home Dojo. Nick also commuted to Ki Itsu Sai National Training Center for additional Judo training and had a staff of personal trainers pushing him under the guidance of Jesus Gallo at Elite Athletes Performance, in South Miami, where he did his physical training.

Nick Delpooplo is well on his way to achieving his dream of becoming an Olympic champion and is poised to bring home the gold for USA Judo in 2020. By doing so, he will forever etch his name in Judo history by becoming the first male American Judo player to ever bring home an Olympic gold medal. Delpopolo is ready to show the world that with focus and determination, anyone can achieve their dreams.

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