Summerville’s Nik Poland will represent Team USA at martial arts competitions this year.
Poland placed second in his age and weight class during the USA Tae Kwon Do National Team Trails held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Jan. 9-14 to earn a spot on the U.S. Junior National Team.
Only the top two athletes from each class make the national team.
“This is the equivalent of a football player being named a high school All-American,” Ray Smith, Poland’s Grand Master, said. “Now that Nik has proven himself he will be given more opportunity and exposure. They only hold team trials once a year so for the rest of the year every competition he attends, major or minor, he gets to wear USA.
“Nik will train with Olympic team coaches Jean Lopez, Juan Moreno, Patrice Remark and Arlene Limas. Some of them already know Nik and the others will soon know him.”
The team trials are by invitation only and only athletes who are gold medalists at the state level are considered. During the trails, athletes participate in five to seven matches per day.
By the time Poland reached the semi-finals, he was a little banged up.
“I knew going in I was in for some physical matches,” Poland said. “My legs were really worn by that point and I felt the pressure because I knew what was at stake. I had to really battle to keep the guy off me but I did it and won 7-4.
“In the closing seconds it occurred to me that I had made it, but it wasn’t until the next day that I realized exactly what that meant and how awesome it was.”
In the finals Poland lost to Connor Wilson, who has made the national team the past three years. Both athletes are planning to compete in the U.S. Open to be held in Las Vegas next month. “I’m excited because now I will have the second seed there,” Poland said. “I’ll get a better bracket so I’ll have a better chance at placing and I won’t face Connor unless it’s in the finals.”
Later this year, they will join the U.S. National Team for its training to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and other international events. Poland won’t find out until later exactly which events the team will send him to.
Accompanying Poland at the team trails was his father, Mike Poland.
After Nik began making strides toward his goal of proving himself worthy of a spot on an Olympic Tae Kwon Do team, his father offered his full support and even took the steps to become a certified USA Tae Kwon Do coach.
“You need credentials to get on the floor at these competitions and because of the costs involved it doesn’t make sense for his Grand Master to accompany him to everything so I got my coaching certification,” the father said.
That entailed coaching seminars, an exam and a lot of paperwork. His background also prepared him for the role coach.
Growing up, Mike participated in both martial arts and boxing. He continued to pursue both while in the Navy. He also helped three children rise to the rank of black belt.
His oldest son, Michael, and daughter, Morgan, are both third-degree black belts. Nik has a second-degree black belt and is working toward the third-degree ranking.