Liberty excels in ACAT tourney, qualifies two for nationals
March 2, 2014 | Stafford, Va.
Approximately 60 competitors, including six defending National Collegiate champions, competed in Sunday's first official Atlantic Collegiate Alliance of Tae Kwon Do (ACAT) Tournament, held at the PowerKixUSA Martial Arts studio in Stafford, Va.
That venue, operated by former U.S. Olympic gold medalist Arlene Limas, was selected to host the tournament because it features Olympic-sized rings. Members of the American Athletics Union of Tae Kwon Do volunteered to officiate the tournament and extended an invitation to Liberty to join the AAU.
"That would give us more access to tournaments that are controlled by the U.S. Olympic Committee," Liberty Head Coach Jesse Wilson said. "If we can get into that, gives us more exposure to the Olympic Committee and in turn gives us better standing with Team USA."
No team standings were kept, but the majority of the top-three place-winners in various weight and belt divisions came from Liberty University and Duke University. Other competitors came from American University, Howard University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and the College of William & Mary.
Two Lady Flames athletes finished first in their respective classes — Leah Deaton in the women's lightweight yellow belt division and freshman Dani Gallagher in the women's lightweight black belt division.
Second-place runners-up for Liberty included sophomore Emmanuel Dii in men's middleweight white belt division; sophomore April Lyn Handog in the women's middleweight yellow belt division; sophomore Lydia Douglas in the women's heavyweight yellow belt division; senior Christian Booth in the men's heavyweight green belt division; and freshman Moise Kabeya in the men's heavyweight white belt division.
Flames third-place finishers were freshman Bryar Kader in the men's lightweight green belt division; sophomore Biranganine (John) Ntibonera in the men's middleweight green belt division; senior Darrel Richards in the men's middleweight yellow belt division; and freshman Matthew Gallagher in the men's lightweight black belt division.
Ntibonera, a refugee from the Congo who managed to move his family from that war-torn country to North Carolina, has shown tremendous potential in the sport. "He's got a lot of natural abilities and he's probably the most intense competitor that we have," Wilson said.
He and Dani Gallagher will start training Monday night to compete in the National Collegiate Tae Kwon Do Championships, April 4-6 at the University of California, Berkeley.
"If Dani wins her division at nationals, the U.S. Olympic Committee will pick up training her and send her to China for the Collegiate World Championships," Wilson said. "If John (Ntibonera) wins, he'll be considered a national champion for his division, but only black belts go on to the international competition."