Diamonds Nationals this year was a little something different. Kicking off on November 4th in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, the new location provided both competitors and families with a slew of options not available in previous years, but also with additional challenges. The change in date also caused some minor conflictions with many. This year’s Diamond Nationals was running at the same time as several world events across the globe. This caused the attendance to appear a little smaller than in previous years.

Despite the new venue’s prime location, everything felt a little tighter than in previous years. It all worked, and the rings were able to run smoothly and without any major issues. But there was some concern about what would have happened, had there been more competitors in attendance. There was just a constant steady pressure of people in every available space.

Despite the slightly cramped conditions, the competition was everything we’ve come to expect over the years. Diamonds always highlights some of the best in the Midwest and gives some of the local talent an opportunity to step forward. Plus, as one of the last events in the season, it has some pretty strong pull for everyone to come in and finish out their season or get those final points in before Toronto.

Friday and Saturday Eliminations ran incredibly smoothly. Things were on time, divisions were ready to roll, and the judges were keeping everything rolling along at a good clip. One of the advantages of the smaller space was the atmosphere changed. When things are a little more spread out, the energy level tends to drop. However, when you’re shoulder to shoulder with 60 people, all of whom are cheering for their competitor, it makes for a heck of an experience!

Saturday Night Finals were a little different this year as well. Things seemed to be running with an eye on the clock, as well as making sure to keep that Diamonds flavor and quality. It was an appreciated gesture, and the night show was all the better for it.

Team Infinity came right out of the gates doing a victory lap as Team Demo winners. It was the beginning of an Infinity evening on the stage, and they started it out with their customary energy and excellence.

Every year the Ken Eubanks award is presented to a notable individual in the martial arts world. This year the recipient was Joe Greenhalgh. While this year’s Hall of Fame was presented to Mike Welch, up on stage for the second time of the evening.

Team Spartan came up for the Mega Team form and had a phenomenally coordinated and precise performance. It was a great look at a relatively simple form, done very well, with an impressively large group of people.

Mike Welch came on stage for his third, and final time of the evening. Winning Overall Men and Women’s Form/Weapons Grands, Team Infinity’s first diamond ring of the evening. Team Competitive Edge took team synchro, despite a small bobble in a catch.

Team Sparring was between KTOC and Straight Up. It was a tight match that stayed close the entire fight, and ended with KTOC pulling ahead at the end and just bare;y bringing it how with a two-point lead as the time went out. KTOC took the win, but it was a heck of a fight for both teams.

Boys Sparring was taken by Tyson Wray in a clean and controlled match. Isabella Niccoli kicked off the youth forms competition with her customary presence. Dominating the ring and taking a victory lap as the only competitor in her division, demoing her CMX routine and taking the win.

Youth 13 and Under Boys: Miguel Alvarez did a superb Annan against Gavin Richmonds spectacular CMX for the Youth 13 and Under Boys Grands. Both were incredible, but Richmond took the win.

In Youth 14-17 Girls Kaley Kacac battled Haley Glass in another Traditional vs Extreme pairing. Both athletes exhibited superb timing and precision, but Glass took the win, securing Infinity’s second Diamond Ring of the night. Mason Stowell did a victory lap for the Youth 14-17 Boys, he performed a beautiful traditional pattern and took the win for the night.

Traditional Men’s Grands was between Jackson Rudolph and Shahin Jahanvash. Jackson added a little element of creativity to his form, saying “here I come” before a baseball swing, and Shahin performed an excellent sword kata. But Jackson took the win.

Women’s Weapons was Between Trinity Davis, Sammy Smith, Julia Plawker, and Isabella Caracta: It was a powerhouse of talent and a phenomenal division to watch between four incredibly talented ladies, Smith took the win.

Men’s Weapons Grands had some minor issues that resulted in both incredible sportsmanship and showmanship. Winston Jones started strong, but a bobble on an opening move rattled the start of his form. He rallied and performed excellently afterward, but the division was done for him. Jackson Rudolph opened with his customary strength, and cracked his bo on one of his first strikes, he then snapped it over his knee and ran a routine with the two halves. Electrifying the crowd and having a heck of a time on stage.  He afterwards threw the (now several) pieces of bo to kids in the crowd. Alex Riggs was next to come to the stage and absolutely dominated it with an incredible kama form. Aaron Keyes was last to the ring, demonstrating his incredibly complex Chinese style whip pattern. Though there was a slight bobble, it was beautiful to watch. Alex Riggs took the win, securing his first Diamond Ring, and Infinity’s 3rd for the evening.

Girls 13 and Under Weapons: Madison Magnotta took the win in Girls 13 and Under Weapons with her traditional bo. While Mason Bumba electrified the crowd, winning Boy 13 and Under Weapons.

Haley Glass powered through her division, taking the win and securing Infinity’s 4th Diamond Ring for the evening. Boys 14-17 Weapons was between Noah Fort competing with some innovating extreme bo and Jake Presley with a dominating traditional. Presley took the win.

Women’s Overall Grands was between Jewelianna Ortiz, Gabrielle Dunn, and Sammy Smith. Another phenomenal division showcasing some of the best talent around. Smith was able to clinch this division as well, securing her second ring, and another amazing performance.

Ki’Tana Everett took Women’s Sparring in with an 11-1 win, winning her Diamond ring with style and finality. For Mens 30 and Up Sparring Challenge, El Java Abdul Qadir initially fell behind his fight but was able to tie 7-7 at the buzzer. After a few tense points traded back and forth, he was able to finish the fight with a great counter punch, ending the match 10-8 and taking the Diamond Ring.

Bailey Murphy took The Men’s Overall Lightweight Diamond Challenge. He stayed ahead in each of his two rounds and was able to show off some of that blistering speed in some incredible blitzes.

Richard Plowden definitively took the Men’s Overall Heavyweight Diamond Challenge with a final score of 10-5.

Men’s Overall Traditional Form Grand Championship and Diamond Challenge was between Andrew Bachus demonstrating Kempo, Parker Andrews with a Korean pattern, and Ariel Torres with his Japanese kata. It was a remarkably varied division that Ariel Torres took with his customary power, but every competitor showed the power of their technique.

Saving the best for last, Men’s CMX was the final division for the evening. Its was Aaron Keyes, Andrew Bachus, and Will Nevitt. Every competitor did an incredible job, but Will brought it to a new level. When he went up, there was an issue with his music, and one could hear Welch’s voice in the dark “You’re gonna accapella it!” Nevitt took it in stride and absolutely dominated his form, winning the division, taking his first Diamond Ring, and securing the 5th ring for Infinity that night.

Men’s Overall CMX Will Nevitt had a music malfunction then stepped up and absolutely dominated his form. Winning his first Diamond ring, and the 5th for Team Infinity that night.

Diamonds had been a Midwest staple for what feels like forever, and this year despite the changes, the new challenges, and the new date, the sense of grandeur and class that has always defined Diamonds was still strong. Showcasing some of the best in the world pushing to their absolute limits is what Sport Karate is all about, and the Diamond Nationals is one of the best places to do it.