by Sean Madden
Photos by Porshya Ragoshcke
TBA Tournament in Iowa
On June 22nd, Easton Muay Thai sent three athletes to compete in the Thai Boxing Association National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. The TBA tournament is widely regarded as the most prestigious amateur Muay Thai tournament in the nation. Six hundred athletes from the United States and Canada fight for bragging rights as the best in their respective weight classes!
The Easton Team was comprised of Steve Eisman (142lbs, Class B), Liz Gerrity (137lbs, Class B), and Wes Argrow (179lbs, Class A). Head Coach, Tony Cummings, and team captain, Sean Madden, joined the team for the trip to Iowa. The team left Boulder at 4:00 AM on Thursday, June 22nd for the 10-hour drive to the tournament. We arrived around 3:00 PM to check in to the host hotel and check our fighters in with the tournament officials. The three athletes made their weight with ease. Each of the fighters had 3-4 additional competitors in their brackets. This meant they would have to fight at least twice to win their divisions.
The tournament began on Friday with the first round of elimination bouts. Our fighters were not scheduled to compete on Friday, so we took the day to train. We also watched some of the fights in order to get a better sense of how judges were scoring the bouts. The energy in the building was high on Friday. There were four rings running fights all at once! We received our bout numbers for Saturday. Liz would fight first, followed by Wes, and Steve towards the end of the day. We ate a big team dinner and got to bed early, preparing for a busy day of fights the next day!
Saturday Semi-Final Bouts
LIZ GERRITY vs JORDAN NICKELATTI (137lbs Class B Females)
Liz’s semi-final fight was against a girl with MMA experience. A little unusual for a traditional Muay Thai tournament, but that also made her a dangerous opponent. Liz came out early in the first round and established a good pace against her opponent, using strong boxing and low kicks. When the two fighters engaged in the clinch, it was clear that Liz was the more experienced Muay Thai fighter. She threw a series of solid knees and elbows on the inside. Liz dominated her first fight and cruised to a unanimous decision win against a tough opponent. On to the finals for the Lizard King!
WES ARGROW vs STEPHEN BOBINCHUCK (179lbs Class A Males)
Wes’ first fight was against a very experienced fighter from Florida Kickboxing Academy. With a record of 16-10 against Wes’ record of 7-5, it was clear that his opponent had the experience edge. However, that did not deter Wes from fighting a smart fight against his shorter opponent. Wes used his reach to capitalize on his boxing and to avoid the kicks of his opponent. Being a taller fighter helped Wes to win the clinch exchanges as well. After three tough rounds, Wes’ hand was raised, and he too moved on to the finals on Sunday!
STEVE EISMAN vs SPIROS KARNOUSKOS (142lbs Class B Males)
Steve’s bracket had five fighters, and he drew a tough Canadian for his first fight. Steve came out in the first round throwing strong low kicks at his opponent, while Spiros used a lot of boxing. As the fight wore on, Spiros gained the momentum and ended up taking a decisive win against Steve. Steve fought with skill and heart, but sometimes it is not enough. It was a great fight nonetheless, and will be a learning point for Steve to grow from! Spiros would go on to win their division the next day against another tough fighter.
Sunday Championship Bouts
WES ARGROW vs DREW GIGAX
Wes was in a three-man bracket, so his opponent in the Championship bout received a bye to the finals on Sunday. Drew was 17-1 going into this tournament, and highly-touted as the favorite. However, right off the bat, Wes came out firing and stunned his opponent with a straight right. They tied up in the clinch and Wes hit Drew with a sharp elbow, causing two of Drew’s teeth to come flying out and land in our corner! His opponent was very tough and fought through early adversity against Wes, but it simply wasn’t enough. Wes put on a dominating performance against his much more experienced opponent. At the end of the fight, he won another decision to capture the Championship!
For the Class A competitors, like Wes, winning their brackets gives them the opportunity to compete for the USA Team at the IFMA World Tournament next July in Cancun, Mexico. The IFMA Tournament is the toughest and most prestigious tournament in the world for Muay Thai, so for Wes to have the opportunity to compete there is enormous!
LIZ GERRITY vs QUINN SCHEINER
Liz’s title fight was up next, and she faced a tough opponent from Club MMA. Liz came out right from the first bell and put her opponent on the back foot. With a combination of beautiful boxing, powerful body kicks, and strong clinch work, Liz put on the best performance of her career yet. She dismantled her opponent over three rounds to win a lopsided decision. Her opponent was tough for hanging in there for the duration of the fight, as she was taking some serious damage to the body and legs from Lizard.
Overall, the team went 4-1 on the weekend, taking home a Class B Championship belt and a Class A Championship belt! A truly phenomenal performance from our athletes at the toughest tournament in the nation. I often think back about the humble beginnings of our Muay Thai program eight years ago, and how far it has come in such a short amount of time. We are sending competitors to the national and international stages of competition and winning these fights! The credit for this success goes to our dedicated coaching staff at all Easton locations, the hard work and commitment by our student body, and the assistance from the management to help make these dreams a reality. What’s next for Easton Fight Team? Ashley Accord, four-time National Champion, heads to Poland this month to fight for Team USA at the 2017 World Games!