If you haven’t experienced National Harbor, Maryland, you are missing out. It’s a cool little city just outside of Washington, DC with great restaurants and entertainment. It is also the setting for the US Capitol Classics and China Open – an event that you need to experience. The 2016 US Capitol Classics took place August 12-13, 2016 at a time when the weather in National Harbor was perfect. The team of the event was Team Impex who started with their men’s team advancing to the finals and three of their members moving to the individual grands for sparring. More on that later.

The crowd packed in the place at the 2016 US Capitol Classics with a noticeable increase in participation in both the black belt and under belt divisions. Team Straight Up boys continue to work their magic with another win in boys team sparring. With only one loss for the year, they are the team to beat.

Under belts got a chance to shine in their finals on Saturday just before the black belt finals. It was an opportunity to showcase up –and-coming talent with performances that were outstanding. Under belt grand champions were Daniel Medrano (double winner), Zack Brumbach, Christopher Dematos, Sean Canavan (he won twice!), Ana Masters, Gabe Bastien, Lincoln Sheaff, Holly Buchman and Matthew Miller.

It was the Saturday night finals that highlighted the Capitol Classics. As always, it opened with a full color guard performance as the audience stood for the National Anthem. Synchronized team competition followed the opening and was exciting as always. Danny Etkin and Aidan Considine of Team Paul Mitchell made the cut with the win over their Canadian challengers from Team NMAC.

Team Fearless showcased two teams in the team demo competition as they cleaned up during the day. John Kanabay performed a breaking demonstration that included boards, bricks, and a watermelon. Luckily he aimed the melon break to the back of the stage. The Hyper tricking contest involved some amazing feats by top competitors like Danny Etkin, Aidan Considine, and Shaquan Parson.

For the juniors, Mason Stowell cleaned up in the 13 & under forms competition winning both run-offs for extreme and traditional forms. He then went on to win the overall title on stage in the finals. Jake Presley duplicated Stowell’s efforts in 13 & under weapons with both the traditional and extreme victories in run-offs and then the overall title as well. Canada won big this evening as Melissa Baillargeon was the 14-17 forms grand champion with her traditional routine, defeating the number one ranked competitor Derek Meegan. Danny Etkin and his nunchucks were the champions in the 14-17 weapons overall championship, keeping Meegan from a title for the first time all year.

Since the event also included the China Open, soft style competition graced the stage. Tarik Bullock was the overall winner in China Open forms. Mike Wax performed a demo on stage for executives as he was the 30 & over forms grand champion during the day-time eliminations.

Top female competitor Morgan Plowden made an appearance at the event and, as expected, was in the final. She faced Lilibeth Robles for the grand championship title. Robles kept it close in round one, but Plowden then used her kicks to pull ahead in round two to win 7-2.

Sammy Smith is arguably the best adult female forms and weapons competitor this year. She earned the designation with another double grand championship event in both forms and weapons for women. While Smith keeps on winning the women’s divisions, young Ariel Torres is unstoppable in the men’s traditional forms category. He has gone undefeated in 2016 and is looking like he may have a perfect year.

Reid Presley is known mostly for his double bo performances but at US Capitol Classics, he wowed the crowd with his extreme form performance taking the win. He went on to the men’s weapons division and sealed his overall win with perfect scores as he took double titles at the event.

Kevin Walker of Team All Stars and Willie Hicks of Team Impex faced off for the men’s lightweight title. The last time the two met in a grands, it was Hicks as the winner. Round one was action packed with both fighters scoring with kicks and punches and ending the round with a 6-3 lead for Hicks. Walker attempted to adjust his game in round two, but Hicks’ well timed counter moves won out as Hicks found himself up 11-4 at one point. An injury to Hicks stopped the match for a bit. Walker followed this with a mini-comeback, getting within 2 points of Hicks as time ran out and Hicks was declared the champion.

Mathieu Williams of Team KTOC and Jason Grenier of Team Impex were the next to fight as they were vying for the men’s heavyweight title. Grenier started out with an early 5-0 lead before Williams got on the board. Round one ended with Grenier up 7-2. Grenier held his lead throughout round two and ended with a 13-6 win to take the heavyweight title. Grenier’s win capped three individual sparring grand championships for Team Impex from the event.

Team KTOC and Team Impex were the final two teams in men’s teams, and they fought on stage in the finals. Ross Levine opened the faceoff with a 5-3 score over Yohan Alvarado. Avery Plowden extended the Impex lead in round two with Jason Grenier and Mathieu Williams in a rematch in round three. Grenier held the Impex lead giving Impex all the adult titles for the event.

It was a good night for all and a wonderful place to finish a sport karate tournament with the nightlife of National Harbor waiting for participants to enjoy.