This year’s Diamond Nationals was held at the Double Tree Hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota. Diamond Nationals has been a staple of Midwest martial arts excellence for decades, and this year was no exception. Some of the biggest names in the sport were present, and everyone was pushing to get on stage and get their shot at a Diamond Ring.
However, this year there was an absence of some of our friends from Florida. In the days prior to Diamond Nationals, Hurricane Matthew hit the southern part of the East coast with a fury not seen in decades. There is massive damage, and thousands of flights were delayed or canceled for the weekend. All of us were tuned into the media coverage and hoped our martial arts friends and family were staying safe.
Though they were sorely missed at the year’s competition, we look forward to seeing them at next year.
Friday night kicked off with musical, extreme, creative, and team events. Interspersed throughout the forms competition was the Youth and Adult Team Sparring eliminations. There was some spectacular fighting and more than a few “wows” in form divisions.
Team Synchronized form was unusual this year as there was an enormous variety of styles and interpretations present. There were teams demonstrating some extreme skills and flips as well as some teams emphasizing the power of traditional sword.
Saturday’s competition started bright and early at 9 AM. There was some minor confusion as to rings and assignments. But giant screens with scrolling division assignments helped competitors out. Eliminations showcased huge divisions with fierce competition in almost every division. The level of skill and talent in the room was a wonderful thing to be a part of and everyone was excited about the Finals.
The Saturday Night Finals opened with Team Infinity’s Team Synchronized Team Form. They had won the Friday Night event and, after their demonstration, they were presented their award by none other than Miss Sami Suddeth. From there, the night rolled right into sparring with Team Impex taking the title by one point in a heated battle with Team Paul Mitchell.
In two of the most exciting individual fights of the night, there was Morgan Plowden versus Melanie Ortiz. It was a tight match until Plowden tweaked her ankle. However, she was able to regain her feet after a few minutes, then take the title 9-5. Curatolo and Walker had one of the most impressive matches, tying it up at 5-5, and then 6-6. But Walker was able to pull ahead in the final stretch and took the title 13-8!
For forms, Tyler Weaver claimed the Men’s CMX title while Sammy Smith took the Women’s Form Grands. Jarrett Leiker took the 30+ Grands with a spectacular traditional kata and then a fierce competition for 13 and Under Forms Grands that went to Hayley Glass! Next was the 14-17 Forms Grands. It was an incredible division that went to Melissa Balliargeon.
Diamond Nationals ended on a high note with the after party, complete with a DJ. It was a great chance for all of the competitors and spectators to burn off any steam from finals, as well as providing a wonderful place for all martial artists to socialize with fellow enthusiasts from all over the country.
Throughout the entire weekend, there was a sense of camaraderie and friendliness that always seems to be this tournament’s signature. It brings in some of the best martial arts competitors in the world and pushes them to new levels of excellence in pursuit of Diamond rings. But there is something uniquely “Midwest” about this event, and that makes it truly special. To all of you who were unable to attend this year’s Diamond Nationals, you missed a spectacular event and we hope to see you next year. To everyone who was there, cheering, competing, and supporting. Thank you for your passion and enthusiasm. We’ll see you next time!