Lynchburg Virgina, the home town of Liberty University and the site where Promoter Jeff “Sushi” Doss puts on the Grand Slam Open Nationals the weekend of April 19-20, 2013. Going from a winter storm to a severe thunderstorm in the span of 12 hours kept me on my toes for the flurry of martial arts competition that boasted several different twists from a standard tournament. The most unique division to come from the mind of Jeff Doss is the Iron Man Challenge which combines forms and sparring to crown a champion.
After a few competitors dried themselves off from the brief down pour, the Friday night competition began. This is when the first round of the Iron Man Challenge would qualify the top 4 competitors doing their first form event. Engardo Martinez, Jake Haromeszeki, Josh Bailey and Ryan Shields all moved to to the 2nd round of the challenge which would continue at the Saturday night Finals.
A lot of talented fighters also showed up to support Jeff Doss’ tournament including JPM’s Chelsey Nash and Cass Sigmon and Team Velocity’s Jeromy Roque, Steven Lennon, and Leo Valdivia. All of these top competitors made their presence felt in the team fighting events on Friday night. The Mixed team fighting event, featuring 1 woman and 2 male fighters, was a real battle with Team Unity taking on a mixed JPM team. The first fight pitted two of the top female fighters around with Nash taking on Gina Thornton. Nash pulled her team out to a 2 point lead, Josh Page and Team Unity’s Danny Antoine fought to a tie therefore maintaining the 2 point lead. Anchor man Cass Sigman had his hands full with Wayne Easterling but Sigmon added an additional point to give the JPM team a 15-12 win.
Men’s team fighting had an impressive 8 team turn out. A couple of first round battles brought a pile of intensity when Team Velocity and Team Unity went at it. Team Velocity utilized their size and length to pull out a 17-13 win, but couldn’t quite master the NBL rules in the second round to move on. Team Kumite was led by the tenacious Leader brothers of Billy and Dominic, and beat out El Java Abdul-Qadir and team R2L. Team ATL got the job done in the other bracket to move on to the finals along with Team Kumite.
The SportMartialArts.com crew was more than happy to have momma Crawford help out with the night time filming, but she was even more excited when her son, Carson Crawford, started the night show off with a win in the Junior Hard Musical Forms championship. And what would a night time show be without a high flying Adult Contemporary Forms division set to the dubstep classic Cinema. Thanks to Ewell Carter we were not disappointed as he got the crowd fired up with his win.
It’s always impressive to watch the endurance and intensity the continuous youth fighters bring to the show. Jaren Schrum out battled Trent Spence for a win. By a final score of 114-113 Meghan Hamilton barely, and I mean barely, out kicked and punched Brigid Chase. Close fights would turn out to be a theme for the entire show.
Another new division Jeff Doss brought to the tournament was the Hyper Trick Battle where previously qualified competitors went back and forth in kicking and tricking battles. Josh Bailey out kicked Lance Dawson for the first win and Carson Crawford was at it again in the Unrestricted Pro division as his tricks outscored those of Hunter Orlowski. Then a team battle broke out where Team UnresTRICKted won with an array of crowd pleasing acrobatics and tricks.
The team fights championship featured Team ATL and Team Kumite. Billy Leader came out strong once again and his 5-3 win over Sergio Brandon gave Kumite a lead. ATL’s Jermond Wiggins came back strong for his squad beating Dominic Leader 5-2 to gain a 1 point lead into the final round. Kevin Walker couldn’t quite get it going against a strong Cass Sigmon as Cass won 5-1 to give Team Kumite a 12-9 win for the title.
The intermission featured a touching video montage of lost friend Eddie “Moose” Moore who was a familiar face behind the scenes for Jeff Doss and the entire karate family. The Moose award was created in his memory to honor friends helping friends.
After the emotional break it was back to the weapons finals where Jacob Cleary earned the huge Gumball machine trophy with the Junior Musical Weapons championship. Some of the NBL rules can result in some interesting forms finals as was the case with Josh Bailey who performed his form 3 times due to a restart and a tie breaker to take the Adult Contemporary Weapons championship. He wouldn’t get much of a rest after that as he had to get ready for the second round of the Iron Man Challenge.
Because Ryan Shields took first place in round one of the challenge he was then able to choose which of the three other competitors he wanted to fight in the sparring portion of the challenge. He chose to pit up against Josh Bailey. The two battled back and forth with the fight ending in a 6 to 6 tie It was Josh Bailey who prevailed with the final point to move on to the final round. That left Engardo Martinez and Jake Haromszeki to fight for the last spot. The much smaller Martinez took an early lead and used the entire ring to try to maintain that lead. Jake finally chased him down to tie the score and send it to overtime but Martinez pulled out the last point to move onto the finals.
Jermond Wiggins and Ulises Ramos had to battle to get into the men’s Point finals. Ramos was unable to get past the length of Wiggins as Wiggins won 9-2. Team Velocity’s Jeromy Roque battled all day to make it to this point and faced Anthony Merricks. It was more struggle for Roque as he barely out-pointed Merricks 7-6. El Java Abdul-Qadir was awarded the Men’s Senior Grand Championship as he blitzed his way through the 35+ crowed.
The final round of the Iron Man Challenge required that the two remaining competitors perform a different style form than what they did in the first round. Engardo Martinez performed a strong traditional style form and edged out Josh Bailey by a score of 3-2 to take down the title and a killer custom Grand Slam Belt Buckle along with paid entry fees in the Super Grands and upcoming Kumite Classic.
Devin Javois scored 9.99’s across the board to win the Junior Japanese championship beating out Aaron Bailey and Christian Flournay. The final adults forms division featured a lot of familiar faces with David Coppock, Ashley Artese, Dan Marshall and Ryan Shields all going strong for the Adult Hard Traditional forms championship. Dan Marshall won over the judges with some very impressive kicks that were hard, locked and darn high. Emma Falanga then took the Junior Koreans Forms championship to end the forms championships competition for the night.
The woman’s sparring finals would feature a battle we saw on Friday night featuring Gina Thornton and Chelsey Nash. Thornton was ready this time and jumped out to a 5-1 lead. But no lead is safe with stop time and world champion Nash in the ring. Nash proved her talent once again and came firing back to send the fight to overtime with a score of 7-7. Her tenacity won out again as Nash took the point and the title.
Team ATL’s Jermond Wiggins and Team Velocity’s Jeromy Roque both brought their tall and aggressive fighting into the ring to fight for the Men’s Point Grand championship. It was a tough fight to judge as the feet and fists were flying. Roque had a lead with only seconds left but Wiggins chased him down in the last second to send the fight to overtime where after several close clashes Wiggins finally came out with the point and the title.