VISALIA - Growing up in a family of wrestlers, it seem destined for Joshua and Jacob Cisneros to have their lives revolve around the sport, but when they were introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu as pre-teens, they would eventually compete around the world.
“I think we always had a drive for competition,” Joshua Cisneros said. “I like competing for the thrill, the challenge because I think competition drives you to become a better grappler and better in everything. I think competition is a huge part of the level that we’re at right now.”
“Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be the best at what I do,” Jacob Cisneros said.
Joshua, 18, is a recent Selma High grad while Jacob, 16, will enter his junior year at the high school next month. Joshua started competing in jiu-jitsu when he was 12 while Jacob began at 10 years old.
According to the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) rankings, Joshua is the world’s No. 9 ranked brown belt in the GI adult division. Jacob - a blue belt - doesn’t have a ranking because competitors in the juvenile divisions don’t get ranked. Competitors can’t compete in the IBJJF adult divisions until they turn 18.
During his first three months as a brown belt, Joshua was a silver medalist at the Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship in March, followed by another second place finish at the World Championship in May. In June, Joshua won gold at the American National Championships in Las Vegas and claimed another first place finish in Japan at the Tokyo International tournament. Recently, Josh earned gold at the New York Pro IBJJF tournament in New York City on July 13.
While his older brother aims to improve in the rankings, Jacob has had his own success competing as a juvenile. This year, Jacob has stood on the podium multiple times including earning a gold medal in the Pan Championship and a second place finish at the World Championship.
“Unlike many people, they run from competition, these kids run to the competition,” father David Cisneros said.
David, who calls the brothers the “scrap pack,” is proud of his sons’ success on the mat and admires their work ethic.
“For me, I thought it would help them with their wrestling, but give them a little break from wrestling, but still keep them on the mat. Still keep them grappling,” David said. “Well they took to it and they preferred it and they stuck with it. They said this what they wanted to do full-time and this is what they do.”
One of the challenges that the brothers had to face over the past few years was balancing their academics with their jiu-jitsu training. The brothers didn’t falter in the classroom, as Josh held a 3.8 grade point average as a senior and Jacob had a 4.0 GPA during his sophomore year.
“We’re either at school, here [at Elite Team Visalia], working out at the gym, or at our house,” Joshua said. “We never really go out with friends or anything. We really prioritize work over fun because we already have fun training, but we’re always on top of our work.”
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Joshua will continue his education at the College of the Sequoias, but he will be a part-time student due to his training schedule. He said he’s taking two classes this semester, but he’ll take more in the spring if his schedule allows it.
As for Jacob, the current plan is to enter the military after he graduates high school in two years. He’s aiming to attend Westpoint Academy or the Coast Guard Academy.
Before Joshua and Jacob’s success, their three older brothers made the Cisneros name known to the wrestling community in Selma.
Joe Cisenros - the oldest of the six Cisneros brothers - was a three-time CIF State medalist and wrestled for Bakersfield and Selma high schools. At Selma, Joe was a two-time state medalist by placing fourth in 2006 and finishing in second a year later. In 2004, Joe won a state title as a freshman at Bakersfield High.
Alex Cisneros - the second oldest - was a four-time state medalist at Selma in 2009-12. At the time, he was the program’s second male wrestler to accomplish the feat. Alex currently remains one of three Bears to reach the milestone - the others being Nick Pena (2008-11) and Richard Garcia (2014-17). Alex was a three-time state champion from his freshman to junior years and finished as a runner up as a senior. He’s currently Selma High’s only male wrestler to win three state titles. Alex is also one of two wrestlers in the boys program to win a state title as a freshman - the other being Richard Figueroa in 2018.
The third oldest brother - Chris Cisneros - was a two-time CIF State qualifier for the Bears and is currently a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. He also trains at Elite Team.
When Joshua and Jacob were introduced to jiu-jitsu, the transition from wrestling wasn’t easy for them when they started. Even though the martial art focuses on grappling and ground fighting, the biggest adjustment they had to make was fighting on their back.
“Probably like the first week I didn’t want to be on my back,” Joshua said. “I was mainly on top...I would never be on my back, but once you get on your back you get comfortable. Right now, I’m always on my back because from there I could attack with numerous submissions and threats.”
When they’re not competing or training, Joshua and Jacob spend time teaching jiu-jitsu in group classes at Elite Team. Joshua started teaching classes in 2016 when he was a blue belt. Jacob assists Joshua during those classes and fills in as a substitute teacher when his older brother isn’t unavailable. Jacob added that he recently started teaching four and five year old kids in private sessions.
They both enjoy teaching the sport a younger generation including their brother Caleb - the youngest of the six Cisneros brothers - who is following the footsteps of Joshua and Jacob.
“He does everything that his brothers do. His brothers teach him” David said about Caleb. “His brothers teach him what works for them in competition and what doesn’t work.”
“He’s nine-years-old now. He started training when he was 3 ½ years old. So by the time Caleb gets to their age, he’s going to be unbelievable.”