The Fairmont Martial Arts School on its way to the World Tournament | high school sports

FAIRMONT — When four of Erik Stevens’ students at the Fairmont School of Martial Arts earned spots in the WKC National Karate Tournament, it seemed like the highest peak in what had been a wild ride since the dojo resumed. the competition on June 23 in Martinsburg.

“Absolutely, they were nervous,” said FSMA owner and instructor Stevens. “It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country, and there’s a lot of nerves there because you’re competing against the best of the best in the United States. There were people from California, Wisconsin, New York, from across the country, representing their state and dojo at this tournament.

The ride has gotten even crazier now, though. Three of Fairmont’s martial artists finished in the top four in their divisions and qualified to be part of Team USA, which will compete on the world stage at the WKC World Tournament.

The WKC World Tournament selects a different host country each year, this year it will take place in October in Dublin, Ireland. Loralai Grant, Isabella Phillips and Adam Williamson of the Fairmont School of Martial Arts are set to represent their country at the world tournament, against top martial artists from 26 other countries.

Grant, Phillips and Williamson are the only representatives of the American team from Mountain State.

“[They’re] ecstatic, but also nervous,” Stevens said. “Because there’s a lot of pressure to be on Team USA, representing an entire nation now. And they’re the only ones from West Virginia on the team, so not only are they going to represent our country, but they’re are also the only representation of our state, and it’s a lot of expectations, but it’s a huge honor to do this.

Stevens’ students are aiming high, training since December for the chance to do exactly what they did in the national tournament, and for the chance to do the same in the world tournament.

“I can’t ask more of my students than they put in because they want to do their best and they want to compete with the best,” Stevens said. “And they wanted to represent their country in the national championships, it’s a huge honor.

“Since December, these kids have worked hard to get this far, and they finally got it.”

At the WKC National Tournament in Detroit, Grant finished in first place in the weapons competition, second in point combat, and second in continuous combat in his 14-year-old division.

After recently moving to Georgia with his parents, Grant decided to fly to Detroit to represent his school and compete in the national championships. Grant had already qualified for the World Tournament two years ago, but as Stevens said, “COVID came along, and it kind of ruined everything.”

Now she has a chance to return to international competition.

Adam Williamson placed third in weapons competition and fourth in kata. He faced stiff competition in his division, as the 18-year-old took on a two-time world champion in Detroit.

“Adam is an exceptional young boy and an incredible athlete,” Stevens said. “He works at the dojo, he never misses class. He works full time, so between working and coming to class and working hard this summer to prepare, it’s just phenomenal.

“For him, a third place in the national championships, that says a lot.”

Isabella Phillips placed second in kata and is the youngest of the three qualifiers at 13 years old.

“Bella is just phenomenal,” Stevens said. “She teaches my young class, my kids five to nine, she’s an assistant instructor, and then after that she stays for her class, trains with us. She’s been with us since she was six, her and her twin sister, and they have an amazing work ethic.

“She’s always striving for perfection – sometimes I have to put her down, because sometimes she feels like she’s not doing enough, and I’m like ‘you’re doing absolutely everything you have to’. She wants to be the better, and at 13, that means a lot.

With West Virginia’s only representatives on Team USA coming from Fairmont, Stevens hopes the accomplishment will shine a little more light on the local martial arts scene — and hopes his students can represent the talent the entire state has. to offer.

“Martial arts are on the back burner in this state,” Stevens said. “With football and baseball and all these other sports, people may not realize that there are amazing martial artists in this state, and we’re just doing our part to show that West Virginia has very talented martial artists, who compete at the highest level. »

Stevens said he believed there were over 30 martial artists on Team USA.

Despite all the hard work of his students, Stevens said the support from the parents of his young martial artists has been a huge help.

“Their parents are more than happy to go [to Ireland]”, Stevens said. “We have so much support from our parents. This is a huge opportunity for all of them, and their parents are beyond excited to go.

Stevens also hopes to gain support from the community at large. He started a GoFundMe page to try and raise money for the cost of international travel. He hopes to raise $5,000 for his team’s trip across the pond.

Although the fundraising page was only created on Thursday evening, it has already received $200 in donations.

“It’s so crazy, I know we’re a small state and a small community, but people have done so much for us already,” Stevens said. “I’m so lucky to be in a town like Fairmont, where people are willing to help. Fairmont is truly city friendly – they are amazing.

The FSMA GoFundMe can be accessed through its Facebook page, Fairmont School of Martial Arts, or by searching “Help send the FSMA team to Worlds” on gofundme.com.

Kristen T. Prall