A first time adult competitor won big and a family legacy was solidified – two of the amazing stories from the 2015 AKA Warrior Cup. Celebrating its 50th year, the 2015 AKA Warrior Cup was held the weekend of January 16-17, 2015 in the heart of Chicago, Illinois. The event venue for 2015 was larger to accommodate the turn out and the setting, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, was second-to-none in terms of atmosphere and service.
The setting was great but the most important thing was the competitors. Thursday evening, the NASKA awards banquet was held which meant the best in the league for this NASKA rated event arrived a night early. Friday eliminations featured the extreme and musical competition as well as adult and junior team sparring.
SportMartialArts.com brought new excitement to the event with the debut of SMA-TV, Live Streaming. “The new SportMartialArts.com Live Stream was awesome. We are very happy that the AKA Warrior Cup was the first event to debut this awesome new media coverage by SportMartialArts.com”, stated Warrior Cup executive Hunter Lyon. Many of the adult forms and weapons divisions were streamed live and all of the men’s team sparring and women’s executive team sparring were broadcast to thousands of viewers.
Senior men’s team fighting was hard hitting and packed. In the end, Team Tankson was able to topple a new executive Team Next Level for the win. The 18 & over men’s team sparring competition boasted with teams and a lot of talent. Teams WKF, KTOC, Wheelers and Next Level moved into the final four for the division and it ultimately came down to WKF versus Next Level for the championships. Next Level ended the first round up by one point but in round two Victor Suarez of WKF managed to bring his team back and finish the round with a 3 point lead. WKF Anchor Josh Horwege just had to hold onto the lead as he faced the formidable Kevin Walker, fighting for Next Level. Horwege used his experience and skill to keep the lead and give Team WKF the opening team sparring win for calendar year 2015.
The event boasted great attendance, “one of the best attendance levels we have had in several years, with many of the world’s top competitors in for the event. A comment from one of the top fighters was ‘the fighting has come back around to the quality of the 80s and 90s’. We hope the overwhelming support in Chicago will set the stage for a great year for sport karate”, stated promoter John Sharkey.
One of the most outstanding features of the AKA Warrior Cup is the Warrior Cup trophies. Standing nearly five feet high and weighing in at 70 pounds, the awards are some of the most coveted in sport karate. Winning one is historic and the highlight of many sport karate careers.
During the daytime eliminations, competitors are working to get onto the finals stage to compete for the warrior cup trophy and title. In the forms and weapons competition, the 2014 champion, Reid Presley made it to the stage along with top competitors like Sen Gao and Cole Eckert. 18-year-old Justin Chang also found himself on the stage in men’s forms in his first event as an adult.
In the fighting divisions, the 2014 women’s defending champion Morgan Plowden, was unable to attend due to school. Team Paul Mitchell’s Gina Thornton and Plowden’s teammate Verona Solimon fought through their opponents to make to the stage for the final fight for the women’s Warrior Cup.
Little Quinn Purdy of Canada, in his adult debut, shocked all the lightweight men’s fighters by winning his division and then winning over Victor Suarez to take the lightweight grands and go to the stage. He was joined by Chris Ellis who had a great performance and defeated Kevin Walker for welterweight title. Avery Plowden, Morgan’s little brother, narrowly defeated Josh Horwege to take the middleweight spot while Cass Sigmon was back and recovered from his 2014 knee injury. Executive Jesse Wray fought down from the 40 & over divisions and almost made it to the stage but it would be Sigmon to represent the heavyweights in the finals.
The AKA Warrior Cup finals is professional and well-fun. Champions went through professional interviews after their performance and huge screens displayed the action from various angles for the audience. For the junior competition, the kids competed for their overall titles in forms and weapons and then the two age categories faced off for the Warrior Cup championships. In weapons competition, Team Straight Up’s Romani Alecia was the 13 & Under winner while Jackson Rudolph dominated in the 14-17 category. The two next faced off for the Warrior Cup junior weapons title with Rudolph taking his third Warrior Cup of his career.
In youth forms, the competition was fierce at all levels. Kieran Tamondong put on a memorable traditional performance and was challenged by Noell Jellison and Aidan Considine. Considine was back after taking considerable time off due to a broken leg. In the end, Considine was declared the winner of the 13 & under competition. For the older competitors, Derek Meegan, the defending Warrior Cup champion, was the traditional representative facing Gabrielle Cunha, Sammy Smith and Danny Etkin. This year, it was all extreme as Danny Etkin joined his teammate Considine as a forms grand champion. Considine and Etkin then faced each other to determine who would be the Warrior Cup youth forms champion. The two put on great performances but it was Etkin with the win and his first Warrior Cup.
In the adult weapons Warrior Cup competition, the line up was deep. Susan Wackett and Jenny Espina represented the women and they faced returning champion Reid Presley along with Sen Gao, Cole Eckert, Shahin Jahanvash and Sen Gao. Presley’s double bo form was not enough this evening as Jahanvash’s double traditional swords were the favorite of the judges. Jahanvash went home with his first Warrior Cup.
Gina Thornton and Verona Solimon put on a show for the women’s Warrior Cup title. Thornton worked her lateral movement while Canadian Solimon measured her opponent in round one. The score was 2-2 after the first round and still anybody’s game. In round two, Solimon made her move and began to create a scoring gap. In the end, Solimon was able to move ahead and win her first Warrior Cup title with an 8-4 victory over Thornton.
In adult forms, traditional matched up nearly evenly with extreme as Drew Derrick-Bisbee, Brett Thomason and Donald Hickok brought out the bunkai in their routines. Young competitors Payton Foley and Dayna Huor represented the women in the competition while Jacob Ellis, Sen Gao, Justin Chang and Steven So brought the acrobatic moves to the stage. Chang wasn’t sure he would compete in the adult divisions at the AKA Warrior Cup – he was still eligible to compete as a junior until the middle of the year. However, he gave it a go and ended up on the stage. And then, his performance put him in the lead as he won his first Adult Warrior Cup in his very first tournament as an adult.
The men’s semi-finals pit Quinn Purdy against Avery Plowden and Cass Sigmon against Chris Ellis. In the Purdy versus Plowden match, Purdy held his own and was ahead through part of the match. However, Plowden’s heavy hits were enough to stop Purdy from advancing as Plowden won 8-5. Sigmon left nothing to chance with a resounding win over Ellis to advance to the final round against Plowden.
The final match between Plowden and Sigmon was intense. Both were determined to win. Sigmon wanted to prove his comeback was real and to send a message to fighters for the year. Plowden was fighting for his family legacy. His father and coach, Richard Plowden, had won two Warrior Cups back in his day and his sister won her first Warrior Cup in 2014. After round one, the match was fairly even as neither of the two men were able to get an advantage. The match appeared to be going downhill for Plowden at one point when his shoulder popped out on delivery of a hard ridge hand. He popped it back in and continued the match.
In round two, Plowden made his move and started to create a leave. A hard right by Plowden seemed to seal the deal as Sigmon appeared bothered by his knee. Despite his work, Sigmon was unable to comeback from the deficit and Plowden moved on to win his first Warrior Cup and to create history as the Plowden family because the first to win three Warrior Cups by relatives.
Once again, the AKA Warrior Cup provided the setting for sport karate history be made. A great way to begin the 2015 competition season with memories that will last a lifetime.
Promoter John Sharkey noted that, “we are proud of the event this year as we are each year. The event being in its 50th year, continued the tradition of the AKA, one of the oldest all martial arts associations in the country, as one of the premier events in the world. With the popularity noted by SportMartialArts.com Viewer’s Choice Awards as the best tournament in 2014. The AKA Warrior Cup again proved to be, as in the past, a forerunner in all aspects of the event – from the professionally designed flyer, to the use of social media for advertising, to the handsome rings awarded to the competitors. In 2015, the event added space to the venue for the day time elimination. The over 70,000 square feet was filled with excited competitors from all over the world and from our local area. A comment from a local prominient and world competitor him self was. ‘The is the best event Chicago has had in many years, this is an event all Chicago martial artist can all be proud of.'”