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There are probably very few people at Perrysburg High School who martial-arts enthusiast Chloey Sniecinski can't make tap out.
The 14-year-old stands only 4 foot 8 inches tall and weighs in at about 115 pounds, but put her on the mats with bigger girls — and boys — and she'll likely come out on top. Or more likely winning with a choke hold or arm bar.
Chloey's only been doing Brazilian jiu jitsu since she was 10, but she has already racked up a series of regional tournament championships — often against older competitors — and developed an international online fan base. Her Facebook page has nearly 60,000 likes.
Maybe that's why the otherwise shy freshman has such an air of confidence.
It was in seventh grade at Perrysburg Junior High School that Chloey said the bullying started. She’d briefly caught on with the popular crowd, but never felt she fit in. When she stuck up for a friend the group had mocked, she was quickly ostracized.
They’d laugh at her. They’d pull at the corner of their eyes, mocking her being half-Indonesian. An older friend of the group who rode on Chloey’s bus daily tripped and pushed her.
“I felt alone all the time,” she said.
Chloey and her parents, Kyle and Sri, took their claim of bullying to the school, but said they were told that without proof, nothing could be done. So Kyle, who'd done martial arts as a kid, suggested Chloey try jiu jitsu.
It’s not that he wanted his daughter to learn to beat up other kids. The best fights, he said, are the ones you don’t get into. But he wanted to give his daughter confidence.
“I didn’t want her to walk around scared,” Mr. Sniecinski said.
Four years later, Chloey is at the gym six days a week, three hours a day, most times not leaving until 10 p.m. She’s competed in nearly 100 tournaments, her dad said.
She credits her success and passion to instructor Chris Blanke, a jiu jitsu black-belt champion. His Toledo Jiu Jitsu Center, 5222 Tractor Road, is Chloey’s home away from home, and her fellow classmates are her second family.
People who take jiu jitsu seriously are a tight knit group, Mr. Blanke said, because they all have the same goal: try to choke you. It’s a respect of shared purpose and drive.
“Everybody is equal and they have respect for people who train and compete,” he said.
Chloey’s still young and has plenty of work she needs to do. But she’s got the drive, and the potential.
Perrysburg Superintendent Tom Hosler said he wasn’t aware of Chloey’s situation, but said the report of bullying was concerning. He said he reached out to the family Friday to see if he could learn more about what Chloey went through.
“It certainly bothers us to hear that,” he said.
The district does bullying training for staff and students, has shown documentaries about the impacts of bullying, and held an anti-bullying summit. But that doesn't mean bullying doesn’t happen or the district can’t do more. Mr. Hosler said he was happy to know Chloey had found ways to develop a sense of self-worth and not let the bullying defeat her.
And despite whatever championships she may win or accolades she might receive, that may be even more important. Though not boastful, Chloey has found self respect by finding a passion and pursuit she’s good at outside of school. She knows who she is and what she wants.
But while she wants to win championships and travel the world, she doesn’t plan on being a star. Instead, she wants to open her own gym, and teach girls like her how to defend themselves, how to build self confidence, how to find their place — and dismiss the bullies.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.