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By Patrick LujanIMG_5230

He reached the pinnacle of one of the world’s most popular sports and sent the island abuzz in 2012.

Jon Tuck not only became the first Guam fighter to earn a spot in the Ultimate Fighting Championship but also continued his historic story with a unanimous decision debut victory in UFC Macao on Nov. 10 – earning him the 2012 GSPN Athlete of the Year.

From his infamous dislocated toe shown live on national television during the Ultimate Fighter filming in March to his announcement of signing on to fight in the UFC, Tuck was the biggest newsmaker on GSPN throughout the year. His achievements proved worthy from majority of the GSPN reporters who voted for the award, garnering the most first-place votes.

“I am honored to receive the Athlete of the Year award and trophy, especially because there are so many elite athletes from the island that could easily have won the award,” Tuck said.

Tuck drapes the Guam flag over his shoulders before entering the bright UFC lights in Cotai Arena. (photo by Lloyd Cubacub)

Tuck drapes the Guam flag over his shoulders before entering the bright UFC lights in Cotai Arena. (photo by Lloyd Cubacub)

Tuck’s support from Guam fans is evident in his Facebook presence – his stories on GSPN’s page usually get the most ‘likes’. His victory over China’s top-rated mixed martial artist Tiequan Zhang, winning 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in Macau was a moment for all of Guam to be proud of.

“Did I make Guam proud?,” the 28-year-old Mangilao resident humbly asked GSPN right after his victory in the Cotai Arena (The Venetian). Of course!

Considered by some high-level local jiu-jitsu players as the best BJJ practitioner on Guam, Tuck took his game to the Abu Dhabi World Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championships in April, only to lose to Brazilian Rodolfo Vieira, who has won multiple world championships. It was Tuck’s first competition as a brown belt.

Tuck displayed his world class jiu jitsu to the world against China's best. (photo by Vic Wei)

Tuck displayed his world class jiu jitsu to the world against China’s best. (photo by Vic Wei)

“Like the past years that I’ve been doing MMA, I always poured my heart into my sports (MMA and BJJ) because I wanted to make a difference,” Tuck added. “My daughter was born this year so I made sure I took advantage by making the best out of each opportunity that God blessed me with.

“You can look forward to a new and improved athlete in 2013. I’ve set new goals and with God’s will, I’m going to do everything in my heart to accomplish them.”

GSPN is sure to continue to support Tuck as he awaits his next fight in the UFC.

What they said: As a fighter, his commitment is unwavering, knowing the sacrifices he has made and the path he pioneers for others, drives him to raise the bar.  As an individual, his humility & respect for others, makes anyone proud to have him represent our people on jiu-jitsu & MMA’s biggest stages.  I am blessed to share mat space with JonTuck, GSPN AOY. – Brian Bamba, friend and jiu-jitu training partner

Guam's Zachary Pangelinan has reached the pinnacle of USA Rugby. (Judy Teasdale Photography)

Guam’s Zachary Pangelinan has reached the pinnacle of USA Rugby. (Judy Teasdale Photography)

#2: ZACHARY PANGELINAN, USA RUGBY: If it wasn’t for the Year of the Tuck, Pangelinan’s accomplishments would be a sure fire #1. Zach’s goal of making the USA Rugby 15’s Eagles team came true this past fall, and it was even sweeter after recovering from a severe ankle injury that kept him out of play for the better part of 2010-11.

“First of all, it feels good to represent the island and be in the top five,” Pangelinan said. “I’m just trying to do what everyone else is trying to do – put Guam on the map. I’m just fortunate enough to be one of the top five athletes on Guam. It’s a good feeling.”

Pangelinan made the USA 7’s team in ’09-’10 before breaking an ankle. The drive to get back to the highest level of rugby in our nation was evident and his fulfilment came through just this past November.

Still just 24-years-old, Pangelinan got his chance to play against Tonga and Romania while The Eagles were wrapping up their Fall Tour. He made a strong showing as part of the Select XV squad in Canada this past October playing against Canada, Uruguay and Russia.

In his in-depth feature story in March, he had four specific goals: 1) make it back to the USA Team (check); 2) represent the USA in the Rugby World Cup in 2015; 3) and the 2016 Olympic Games where rugby will make its debut; 4) and eventually come home to give back to his island.

“It’s always in my mind to come back home. I don’t want to live out there forever. Guam is my home.  I want to come back and coach and help players get noticed.”

Now playing on Team USA's rugby squad, Pangelinan still holds the record for most goals scored in international soccer competition for Guam. (courtesy photo)

Now playing on Team USA’s rugby squad, Pangelinan still holds the record for most goals scored in international soccer competition for Guam. (courtesy photo)

Pangelinan says that now that he’s on The Eagles, the challenge is to stay on board. “It’s just keeping my spot, that’s the hard part now.”

The USA 7’s invited him to its camp Jan. 13-18. If selected, he will be representing USA again in New Zealand’s World Series 7’s. Pangelinan is able to do it since it’s the off-season for the 15’s, which does not reassemble until the summer.

Before concentrating solely on rugby, Zach was on the Guam national soccer team where he still has the most international goals for Guam.

The point total between Pangelinan and Tuck for the top spot was very close.

What they said: Zach’s patience, discipline and faith have led him to this pinnacle of excellence. While his road has led to USA Rugby, his demeanor and attitude demonstrate his humility and appreciation of such an accomplishment. – Rob Leon Guerrero, Guam Rugby national player

Will Williams, Adrian Quitugua#3: WILL WILLIAMS, FOOTBALL/RUGBY/BOXING: He’s not even 21-years-old, yet he’s playing like he’s in the prime of his life – and he’s doing it by playing some of the roughest and physical sports around.

“That’s quite an accomplishment,” Williams said about making this prestigious list. “I’m very honored and very blessed.”

Williams quarterbacked the Cars Plus Rams to the 2012 MFL championship, adequately filling in the big shoes of departed QB Brant McCreadie. The youngster carried his veteran team to the title where he threw for 326 yards and three TD’s in a 26-13 win over the Pepsi Warriors in the championship game in April.

Williams is currently leading the Raiders through an undefeated season in the ongoing Budweiser Football League. He also helped guide the Young Gunz to the first ever Guam Rugby 7’s Tournament championship in August.

He’s also dabbled in amateur boxing, winning his two bouts this year. In fact, just last week, Williams helped the Raiders dismantle the Eagles with five touchdowns in a 3 p.m. BFL game before going straight to his boxing match where he won by split decision.IMG_1775

“As for boxing, that’s just something I got into. It’s about time that I’m finally going out and exposing myself in that,” he added.

Look for the young gun to make bigger strides in 2013 as he aims to play college football in Hawaii.

What they said: Will possesses game intellect, is a team player, and has excelled at all sports (football, rugby, boxing, etc.). Key driving factor in his success is his competitive spirit. A throw back athlete with a ‘mean competitive streak’. He uses his tools to beat you both physically and mentally. – Frank Arriola, Rams head coach

Atkinson set a new Guam record in the women's 800m in the London Olympics. (courtesy photo)

Atkinson set a new Guam record in the women’s 800m in the London Olympics. (courtesy photo)

#4: AMY ATKINSON, OLYMPIC RUNNER: As the only female and only Olympian to crack the top five, Atkinson has been the perfect role model for every female runner on Guam. Always wearing a smile, Atkinson made Guam proud in the London Olympic Games this summer by setting a new Guam record in the 800m event in 2 minutes, 18.53 seconds.

“I’m honored to be chosen as one of Guam’s top athletes,” Atkinson said. “It has been a privilege to represent the island that has supported me and encouraged me since high school in my athletic pursuits.”

Atkinson also represented Guam in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey in March, the Oceania Regional Championships in Cairns, Australia in June and won numerous local races such as the International Ko’ko’ Half Marathon, Navy Beach 5.5-miler, McCool 5 Mile Hill Climb, Jingle Bell 5K, USO 5K and XTERRA 4.5 mile trail run qualifier.Amy2

“I owe all my accomplishments to God,” Amy simply stated.

What they said: Amy’s done a great job of putting female runners on the map. She’s represented us well and very deserving of the recognition. The fact that she’s the only female out of the top five, there are many great female athletes out there, she definitely deserves to be one on the top five list. Kudos to her. – Marie Benito, former Guam Olympian and running legend

#5: JASON CUNLIFFE, SOCCER: The new-look men’s national team had to have a captain and leading them in the direction is 29-year-old Jason Cunliffe. The Talofofo resident was given the honor by head coach Gary White from the very beginning of the transformation to The Matao.

Jason Cunliffe is the captain of the much-improved Guam men's national soccer team and is also a pro player in the Philippines. (courtesy photo)

Jason Cunliffe is the captain of the much-improved Guam men’s national soccer team and is also a pro player in the Philippines. (courtesy photo)

“I’m definitely taken aback and honored,” Cunliffe said about being named to the list. “I’m pretty sure it’s a good group of athletes who sacrifice a lot and dedicate themselves in their respective sport.”

Cunliffe carries a wealth of soccer experience from his collegiate years at Santa Clara University to a host of international competition for Guam, including the Pacific Games in 2011. In 2012, he headed the national team through the East Asian Cup preliminaries held on Guam, the Philippines Football Peace Cup in Manila and finally the East Asian Cup Round 2 in Hong Kong. He played every single minute for Guam in these international games.

“We went into every competition this year thinking that we had a chance to win,” said the owner of Crossfit Guahan. “Other men’s teams, that was never the case. It helped us open some eyes not only in Asia, but football all over the world.

“My dad (Randy) taught me at a young age that once you commit to something you see it out to its completion,” Cunliffe said in his featured story Captain Cunliffe in July. ” I want to be the best captain I can be and I want to play until I physically can’t play anymore.”

To top it off, Cunliffe signed a professional contract with Pachanga FC in the Philippines where he scored a goal off a penalty kick in his first game as a pro.

“It’s a very good mix of players from all over the world. The biggest thing is everyone comes up to me after the games and asks where I’m from. That puts a smile on my face.”

jasonHe’s done it on the local level as well, scoring seven goals in one game back in March.

What they said: He’s been a captain in every sense of the word. He’s led by example and managed to push himself into a professional career this year. He has a standard in his play that never drops. He’s somebody that Guam should be extremely proud of and he stands for everything the Guamanian people stand for. He’s an absolute pleasure to coach. – Gary White, Matao head coach


Other athletes who received votes:

Ric Blas, Jr., Olympic judo

Mike Carbullido, jiu -jitsu

Destiny Castro, high school volleyball/basketball

Christopher Magtoto, running

Derek Mandell, Olympic running

Eric Sian, jiu-jitsu

Benjie Schulte, Olympic swimming

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Father Duenas Alumni Basketball Tournament

DPR Liberation Village Baseball Tournament

Guam National Triathlon Championship July 14

Liberation Miler


Guam’s youth golfers competed against the best in the world at the IMG Academy Junior World Championships in San Diego, California.
Ray Ray Blas, Stussy Shiroma, Nathan Caasi, Trey Jacot, Tyanna Jacot, Mina Manibusan, and Krisanna Fenton.
The Guam contingent competed in different age divisions against representatives from 56 countries around the world.
Salas siblings all strike gold in the 2024 IBJJF American Nationals in Las Vegas.
Left-Eyan Salas
Right-Emmett Salas
Front-Aria Salas

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