Lorenzo Solano is constantly fighting with his peers. It’s something of an addiction for the 15-year-old from Rock Springs.
He actually practices for fights every day of the week. Then on weekends, it’s not unusual for him to travel hundreds of miles for a chance to throw his hat in the ring.
It’s really not as bad as it sounds. Lorenzo is a jiujitsu fighter, and a pretty good one.
He started when he was 12 years old, thanks to a nudge from his father, Jason Solano. Lorenzo was a talented boxer even before that, but jiujitsu took hold on his life like nothing else had.
“I was good at it as soon as I started,” Lorenzo said. “It takes up most of my time. I do it every single day, except for Saturdays and Sundays, but other than that, I compete at almost every competition that comes up.”
Lorenzo has been competing at about eight or nine events per year since he started and it’s rare that he doesn’t walk away with a medal around his neck. Out of nearly 30 competitions, Lorenzo has failed to place just two times.
Dan Stroup, who is an assistant instructor at Western Plains Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Gillette, has watched Lorenzo compete on multiple occasions. Stroup has even watched Lorenzo go head to head with his son, Jake, and thinks very highly of the talented youngster out of Rock Springs.
“He’s an up-and-comer. He’s a young kid and he’s been training hard for the last couple years,” Stroup said. “One of the best things about Lorenzo is that he’s coachable. If an instructor tells him to do something a certain way, he does it. … He absolutely has what it takes.”
Rock Springs’ Wyo Faction is Western Plains’ sister school, so Dan Stroup has had plenty of opportunities to see Lorenzo fight. In the past couple of years, Lorenzo and Jack Stroup have competed against each other. Even though Lorenzo is two years younger, he always holds his own, Dan Stroup said.
While Lorenzo is not somebody you want to mess with on the mat, he’s a completely different person off it.
“When I get on the mat, I get more aggressive, and off the mat I’m calm,” Lorenzo said. “Usually I’m really nice and easy going, comfortable with everybody, talking to everybody. And then on the mats, I’m just going for submissions.”
Dan Stroup said that Lorenzo is usually “very laid back” and “not the kid you’d expect to choke you out.”
Lorenzo’s most recent competition was at the Western Plains Open in Gillette, where he won gold in both the teen no gi, levels 2-4, and the teen gi white belt divisions. He went undefeated during his six matches to win the two medals.
“There were some pretty tough kids out here,” he said. “It was definitely a tough run for the medal. I was competing really hard.”
At 15 years old, Lorenzo’s dreams are sky high. He’s seen success at almost every turn in jiujitsu and the goal is to eventually join the professional ranks.
Jiujitsu is still a very young sport at the professional level, but it’s growing quickly, Dan Stroup said. Fortunately for Lorenzo, one of the most highly touted jiujitsu organizations — Fight 2 Win — is located close by in Denver.
Seth Daniels heads Fight 2 Win and was the first person to actually pay his professional fighters, Dan Stroup said. Last year, his payouts exceeded $1 million.
Pro jiujitsu fighters usually don’t sign until they’re at least age 16, Dan Stroup said, so Lorenzo’s window of opportunity is about to open. His lofty goal isn’t just a fairy tale dream, either.
“Do I think Lorenzo has the ability (to go pro)? Absolutely,” Dan Stroup said.
Reaching the professional level isn’t Lorenzo’s only chance to stay in the sport, though. He is going to dedicate everything he has to jiujitsu, which will eventually mean spreading his love for the sport.
“I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,” Lorenzo said. “I want to get as far as I can with it and maybe go professional if I can, but I want to open up my own gym one day.”
Lorenzo has some big chances to showcase his fighting ability in the coming year. He’ll be competing at a tournament in Hawaii at the end of October before traveling to Las Vegas in June.