The 2022 Pan American Internationals concluded Saturday night, leaving us with only one tournament remaining in the NASKA season as competitors shift their sights to the Toronto International Tournament of Champions coming up December 2-3. The finals down in Miami were action-packed, with several upsets and inspiring stories of hometown heroes. Keep reading to find out who brought the titles home.
Parker Moody kickstarted the night show by setting a new ISKA world record for breaking wooden boards with three consecutive elbow strikes. The demonstration was followed by an award presentation to the senior forms and weapons grand championship winners Kevin Kowalczik (men's forms), Samuel Diaz III (men's weapons), and Melanie Struass who won both the women's forms and weapons titles. The last of the opening festivities was a touching tribute to widely-respected sport karate veteran Edgar Cordova of Team Revolution. He announced his retirement from competition at the event, the same event where he competed for the first time back in 1991. He performed his signature flying kama routine and was joined by his teammates for an on stage celebration. Then it was time for some high-level competition.
The first point fighting bout of the evening was a rematch from the Diamond Nationals of Team Legend vs Team Revolution for the women's team fighting championship. The specific matchups were switched this time, as Peyton Fender of Revolution took on Team Legend's Beatrice Garcia first. It was a fantastic round in which Garcia landed some massive head kicks and Fender remained calm and countered effectively, resulting in a high-scoring 7-7 draw. Jimena Janeiro and Mouse Millner went back-and-forth for the entirety of the second round and the score was knotted at 12 when time expired. In sudden death overtime, Janeiro was searching for a kick but capitalized on the opportunity to follow up with a blitz and scored to give Revolution the win once again.
Team Legend returned to the mat to challenge Team Diamond G3 for the men's team fighting championship. Coach Tony Homsani sent out the recently-acquired Oscar Garcia first for Team Legend, and Diamond G3 Coach Damian Rodriguez responded by sending out Edgar Germany. Garcia was active from the opening clash and jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, giving up a point at the buzzer on a tornado kick attempt while Germany charged forward to finish the round down 7-3. Diamond G3 brought out Brayan Rodriguez next to attempt to close the gap as he faced Coca Guzman. Rodriguez had some nice moments, but Guzman landed the highlight of the round with a head kick while working the perimeter before tacking on some extra points with his hands before the round ended with Team Legend up 14-7. It was up to Kristhian Rivas to maintain the lead against Luis Nunez. Rivas did exactly that, using his length and timing to keep Nunez at bay and lead his squad to an 18-9 victory.
One of the best things about point fighting at The Pan Ams is that they featured the junior fighting grand championships on stage. The first was in the 14-15 girls' division, where Madison Magnotta of Team Straight Up went to battle against Sofia Rodriguez-Florez of Team Infinity. In a low-scoring, defensive bout, it was the reverse punch of Rodriguez-Florez that led her to victory.
The 16 and 17-year-old ladies were up next, featuring Team Dojo Elite's Callie Garrett and Team Legend's Alexi Jimenez. Jimenez jumped to a 3-0 lead thanks to a defensive side kick to the chin and a nice reverse punch. As Garrett attempted to come back, Jimenez timed another side kick to the face beautifully, which unfortunately sent Garrett to the mat. She was seen by the medic after being dazed, and was unable to continue making Jimenez the winner. Garrett was able to walk off stage with assistance.
Other junior point fighting action included a team fight between the boys of Team Legend and Team Diamond G3, a rematch from their adult counterparts. It would be Team Legend taking the win yet again. In the individual divisions, the grand champions listed on MyUventex.com were Hudson Stehle of Leclerc's Martial Arts in the 12-13 division and Connor Bedard of Team Legend in the 14-15 division.
In the open weight finals, Victoria Austin of Team Heartland South gave the red-hot Jimena Janeiro a fantastic match that went to overtime. However, Janeiro showed her clutch gene again and was able to pull out a win that continues her streak. The men's division saw a lightweight-heavyweight matchup between Team Dojo Elite's Kameren Dawson and Team Diamond G3's John Curatolo. Curatolo represented himself well, keeping the fight close with one of the world's best. Dawson hunted down his opportunities to score and won comfortably 3-1. After the match, Dawson presented the "Awesome" award in memory of his father Gerald to Yoskar Gamez.
As for the regular adult fighting grand championships, can you guess who was gunning for another win in the women's division? That's right, Jimena Janeiro took the stage once again, this time facing off with teammate and friendly foe Peyton Fender. Janeiro won the match and completed an undefeated weekend with her aforementioned open weight and team fighting titles. John Curatolo and Luis Nunez each returned to the stage for another showdown between teammates for the lightweight grand championship. A low-scoring first round featured a side kick from Curatolo and a reverse punch from Nunez for a score of 2-1 Curatolo. The sense of urgency for both fighters was evident in a back-and-forth second round that ended in overtime. Curatolo faded away with a ridge hand as Nunez surged forward and got the call to take the win. An exciting fight in the heavyweight final saw Coca Guzman snake in a round kick to the head of Brayan Rodriguez to take the lead in the second round, but Rodriguez answered right back with his hands to tie the score at eight apiece. They traded backfists keep the score tied at nine as time expired, then Guzman exploded with a blitz in sudden death to become the champ.
Those grand championship fights set the stage for a Virtual Fight Tour-sponsored Last Man Standing bout between the heavyweight and lightweight winners. Likely according to plan for the defensive-minded Curatolo, another low-scoring bout was knotted at four in the penultimate round. Guzman broke the tie with a blitz, but Curatolo scored again to tie the match going into the final round. Despite coming up limping after scoring on a blitz, once Guzman took the lead he was able to hold onto it for the remainder of the fight and put an exclamation point on the win with a gorgeous round kick to the head.
Forms and Weapons
We'll cover the forms and weapons grand champions in age-ascending order, starting with the 13 & under divisions. In girls' forms, Florida native Jada Cloud of Team Revolution used her extreme performance to attempt an upset of Team Paul Mitchell's Isabella Nicoli, the winner of the traditional grand championship. In the end, Nicoli's papuren came out on top. Adomas Rackauskas wanted to continue the traditional trend in the boys' division, but the extreme form of Team Freestyle's Judah Sagawa earned the respect of the judges as he took the title back to San Diego. Rackauskas would return to the stage later with nunchaku in hand, but this time he only did a demonstration because he won both the traditional and CMX weapons grand championships to automatically be granted the overall title. Isabella Nicoli also returned to the stage for the same reason, having won both of the qualifying divisional grand championships on the girls' side.
Speaking of double grand championship winners, Sofia Rodriguez Florez did the same thing in the 14-17 forms category by winning the traditional and CMX runoffs. She also earned a spot on stage for her traditional bo form, which she used to challenge Team Paul Mitchell's Averi Presley who has been dominant in the weapons overall all year. When the dust settled it was Presley again bringing a grand championship back to Nashville. As for the boys, Phillip Brumme of Team Competitive Edge was very impressive with a high-flying extreme form that defeated the traditional kata of Team Revolution's Noah Sansait, Brumme's second consecutive forms overall grand championship dating back to the Diamond Nationals. Brumme returned to the stage for the weapons final, but suffered a bobble on one of his kama releases that opened the door for Shane Billow and his powerful, high-speed traditional bo form to take home the grand championship.
Now for the adults, where Haley Glass was as dominant as ever in the women's forms and weapons divisions. In her 11th appearance at the Pan American Internationals, but her first time as an adult, she won both overall grand championships. The men's divisions were more closely contested, beginning with the weapons finals. The traditional division was a Team Paul Mitchell battle between the sword of Dawson Holt and the eku of Samuel Diaz III, and "Mr. Clean" was able to wield his katana to victory. In the CMX division, Ben Jones of Team Paul Mitchell lit up the stage in his first tournament as an adult. His teammate Dawson Holt suffered a drop this time around, and at the end of the day Hialeah's own Rashad Eugene won the overall grand championship with the trademark intensity and creativity of his double bo form. The men's forms action saw traditionalists in a battle of differing styles. Larry Gonzalez often doesn't get enough credit for his skilled kenpo form, and Jeff "The People's Champ" Doss deserves respect for making the finals once again and running an awesome form to represent the Korean division well. Ultimately, the champion would be Team Revolution's Cameron Klos as his powerful Ohan Dai was deserving of his first overall grand championship in the adult division. Finally, the men's CMX forms final consisted of Connor Chasteen, Dawson Holt, and Brandon Taylor. Taylor, known primarily as a point fighter, had a tall task taking on seasoned champions Chasteen and Holt. However, the Florida Sport Martial Arts Academy product brought the house down with a massive double full to start his form and show everyone he meant business. His explosive form complete with high-level tricking and a nice comedic element in his hand combination at the end would take home the title much to the delight of the Florida crowd.
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