Nation’s best martial artists flock to Alle-Kiski Valley tournament |
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Nation’s best martial artists flock to Alle-Kiski Valley tournament

Michael Love
Sarver’s Jasmine Lobaugh competes in weapons at last year’s Pennsylvania Karate Championships at Valley High School

The Pennsylvania Karate Championships is the second-longest running event of its type in the United States, and Saturday’s 47th annual event at Valley High School again is expected to attract the top martial arts competitors from the Alle-Kiski Valley as well as the region, state and country.

“It was one of the pioneers, so to speak, when tournaments began,” said Frank Caliguri, a co-organizer of the event with his wife, Nancy, and others. “It was 1972 when we did our first series of tournaments. It’s built up since then, and we are so proud of that.”

While the event’s name indicates it’s a state tournament, it again will have a national attraction.

“The tournament has a lot of background to it and has built a tradition and reputation with its longevity, and because of that, the ratings are high,” Caliguri said. “We have those coming in from as far as New Mexico and Arizona, but we’re also excited about the number of competitors from the area, as well as throughout Pennsylvania.”

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Caliguri said he expects 300-400 martial artists from ages 5 and younger to senior divisions of ages 50 years and older.

“With the higher sanctions, including double points available, there is more on the line and more to win,” Caliguri said.

Only the Battle of Atlanta in Georgia has been staged longer. The tournament celebrated its 50th anniversary in June.

Valley has been the setting for many of the tournaments going back to the first one at the school in 1975. Caliguri said this is because of the spacious gym to accommodate several hundred athletes as well as ample seating for the spectators.

Several martial arts styles will be represented in the open-tournament format, from karate and kung fu to tae kwon do and others.

The event will begin with the grandmaster and masters kata, weapons and sparring at approximately 10:30 a.m.

“We like the young students and competitors to be able to see the grandmasters and masters do their thing before they get busy with their own competitions the rest of the day,” Caliguri said.

Eliminations will follow in sparring, forms, weapons and self-defense.

Seven grand champion trophies will be awarded in the youth and adult divisions.

The Pennsylvania Karate Rating Association’s overall state champions and those who finished in the top 10 in their respective age and rank divisions, accumulating points at tournaments and competitions in the state throughout the 2019 season, will receive their awards Saturday.

The 2020 PKRA points year begins Saturday, so all involved hope to get a strong start in the new points season.

Murrysville resident and 2016 PKRA Hall of Fame inductee Jose Rivera, a tournament grand champion from last year (first in kata, weapons and self-defense), is back to defend his masters title.

He has been the PKRA overall state points champion for his black belt division and masters division since 2004.

Grandmaster Bruce Heilman, a Reading resident, will enter the masters weapons competition against Rivera and the other masters. Heilman took second to Rivera last year.

The Alle-Kiski Valley again will be well represented by other 2019 PKRA state champions: Robert O’Sullivan (Lower Burrell, men’s advanced), Zachary Fry (Leechburg, 13-17 advanced), Jasmine Lobaugh (Sarver, 12 and under advanced) and Aidan Reed (Leechburg, 12 and under novice).

Also returning to the championships are 2019 Pennsylvania top-10 points finishers and Lower Burrell residents DJ Smalling (15-17 advanced), Dillon O’Leary (13-14 advanced), Christian Sullivan (13-17 advanced), Anthony Barbieri (13-14 advanced), Raquel Broda (9 and 10 novice), Conner O’Sullivan (9 and 10 novice), Julia Kuehl (11 and 12 novice), Gavin Peters (12 and under novice) and Joey Kuehl (11 and 12 novice).

For more information, reach Frank or Nancy Caliguri at 724-335-9300 or 724-335-5550.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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