Originally created 07/25/99

Sisters square off on mat



The Clash of the Titans had to wait as the Clash of the Cuties took center stage in the opening matches Saturday of Georgia Games judo competition at Patriots Park gymnasium in Grovetown.

With the girls peewee (6-8) age division opening the event, which featured nearly 150 competitors in all divisions, an early sibling showdown became inevitable.

Fighting in the 40-pounds-and-under weight division, Woodstock, Ga., residents Nicole and Stephanie Pirucki took their spots on opposite sides of the mat.

With father Ron Pirucki observing, the pigtails began to fly, as 8-year-old Nicole engaged 5-year-old Stephanie in battle.

"It's tough. They have competed against each other before, and Stephanie actually won," the elder Pirucki said. "The baby beat the older sister -- that made things tough at the dinner table."

This time the Piruckis' proper pecking order was restored, as Nicole defeated Stephanie in the three-minute match.

The rewards that followed the match were equal, as Ron gave each daughter tender kisses for jobs well-done.

"I like to see them compete. Martial arts are good for them all the way around," said the proud father, who also was taking part in the Games' judo event, fighting in the senior brown belt division.

For the Piruckis, the Georgia Games are definitely a family affair; in addition to Nicole and Stephanie, older sister Brittany, 11, was competing in the event.

"The Games are something we all look forward to every year," Pirucki said. "They have all won medals in the Georgia Games before, but they actually have a lot of hardware. They have won medals in a lot of different events, so it's hard to remember what they have won at a particular meet."

The Piruckis practice judo three times a week, working out as members of the Atlanta Judo Academy.

"It all started about two years ago. I wanted the girls to study a martial art, and judo was a nice transition from wrestling," said Pirucki, a former wrestler.

The fact that the Games were held in Augusta this year instead of in Atlanta didn't bother the Piruckis.

"It's a pleasant change. We have traveled as far as Oakland and Miami for tournaments, so it's really not that far to drive," he said.

Because the sisters have ample opportunities to compete in judo, Pirucki says, the action doesn't often spill over to the family living room.

"Surprisingly enough, they are pretty tame at home," he said.