James "Chico" Hernandez is a 7-time National AAU Sombo champion and is an 11-time National AAU Sombo All-America.
His AAU National Greco-Roman credits include three National titles, four National Freestyle championships and 24 designations as an AAU National All-America.
A native of Chicago, Hernandez is a 1979 graduate of the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He is employed by the Maine Department of Corrections as a case worker.
Hernandez won his first AAU National Masters title in 1987, wrestling at 163 pounds in the 30-34 age group in competition at Washington, D.C.
More than 13 years later, Hernandez won again at the same weight in the 45-50 age group in a meet at Orlando, FL.
Sombo fighting is a style of jacket wrestling originating in Russia in the 1930s. Similar to the Greco-Roman style, it combines techniques from more than 30 different martial arts.
His exploits have earned Hernandez recognition in the Maine Senate and House of Representatives five times. A proclamation honored him in May, 1999 "upon winning gold and bronze medals at the AAU Sombo wrestling championships at Quantico, Virginia.
"He won the gold medal in the 180-pound class of the masters division and placed third in the Masters All-Round. He holds the distinction of being one of only two masters division wrestlers in the country to have won gold medals in the three wrestling disciplines: Greco-Roman, freestyle and Sombo."
The following year, Hernandez, who was dominant in the master's division in national and international Sombo-style wrestling, made his mark in the open division, against competitors as many as 25 years younger.
At the age of 46, Hernandez won his first open title in the Amateur Athletic Union-United States Sombo Association National Tournament. He won the 163-pound division held during the AAU-Millenium Martial Arts Festival in Orlando, FL.
Hernandez, who holds a Black Belt in Sombo, had previously collected l4-first-place medals in the master's division.
Competing against wrestlers less than half his age provided positives and negatives for Hernandez. Younger men generally have greater strength but Hernandez was able to offset this with his knowledge and technique.
Being young at heart helps too. "I like the underdog role and testing my skills against the younger guys," he said. "What kid wants to lose to an old guy like me? They fight me twice as hard as others their own age."
In addition to a positive attitude, Hernandez never gave in to the aging process during his long career. He had a punishing daily workout, often running five or six miles at 4:30 a.m., a stretching and flexibility routine, weight training and doing 500 sit ups and 100 pushups.
At the age of 52, hard work still identifies, Hernandez as it did when he was younger. "I guess I'm just driven, he said. "I look at physical fitness as fun, not work."
Among his most recent accomplishments, Hernandez won a silver medal in the Vets division of the British Sombo Wrestling Championships in March, 2005.
James and his wife Becky have two children, Angelita and Brittany.
Maine Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 2
Cumberland, ME 04021
Phone (207) 807-7666
The Maine Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1972 for the purpose of: 1) appointing and bestowing recognition awards and scholarships to outstanding Maine high school scholar-athletes; and, 2) to formally honor and memorialize Maine athletes and sports figures who have brought distinction and honor to the state of Maine.