coverage of the 2011 Gator Nationals

Youth under belt competition at the 2011 Gator Nationals.

After last year’s Gator Nationals, we let out the secret of what a great event it turned out to be.  In 2011, the tradition of the eventcontinued with a great venue and a great location plus now that the secret is out – growth.  May 13-14, 2011 were the dates for the event held in Daytona Beach, Florida.  With the tournament hotel right on the ocean and the event in the spacious Ocean Center Convention Center, it was no surprise that word-of-mouth had spread about the event.  The first clue that the event had increased was that the tournament hotel was overbooked for the event.  Over 150 competitors registered for the continuous sparring competition and there were clearly larger numbers in the forms, weapons and team sparring events as well.  Despite the increase in numbers, the event maintained an atmosphere of relaxation and fun.

This year seven competitors showed up for the men’s Superfight competition.  With the 2010 winner, Ross Levine, watching from the sidelines, Chad Cannon of Team Gypsy and Justin Ortiz fought their way to the final two spots and will face each other on the Saturday night stage.  For the women, Chelsey Nash of Canada and Teri Jacoby of Florida will fight for the title.

The fearsome threesome of Team Paul Mitchell fame, Marc Canonizado, Matt Emig and coverage of the 2011 Gator Nationals

Matt Emig provided great entertainment with his performances at the 2011 Gator Nationals.

Kalman Csoka, were all in the house and they dominated the men’s musical and extreme weapons and forms divisions.  Emig took a first in extreme weapons and forms, Csoka was the creative weapons winner while Canonizado did not miss a beat with the men’s musical forms win.  Of note, Jarrett Leiker debuted in the men’s musical forms division with a traditional musical form and ended up in fourth place behind Canonizado, Mickey Lee and Matt Emig respectively.  Eric Tremblay of Canada was the 30 and over creative forms winner for the men.  He’ll try to continue his 30 and over grand champion reign tomorrow.

Men’s team fighting was fun to watch, mainly because Florida always draws some exciting fighters from Florida and nearby southern states like Georgia.  Six team showed up for the event.  In the first round Team Gypsy of Texas defeated Team ATL from Georgia.  Of note, Jermond Wiggins – a name we have not mentioned in years, fought for Team ATL and it was great to see him back in the ring.  Two Florida teams battled in the next round as Team Velocity of Miami dominated Team MMA.

Things started getting a little crazy when Team Gypsy faced Team Full Circle in the next round.  Team Full Circle sported their Miami contingent with Damian Rodriguez and Tico Vilda joining Ross Levine.  The fight between Chance Turner of Gypsy and Vilda was where it got ugly with Turner blasting a late ridgehand on Vilda early in the fight. Vilda was awarded a penalty point and the match ended with Team Full Circle up 14-4.  In the final round, Ross Levine coasted to a win by protecting his vast lead against Chad Cannon.  This put Full Circle into the finalist bracket and they will go to the Saturday night finals.

Team Velocity and Team Straight Up remained to fight for the other spot in the finals.  The Velocity versus Straight Up fights started rough with Alex Vergara of Team Velocity literally drawing first blood with a kick to Straight Up Cody Nascene’s face that caused a bloody and perhaps broken nose.  Nascene was bandaged up and continued the fight finishing with a 4-3 win.  Nathan Thorn of Straight Up fought Dariel Silveira in the next round and the more experienced Thorn was able to finish ahead going into the final round.  Joe Fife of Team All Stars was the only All Star around Friday night so without a team, he fought as the anchor for Team Straight Up and faced the much larger Jeromy Roque of Team Velocity.  This was a hard hitting match – mainly by Roque as Fife felt the blows that reign down when fighting someone a lot bigger than you.  However, Fife threw his own weight around and stayed in the fight.  In the end, when the buzzer rang, Fife kept his team in the mix and ahead with the match ending with Straight Up ahead 14-13 and moving into the finals to face Team Full Circle.

The evening ended with the demo team competition and it was great to see Mike Welch’s Team Infinity all the way from Wisconsin on stage and winning the eliminations.  Perhaps the crazy, unseasonably cold weather in Wisconsin drew them all the way to Florida for relief!

The night started on time and ended at 10:00 p.m. for a nice beginning to a nice event.  The Saturday eliminations will show the full increase in the participation numbers for the event but it appears so far to be quite a success!