McALLEN Despite all the victories, medals and trophies that the South Texas College Health and Wellness Center's Pecan Campus Jiu-jitsu Team has garnered over the past four years, it's the lessons of hard work, discipline, respect and focus that are the team's biggest rewards.

"I love it. It's amazing, and it's addicting," said 21-year-old STC alum Miguel Bustos about the martial art that he has practiced for the past three years. "I've gotten a lot out of jiu-jitsu. It gives you good self-esteem, good cardio, a good workout, it gets your body and mind in shape, and it helps you become a better person in life."

At the team's most recent tournament in October, Bustos won the gold medal in his division to increase his medal count to 10. The criminal justice major is a two-striped blue belt, and has won seven gold medals, one silver and two bronze in two years.

Since the club's formation in 2007, and including Bustos' contribution, the college's jiu-jitsu squad has racked up a total of 66 medals including 38 gold, 15 silver and 13 bronze.

However, the team's rewards are not just on the mat, but they also have reaped the benefits in their personal and academic lives.

"Jiu-jitsu helped me out a lot," explained Bustos, who graduated in May and is currently attending the Mission Police Academy. "I came to STC after graduating from high school in Mission, and after there was no more football, I was slacking physically and I wasn't all there in my studies. Jiu-jitsu prepared me mentally, physically and emotionally."

The college's Health and Wellness jiu-jitsu club is under the tutelage of STC Student Activities Coordinator and brown belt instructor Armando Ponce, one of only a handful in the Rio Grande Valley.

"The purpose of the jiu-jitsu team at STC is not just to create winners on the mat where they compete, but to create winners in life," said Ponce. "They carry the lessons of hard work, discipline, respect and focus with them wherever they go and in whatever they do. The everyday training and competition allows students to test themselves physically and mentally to overcome adversity by pushing themselves to constantly improve."

The jiu-jitsu club at the Pecan Campus currently has 35 active students and classes are included in the Wellness Center's fees of $72 per semester, whereas the typical cost at a gym outside the college for a month of jiu-jitsu classes is approximately $100 per month alone. Classes are now being offered at the Mid-Valley Campus Health and Wellness Center in Weslaco. STC students, faculty and staff are eligible for STC Health and Wellness Center membership.

For more information about the college's Health and Wellness Centers or jiu-jitsu classes call 956-872-3838.