Summerville martial artist represented their home town well during the 2019 USA National Taekwondo Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota June 28 through July 4.
Nik Poland finally walked away from the championships with the prize he has been working toward for so long. After claiming five straight silver medals at the tournament the past few years, Poland defeated Dallas Parker of Virginia 21-6 in the finals to clinch the 2019 World Class Senior Sparring 18-32 Male Light (68.1 — 74 kg) Division Gold Medal.
“Our game plan was to just stay consistent throughout the whole day, just keep leading out and pushing,” Poland said during a USA Taekwondo interview right after his finals match. “I think my cardio was better than everyone I fought today. In the finals (Dallas) has a flexible front leg and was coming in a lot so I just kept my head back and led out with my front leg to try to stay longer than him because I had a little bit of a height advantage.”
Poland didn’t struggle in any of his match leading into the finals. After winning three matches by decision (30-10, 23-1 and 16-9), he knocked out his next opponent to advance to the championship match.
Poland trained at Ray Smith’s Taekwondo in Oakbrook before he was invited to join the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program that allows top-ranked soldier-athletes to perform internationally while also serving their nation.
Rusty Gresham is also making a name for himself on the national Taekwondo scene. He also trained at the Oakbrook dojo before joining the World Class Athlete Program just last year. He and Poland now train together in Colorado Springs.
Gresham entered this year’s national championships with two silver medals and again placed second to claim the 2019 World Class Senior Sparring 18-32 Male Heavy Weight (Over 87 kg) Silver Medal.
“Nik absolutely dominated the tournament,” Ray Smith said. “Rusty was also dominate up until he lost in the finals to the nation’s top ranked athlete. I’m so proud of them both.”
Leading into the finals, Gresham claimed three victories (55-8, 27-15 and 30-8) to advance and face top-ranked Jonathan Healy of Colorado in the finals. Gresham held his own in the championship match, but lost 9-5.