“The WKC is not just a league, it is a movement,” stated Team USA Director and coach Richard Plowden as he opened day two of the WKC USA Nationals event. And with competitor-friendly rules, a structure that is affordable for most and strong leadership, Mr. Plowden’s statement rings true. The structure of this international league is to bring countries together to compete annually in a World Championship event that is held in a new location/country each year.
In order to compete in the WKC World Championships, you have to qualify to be on your country’s team. Each country creates its own qualification procedure. Team USA held its 2021 team trials/selection event the weekend of August 27-28, 2021 in Dearborn, Michigan. The event drew many new hopefuls, a number of returning competitors and some of sport karate’s most celebrated coaches and competitors. Check out the highlights from the event and get ready to cheer on your country at the upcoming world championships.
The format of the event was more than a tournament. The goal of the WKC is to assure that competitors are given a fair and full opportunity in competition. All point sparring divisions are double eliminations at the nationals and in the world championships. The event offered two rounds for forms and weapons. In round one held on Friday, August 27th, competitors were randomly shuffled for order. Round two was held the next day with competitors performing in the opposite order of the Friday line-up and in front of a new set of judges. The scores from both days were added together to determine the final placement.
In a typical year, competitors must compete in a WKC USA regional event and place in the top four in a division in order to qualify for the national team trials. In 2021, due to the pandemic, the national trials were opened to any competitors without need to pre-qualify with the top 6 finalists in each division earning a spot on the 2021 WKC Team USA.
Team USA boasts arguably the two best point fighters in the WKC and, perhaps, the world with siblings Avery and Morgan Plowden. With their father, Richard Plowden, the coach and President of WKC USA, they are carrying on a legacy in the sport. As expected, the Plowden duo finished with wins in their divisions and both overall sparring grand champion titles. It was a great day for Morgan Plowden as three sponsors stepped up to offer prize money and gifts for the female fighters at the event allowing her to go home with $1000 cash and the fame.
This year, the event utilized the MAT Action scorekeeping system which turned out to be a great choice. Divisions started on time and the simple system allowed the rings to run continuously. Families were overheard departing the event on Friday at 6:00 p.m. discussing how smoothly the event ran and that they were able to leave early enough for dinner and a good night’s sleep prior to Saturday competition. Friday competition started at 4:00 p.m. and was completed by 7:30 p.m. Saturday competition began promptly at 9:00 a.m. and was done by 2:00 p.m.
By far the largest contingent of competitors was from Team Revolution, with 24 competitors at the event. Their trademark neon green logos were everyone on the floor. With the WKC Championships taking place in Orlando, Florida the week of October 23-29, 2021, there were plenty of competitors from Florida in the arena along with competitors from 21 other states around the country.
Friday night ended with an inspirational light contact (continuous) match between Manny Aguilar of Texas and Gage Gillispie of Kentucky in the 11-12 category. The two put their hearts into their fight and both were exhausted by the end. Aguilar was declared the winner. The two faced off one more time in point sparring with Aguilar again taking the win.
The 10 & under boys divisions will be well-represented at the Orlando championships with young Jett Kowalczik of Colorado bringing home two gold medals in the musical/creative/extreme divisions. His dad Kevin Kowalczik cleaned up with five golds and a sweep in the 35 & over men’s forms and weapons divisions. Dad Kowalczik was also the champion in men’s Korean forms, toppling the amazing kicks of Marco Villaneuva of Texas.
Denise Schepper of Massachusetts made a great transition from the SMA Virtual Tour to the WKC with a whopping 4 gold medals in women’s musical/creative/extreme weapons.
At age 49, Ray Kellison has defeated many in the younger divisions. At the WKC Nationals, he decided to just trounce everyone in the 42 and over divisions with wins in traditional forms and weapons but also crushed everyone in the 18 and over kemp division as well.
The Pennsylvania crowd was ecstatic with Gabby Viola taking home wins in 10 & under girls traditional weapons, hard style forms and point sparring.
SMA Virtual Tour Amigos kids Addely Godoy and Felix Pambuk showed they can win even off-screen with Godoy of California taking home gold medals in 10 & under girls creative weapons, open/musical weapons and freestyle forms. Pambuk from Missouri was the champion in 11-12 boys freestyle forms, creative weapons and -45kg point sparring.
Xander Eddy of Pennsylvania battled through a tough field of 11-12 year old boys to win the classical forms and hard style forms divisions along with his continuous and point sparring divisions. Florida sent the heat with Caysen Junell getting some nice results in 11-12 Korean forms and traditional weapons.
The 13-14 boys, 15-17 boys and 15-17 girls had some of the toughest competitions of the day. Austin Hladek of Pennsylvania edged out a large division to win 13-14 hard style forms and also his point sparring division while Dayton Gale of Colorado was the boys freestyle and extreme forms winner in the 13-14 categories. Brayden Seitz brought more glory home to Missouri with wins in 13-14 boys classical forms, Kempo forms, Chinese/Soft Style forms and Traditional Weapons divisions. Colorado had a another great showing as Zachary Walker brought him the 15-17 boys Creative Weapons, Open/Musical Weapons, Traditional Weapons, Freestyle Forms and Extreme Forms titles from the event. SMA Virtual Tour champion Katelyn McMillan of Massachusets did not disappoint as she won the 15-17 girls Kempo Forms, Classical Forms, Hard Style Forms, Traditional Weapons and Open/Musical Weapons titles.
New York sent its finest with Anthony Merricks taking gold in men’s 18 and over Hard Style forms, edging out Cameron Klos from Pennsylvania. However, Klos, another SMA Virtual Tour champion, took home the men’s Classical Forms title for the event. Amber Rutherford of New York was the dominant women’s champion in traditional divisions.
Double eliminations meant a lot of fights in the point sparring divisions. Sienna Hartshorn of Michigan battled through a tough crowd of 10 & under girls to win the +40kg division. The hometown crowd roared loudly as she went down to the wire in her final fight. Georgia’s Hadriann Gibbons showed great skill in his victory over teammate Joshua Benton in the 10 & under boys -35kg division.
Elijah Dyer brought the good skills from New Jersey as he toppled Jahkai Pattillo of Georgia in a major contest for the 13-14 boys -60kg point sparring title. Lucy Lokay of Pennsylvania will be representing the USA in Orlando in October as she took the 15-17 girls -65kg point title. And Grayson New was the 15-17 boys +80kg champion, bringing back another win for Florida.
As mentioned, it was Avery and Morgan Plowden winning the overall adult fighting grands. However, at the WKC World Championships, the divisions are what really matter as each country wants to bring home as many medals as possible. Joining the Plowdens to represent the adults with gold medal wins are Dwight Bargainer from Michigan, the -60kg men’s champion, John Curatolo of Florida, the -65kg champion, Luke Lokay, representing for Pennsylvania in the -70kg category, -75kg winner James Pore of New York, Michigan’s Peter Davenport in the -80kg category and Cameron Klos for -85kg. Angel Priam of Michigan, Jamie McClendon of Kentucky and Audry Mihalik of Michigan were the winners of the 18 & Over women’s categories.
The executive divisions in fighting were led by former World Champion Reggie Perry of New Hampshire representing in the 48 & over divisions. Bringing home gold in the other executive divisions were Juan Sanchez and Jaime Colon of New York, Peter Davenport, Jeffrey Ozimkowski and Bernard Frost all from Michigan, Juan Gonzalez Meza of Florida, Theresa Thoulouis of New Jersey, Rasha Alhnaity of Illinois, and Pam Jox from Pennsylvania.
Congratulations to all of the champions at the event. Team USA will be well-represented at the WKC World Championships in 2021.
Watch out world – Team USA is coming!
View all results from this event on MAT Action here: