In the blazing hot sun of El Paso, Texas, Laco Villanueva proudly hosted the 9th annual Battle of the Champions the weekend of July 16-17, 2011. Beautiful weather and fantastic food provided a great backdrop for the fantastic competition that is always seen at Villanueva’s event.
The finals highlighted to best of the event in a variety of divisions. First on stage was the Junior Choreographed Musical Forms Grand Championships. Team Fresh’s Matthew Hernandez and Sean McNeil, and Pinnacle’s Karina Hipolito were the respective division winners who got the nod to compete for the grand. Ultimately, Hipolito’s crazy kicks and flexibility won her the grand. Next was the Adult Contemporary Forms Grand where Pinnacle’s Josh Durbin was the only competitor after dominating the daytime divisions. After a killer demonstration, Josh was presented with the prize money.
The focus of the night then shifted to Junior Continuous Sparring. Teammates Victoria Gutierrez and Jordyn Deal faced off for the 55- fighting division. Jordyn “The Real” Deal won in a dominating fashion. It was then Alchemy vs. Alchemy again when Chris Morales and Dominic Ruvalcaba fought for the 66- prize. Ruvalcaba was disqualified for blood drawn which led to Morales taking the win. Next was Anthony Corona versus Bobby Seronio III for the 99- first place standing. Seronio continued his dominance of West Pac by winning this exciting fight. The all female junior continuous divisions came to the stage at this point. Lynell Fairin and Ann Eden showed off their stuff in their continuous bout. In the 12-14 featherweight fight, Jacklyn Bottom and Dhaire Portillo fought like mad in a hometown showdown. Portillo would go on to win 155-137, in one of the night’s most exciting fights. Then Karina Perea would defeat Michaela Keller due to a bow out.
Men’s Team Sparring Finals always keeps people focused and was on stage next. Team Davidson faced off against Team Proper in three exciting matches. Erik Perez and Patrick Salientes sped around the ring, ending with an even score of five in round one. Jason Matthews lost to Leon Jefferson 4-5, to bring Proper up to a total of a one point lead going into the final match. Finally, James Davidson came back against Bryan Young to win 17-14 and the title for the night went to Team Davidson.
Next was the Junior Choreographed Musical Weapons Grands. Karina Hipolito faced off against Canadian Trevor Brownell who has been finally getting some well-deserved recognition this year. After a weapon drop and respectable finish, Brownell would concede the grand to the high kicking Hipolito, giving her a second grand of the evening. Same story for the Adult Contemporary Weapons Grand. Josh Durbin would have had to face himself, meaning after another demonstration, and he took home his second grand.
The traditional portion of the evening graced the stage at this point. Adryanne Angat and Mara Hipolito faced off for the Junior Japanese Grand. Angat pulled a close win over Hipolito with her intensity and fierce strkes. Next was the Adult Traditional Grand Championship. Mike Spizzuco (Japanese/Okinawan), Jason Matthews (Kenpo), Ryan Shields (Korean), Daniela Barrientos (Japanese/Okinawan) and Ervic Aquino (Weapons) faced off in stiff competition. After receiving a 10 for his performance, newest Pinnacle team member Spizzuco won the grand. Finally for traditional, Junior Korean was up as Pinnacle teammates Karina Hippolito and Eli Alexander vied for the grand. Ultimately, the uber flexible Hippolito would oust the powerful Alexander for her third, yes third, grand for the evening.
To close the night was Adult Point Sparring. Troy Whaley faced off against lighting quick Julio Castro in the first match for the men’s semi-finals. The elder Whaley would fall to Castro, 5-3. Then Chad Cannon made his return to NBL Competition as he faced reigning world champion Bryan Young. Young would oust Cannon, 8-6 in a close and exciting match. Young and Castro would face each other later in the evening for the overall title.
For the Women’s grand, Joslynn Espinosa from Team Proper took on Regina Thompson from Team All Stars. Thompson is making a return after having a baby and she was ready to show that being a mother doesn’t detract from your sparring ability. A valiant effort by Espinosa would not be enough to overcome Thompson, as she brought home the grand for Team All Stars.
Finally, Bryan Young and Julio Castro faced off for the grand prize for the men. The tight
contest had both contestants giving it their all as Young nearly crashed off the stage twice. Castro would not be topped this night however, as he would win the grand by a narrow 7-6 victory.
Being that the Battle of the Champions is the annual conclusion of the West-Pac national conference, this event could not have run smoother for Villanueva. West-Pac is always one of the top NBL National conferences and this event is one of the reasons why. Congrats to Laco and all of his recently promoted black belts at Alchemy Karate Academy.