This year’s Irish Open International arguably enjoyed its most organized and well-run competition in the event’s history. The World Cup-rated open sport martial arts event, which is part of WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations), is the largest and most prestigious kickboxing tournament in the world. Even more impressive is the fact that all staff are unpaid volunteers, and all event proceeds go to charitable causes.
Roy Baker, the promoter of the event, was recently elected president of WAKO, making this the first Irish Open in his new position. Incidentally, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) recently awarded WAKO kickboxing provisional Olympic recognition, which means it is one step closer to the goal of becoming an official Olympic sport.
This year’s Irish Open International took place between February 28th and March 3rd, 2019 at the CityWest Hotel and Convention Center in Saggart, Ireland. Saggart is a suburban village of Dublin, one of Ireland’s coolest and most cosmopolitan cities. At SportMartialArts.com we are no strangers to this event’s CityWest location, yet every time we come back for the tournament, we are wowed by the continued improvements and renovations on the property. It’s a five-star spot fit for a five-star event.
In 2018, the largest blizzard to hit the Dublin area in nearly 40 years nearly shut down the entire country of Ireland and nearly resulted in the first-ever cancellation of the Irish Open, resulting in a drastic reduction in attendance that year. Thankfully, this year’s weather more than made up for it, with warm sunshine to start things off, instead of Dublin’s usual downpours — and attendance was back in full swing.
Competitive streak – Open Weight and Teams
This year’s Irish Open had an impressive lineup as always, with the Men’s Open Weight division featuring a total of 82 competitors from 16 different nations this year. In the Women’s division, there were 38 fighters representing 16 nations, Junior Boys had 55 fighters from 12 nations, and Junior Girls had 47 fighters from 11 nations.
The Junior Girls’ Open Weight final culminated with a showdown between Estefany Ramirez from Top Ten USA and Elizabeth Rouillard of Quebec City, Canada, when the two North American fighters squared up to one another in a heated match. Elizabeth is no stranger to the big stage — she has been noted as one of the top junior female point fighters over the past few years, and her experience showed when she deftly defeated Ramirez 12-2.
The brothers – Enrique and Jason Letona – from Top Ten USA and hailing from Guatemala outdid themselves this year in the Junior Boys Open Weight division, when they both battled their way through the field of 55 fighters and snagged a staggering victory as co-grand champions, a feat never before seen in Irish Open history.
Women’s Open Weight
Keshia Keller of Top Ten Germany snagged her ticket to the Final Four with a victory over 2018 Open Weight grand champion Elyse Gorrell of Ontario, Canada. Carol Scacchi of Italy’s Team Bestfighter defeated Federica Trovalusci of Italy’s Team HMD to reserve a spot for herself in the finals.
The two finalists, Keshia and Carol, then went on to face off in an intense back and forth match-up, competing head-to-head for the Grand Championship title. As the match slid into overtime, Keshia landed herself a late blitz to take home the title for Germany.
Men’s Open Finals
It was a close one between Roman Brundl of Austria and Elijah Everill of the UK. Roman started off with a comfortable 4-0 lead, but Elijah quickly brought his skills to the table, turning it into a close match between the two world champions, with Roman eventually eking out a narrow 6-4 victory. Roman is now looking at his third Irish Open Overall grand championship.
California’s own defending champion, Jack “The Iceman” Felton of Team All Stars wowed the crowd when he crushed his opponent Enrique Letona in a fierce 8-4 defeat. It was a valiant effort for Enrique, seeing as it was his ninth fight of the day after winning Junior Open Weight, making the final, and splitting the championship with his younger brother Jason Letona. Jack “The Iceman” had been looking forward to taking home the Open Weight grand championship for quite some time, with a hand full of finals appearances in his quest for his first win. Jack’s game was strong, with both Raymond and Trevor in his corner. There were several moments in the 2nd round where Felton made contact, nearly scoring a point, and he continued to hold a one-point lead in the first few seconds of Round 2. In the one minute overtime, his opponent Roman Brundl used his size advantage to barely edge out a 6-5 victory over Jack.
Six talented women’s teams stormed the stage in 2019. Team Impex debuted at Irish Open with Morgan Plowden of the Impex teaming up with the ladies from Team Kiraly of Hungary to form somewhat of a “super team”. Team Kiraly defeated teams from both Ireland and Scotland, and faced Italy’s Team HMD in the finals. Impex/Kiraly was ahead 2-1 after match 1, and again in Match 2 with a 4-2 win by Morgan.
Match 3, however, was a real table-turner — after a few minutes of back and forth, HMD made a dizzying comeback, forcing the fight into overtime. WAKO rules allow a team to make a substitute for overtime, but HMD decided to keep their fighter, while Kiraly substituted Morgan. In a perfectly timed head kick, HMD’s fighter knocked Morgan out instantly. The referees made the judgment that the kick was excessive, and disqualified Team HMD in a shocking turn of events, thus handing the Women’s Team title to Kiraly. Morgan was transported to the hospital and diagnosed with a minor concussion, an unfortunate early ending to her first ever Irish Open appearance.
13 men’s teams went head to head this year, including two teams from Kiraly and Top Ten Germany. Both Kiraly teams were defeated, each by different Top Ten Germany teams.
Team All Stars started off by snaring a stunning 33-11 victory over Mexico, but were finally stalled by Team Bestfighter in the quarterfinals. Bestfighter would then go on to defeat Top Ten Germanys’ second team. Team Barrus of Italy were off to a flying start when they defeated Team Energise of Great Britain and Team Athens Fight Club of Greece, before hitting the wall with Top Ten Germany’s first team. The finals involved an intense match between Germany and Bestfighter, until Roman Brundl of Germany finally secured his team’s 1st place finish.
Saturday Night of Champions
The Irish Open Night of Champions featured the finals for the weight divisions at the event. Young Conor McGlinchy of Ireland, in his adult debut, won his weight division in the finals over Gennaro Di Massa of Ireland with an 8-5 score. Two North American team faced off for the junior team finals. Team KToC and Top Ten USA were the final two in a strong field. KToC started of fast in the first couple of matches but it was Top Ten USA with the overall 15-9 win.
Roland Veres of Hungary kept up the family tradition with a win in his weight class over Dominik Meyer of Germany. His older brother Ritchie brought home another Veres’ win later in the evening in a close fight with Enrique Letona of Top Ten USA in an emotional match. Alessia Costanzo of Italy fought Naess Bjornestad of Norway for their women’s point sparring with Bjornestad winning 8-7 in a close fight.
Forms and Weapons
Team Unite of the United Kingdom proved itself to be the dominating force this year by bagging the most medals.
Team Paul Mitchell’s NASKA World Champion Mackensi Emory of California and Kentucky’s own Jackson Rudolph both took home a few wins this year, with Jackson placing first in Men’s Musical Weapons. New York’s Danny Etkin and Reid Presley both traveled to the event as well, but unfortunately, both champions were held out from the competition this year. Danny was sidelined by a shoulder dislocation injury suffered earlier this year at Compete Internationals, and Reid was unable to compete due to unresolved knee issues.
Team Unite of the UK had a strong showing this year with an army of competitors led by Chloe Flower and Kady Robinson. They won the overall medal count for the entire Irish Open.
Team Top Ten USA were a small but dominant squad, with Mason Stowell and Becca Ross both winning 1st place in Traditional Forms divisions.
Coming up strong in 2nd place were siblings Gabrielle Dunn (Team AKA) for Women’s Traditional Forms and Jared Dunn (USA) for Men’s.
Team AKA saw both Gabrielle Dunn and Brian Jansa placing well in all the divisions they participated in, with Brian winning 1st place in Creative Open Hand Senior. The UK’s Rees Beardshaw of Twister XMA overcame the opposition in Creative Open Hand Juniors. He also scored 2nd place in Musical Open Hand Juniors, with Italy’s Edoardo Boscolo of ASD Euro Kickboxing coming out in front in 1st place.
In the Musical Weapons Youth Competition, Gabriel Bastien of Top Ten USA came out on top, with Dylan Stanbra of England’s Team Unite scoring a close second.
America’s Got Talent finalist Mason Bumba cleaned up in several Youth CMX (Creative, Musical, and/or Extreme) divisions over the course of the weekend.
In both the Creative Weapons Youth Competition and the Traditional Kata Open Youth Competition, Top Ten USA’s talented Gabriel Bastien took 1st place, with Dylan Stanbra of England’s Team Unite coming in a close 2nd.
Women’s Traditional Kata Open Hand Older Cadets saw England’s Alicia Anson of Team Unite take the top spot, with Louie Anson, also of Team Unite, walking away as the winner of the Older Cadet’s Traditional Kata Open Hand.
A Great Event
Awards were handed to the champions in front of a jubilant crowd as another colossal event came to a close. The weekend wrapped up on a wintry note, when a light dusting of snow blanketed the city of Dublin. This made for a fun finish for the attendees, and it was safely cleared up just in time for departures. The 2019 Irish Open Internationals will go down in history as another smashing success in the world of internationally acclaimed open sport martial arts and open sport karate tournaments, and dates are already set for 2020.
If you’re interested in learning more about how it all went down this year in Ireland, you can check out highlights of the competition, plus photos, videos and more right here on www.SportMartialArts.com. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow our Facebook page for further updates and for more information about future events. We hope to see you at an event soon!