There is something comforting about Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Yes, it is hot but the ocean calls you to swim, sunbathe and relax on the sandy beaches. And this was the setting for the 2016 Dixieland Nationals, held the weekend of August 5-6, 2016. The event was held in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, just a couple blocks from the beach. With a comfortable atmosphere at the event, it was a great time to compete and vacation at the same time.

Friday night at the 2016 Dixieland Nationals was full of dabbing, competition and fun! There were nice sized divisions for the black belts with top competitors like Sammy Smith in the house. SMA-Tv live stream was set up and we live broadcasted all the team fighting competition on both’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Team Velocity and Team Hayabusa made it through the competition to fight for the men’s team sparring title during the finals. Team Straight Up’s boys suffered a rare defeat (by one point) as Team Hayabusa boys moved on to face Team Next Level on stage in the finals. Team Bring It and Team Velocity made it to stage for executive men’s fighting.

The Saturday night finals at Dixieland Nationals featured top black belts AND twelve underbelts who made it through the underbelt run offs to get to stage. There were some great youth performances at Dixieland Nationals. In the 13 & under categories, Mason Stowell’s CMX routine beat a strong traditional performance by Zoe Brown to take the overall title. The rest of the night was all traditional for the kids as Jake Presley won the 13 and under weapons title with his traditional bo. Derek Meegan left nothing on the table with double grand championship titles in 14-17 forms and weapons.

Team Premiere’s kids won the synchronized forms/weapons competition. Following this win, the underbelt competition started on the stage. Canadian Gabe Bastien was the winner for the 9 and under competition. In the 10-13 year old competition, purple belt Jonah Plawker got the win with Zack Brumbach at the 14-17 year old overall winner.

Sammy Smith is having an amazing debut as an adult. She has been winning consistently and Dixieland Nationals was no exception. She started the night with a grand championship title in women’s forms and ended the night with a title in women’s weapons. Ariel Torries continues undefeated in the men’s traditional forms competition. JP Panizza appeared in two competitions on stage – once in men’s traditional forms and again in men’s CMX forms. However, it was Reid Presley with the win in men’s CMX forms. Presley couldn’t take a second title as his brother Cole was the overall winner for men’s weapons.

The executives on Team Velocity helped bring their team the team sparring win on stage during the finals. Team Hayabusa’s boys kept it close in their match against Team Next Level but it was Next Level with the 16-13 win in the end. Hayabusa and Team Velocity were tied up off and on throughout the first two rounds of the men’s team sparring competition. In the final round Abid Benwali managed to pull ahead to get a 15-9 lead to win the title.

Melanie Ortiz battled young Stephanie Pagan for the women’s overall sparring title. The more experienced Ortiz started early with a lead and held it through the entire two rounds. Kevin Walker of Team All Stars took on John Curatolo of Hayabusa for the men’s lightweight sparring grand championship. The two exchanged points in round one, but Walker slowly pulled ahead in the second to win with a 9-6 score. Mike DeCastro of Team Straight Up exploded onto the scene with a win in his division and then the middleweight title to advance to the stage. He faced Jim Haymore for the overall heavyweight grand championship. Decastro was en fuego in the finals with seemingly everything threw scoring. He was up by ten points in round two and ended the match with a 19-9 score to get the title.

After the completion of the finals, it was time to hit the boardwalk of Myrtle Beach to enjoy the sights and sounds of the sleepy resort town. A great event and great vacation all in one.