We are back! Another great weekend at the WKA Nationals in Richmond VA. I believe it was another great learning experience all around. We basically did almost a years worth of fights in two days. I believe we are all on the right track. Our team was comprised of Novice Division Competitors only. We weren’t up for any belts just medals. Possibly next year.
There are a few components that go into a weekend like this. I do my absolute best to get those who want to compete physically and mentally prepared and ready. There is a difference between me telling my fighters what to expect and the experience they get from being in a situation. Last year the weigh in process was a nightmare. We were relatively early in line to get weighed in – compared to everyone else – but we still waited in line for about five hours. This year we had designated times to weigh in. Ha, our fault was each competitor chose to weigh in at a drastically different time. Niko was first at 10:30 am. We got to our Hotel around 3am and he immediately started to do his cut. He didn’t sleep. Niko made his weight at 147lbs. Next up, I believe, was Brian at 4pm. Brian woke up early and started with his cut and made it to 165lbs. It was tough but he did it. Last was John at 6:30pm. He had the toughest time but he made it to the 158 weight division. The weigh in process was smooth and easy.
Another change was the rules meeting. It was for coaches only. Chris Vaquerano and myself went and they explained to us the rules, regulations and what is expected out of us. This was good because last year the did a rules meeting before the competition which set the competition back another hour. This way the coaches all had the information and we passed our info onto our teams.
Day 1. We all showed up on time and settled into our preferred warm up areas of the facility. We snagged a back spot along side our friend Eric Haycraft and his fighters from Real Fighters Gym in Louisville KY & Ibere Reis and his team from Worcester MA. Team Link. John & Niko were up first so I got them taped up and warmed up. First to compete was John who had a spectacular win. His confidence has been in an upswing since his smoker a few weeks back and he really stepped up to the plate and delivered. Next was Niko who completely dominated every round of his fight for a win. Last was Brian who fought towards the end of the day. Brian has yet to face an opponent similar to his frame. Brian faced someone ripped to shreds and I think that got into his head. Unfortunately Brian didn’t make it out of the first round. I felt he was the better fighter technically but the situation seemed to overwhelm him. The day ended with Niko fighting again. Again Niko dominated each round. I believe his fight is floating around the internet and you’ll see for yourself. The judges gave the fight to the other team. I took a look at the score cards and they had Niko loosing round 1 & 2 but winning round 3. This was really weird because round 3 was his worst round. He dumped the guy each round – he even reversed an attempted dump and dumped the guy. He completely bewildered him with his approach and hurt him pretty good. I went right into protest mode saying that it was my belief that the judges awarded points to the wrong guy. In a tournament as big as this one, with 10,000 things going on all at once. My protests when nowhere. I went back to the hotel and sent e-mails and tracked down all the officials that next morning but of course they remembered nothing. It was unfortunate, but Niko tried and I tried.
Day 2. We got the venue and apparently the match making team that matched everyone up for day one supposedly ‘quit’ on day 2. So there were no matches. Usually they assign matches and assign a number to the match. You can gauge when your fighter will compete by the number that they announce to compete. Well, since there were no matches they literally were calling names out to come to the ring and just go – no warm up time nothing. & to make things worse they didn’t even finish all the fights from day 1 so they finished them on day 2. I didn’t even wrap Niko’s hands – he fought in wrist wraps. He warmed up like 3 times because they kept announcing things would be picking up and we should be ready.
Crazy, I saw an MMA match where they were putting a belt on the winner of a fight and the ref came over, took the belt off the competitor because the officials made that guy fight someone he wasn’t supposed to. Can you imagine winning a fight, getting a belt put around your waist and just before it’s buckled another official has you take it off? Wow – talk about a failure on part of the WKA’s.
Niko & John proceeded to fight their second fights of the tournament in the Thaiboxing Division. Each lost to much closer decisions. The people they fought really knew they were in a fight. I’m not going to break down their matches but they were very good. They both also lost their first bouts in the Full Rules Muay Thai divisions. Just baffles me – My guys threw scoring elbows whereas their opponents didn’t. My guys scored so much more than the their opponents. But all these fights were very close. Johns last fight everyone was on the edges of their seats. John really brought the fire! He literally pushed the guy around the ring for 3 rounds. I was so proud, so proud! Because it has only been in the last several months John had learned to pull the trigger to really try controlling the action in sparring, let alone a fight.
Brian didn’t get a chance to show his colors. There seems to be a lot more factors for him. I believe his desire and technical ability and his toughness are there but he needs to be in a mental place where if someone ripped and shredded comes in it won’t phase him. I also think he’ll need to start sparring bigger guys. He’s one of the biggest guys in our gym. We have guys more technically advanced and who have more experience but he needs to be sparring more guys his skill level and size. All that and he needs to get in ridiculous shape too.
Niko also has a lot to process – more so than everyone else. Niko will train for long periods of time. He’ll spar with people forever. This is all extremely different if not counter productive to what he needs to do. Implementing his knowledge in a 2 min timeframe is very tough to someone who will spar with someone for an hour. Very different. This is a very interesting time to watch Niko go through this process. He’s really on the verge of figuring it all out too. It’s going to be really, really kool when he figures it out! But it won’t be for a while because I believe he broke his foot in his last match. I’ve broken both my feet so I have a pretty good idea about it. The way he’s limping I’m 100% sure it’s broken. I will say that people had come up to Niko saying how he really redefined his division. He tore through it. The fact Niko gassed I think was the main factor. In a tournament who are you going to send through, the guy who’s good but is gasping for breath after every attack or the guy who hasn’t broken a sweat. My guess is – by observing how the judges are scoring – it’s the fresh looking guy. Frustrating but we’ll move on and chalk it up to experience.
Last is John Forrestal – the humble, mild mannered guy who loves Muay Thai relentlessly. It was only only a few months ago I was having conversations with the other coaches and John himself about how we need to get him to release that inner demon in him. Well, after this weekend, he’s learned! Haha, he’s turning into a humble monster…. John “The Harry Humble Monster” Forrestal! Watching him go at that last fight was worth the entire trip! He graduated himself. Brian and Niko had and have a killer instinct. John didn’t.. But now he does! His last fight was Full Rules Muay Thai against a Canadian. The Canadians are usually very good! I felt if John didn’t turn it on he’d really have a bad fight. But I didn’t have to say anything! He did it all on his own. It all came into focus and he laid the smack down on this cat. John told me afterwords that hitting this guy with a heavy elbow (Niko also said this) hitting the guy with a heavy elbow was like the most satisfying thing he’s ever done!
We are back home now. Everyone is nursing their injuries. I feel very strongly we gained so much from this weekend it was like a years worth of fighting and training. I couldn’t have done any of it without my partner in crime Chris Vaquerano. Man, we made a great team. He inspires the guys just as much as me. He has the right attitudes towards them and training and he understands the philosophy of the gym and what we are trying to achieve. Thank you my friend! We will hopefully be seeing you bathe in your enemy’s blood soon enough!
I do have to apologize for not having the gym open at it’s regular times. Both CJ and John Mathews did their best but they both had serious issues randomly happen to them roughly at the same time when I needed them to be a the gym. Sorry guys, their families do come first and I certainly appreciate all they did do and try to do for us while I was away. I’d also like to thank my wife who took care of our 3 kids while I went on this adventure and I’d also like to thank all the families that were able to help her out while I was gone! So much goes into these things it’s amazing!
Lastly, thank you all for the undying support, financially and spirit wise! We didn’t do the GoFundMe last year but this year it really helped out! Thank you all!
Good bye WKA’s! Until Next year!
Coach Marc Meltzer