Months of pre-tournament publicity, professional planning, and carnival festivities attract nationwide field of competitors. New Orleans black belt couple produce major regional karate tournament after only two short years.
FRED WREN CAPTURES TITLE
By LYNN C. SHERMAN Photos B CLINTON MOUSER
NEW ORLEANS – Combine a handful of big name Karate Black Belts, add a tournament, begin, run and end on time and place it in the midst of the biggest free show on earth, and you come out with a nationally rated event. The successful event was the 1st Annual MARDI GRAS NATIONAL KARATE CHAMPIONSHIPS held on March 3 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jim and Jenice Miller, both tournament champions themselves who own and operate the Southern Black Belt Academies in the New Orleans area, figured sometime back that a new national karate tourney tagged onto the festivities of Mardi Gras might just be the thing for their sport in that area. They were right! Some 580 competitors from 38 states turned up to compete and enjoy the Fat Tuesday celebrations, and over 2,000 spectators paid to see the happenings. For those who are not too familiar with Mardi Gras, it is a local celebration in New Orleans in which the entire city takes the day before Ash Wednesday off and goes mad. There are parades each day for two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day and the riders on the floats throw beads, trinkets, small toys, and most of all the commemorative doubloons. Each parade is better and more exciting than the one before it, leading up to Mardi Gras Day when all brakes let loose. Downtown New Orleans becomes the scene of the biggest party in the country.
The MARDI GRAS NATIONALS had this same excitement throughout the eliminations and the crowd pleasing finals. Dixieland Jazz enlivened things throughout the tourney as the American Karate Black Belt Association sanctioned affair went smoothly from one division to another. The tournament finals began with the introduction, of the top officials at the vent. Each Black Belt who served as a head official was introduced to the audience and given a special award. Allen Steen of Dallas, Texas was presented with an Honorary Citizenship to the city of New Orleans along with the Key to the City, for his outstanding work in the promotion of the Martial Arts. First thru fourth place trophies were given in 13 divisions of Kumite, and five divisions of Kata. A special award was presented by the Southern Black Belt Academy during the tournament. Each year one Brown Belt member of the Academy is elected by all of its students as the winner of the “SOUTHERN BLACK BELT ACADEMY LAGNIAPPI AWARD.” The French word “Lagniappi” means something or someone extra special. This year’s winner was thirteen year old Kevin Maher of Kenner, Louisiana. The ever popular Skipper Mullins sent the audience to their feet when he broke five boards with a side kick, and immediately ran the other way jumping over six people and breaking five more boards with a flying side kick.
Also Al Dacascos of Denver, Colorado did an outstanding demonstration of Kung Fu Kata and broke down the various techniques to show the practical application. Demetrius Havanas, the “Golden Greek” from Dallas, arrived at the tournament 30 minutes late for the Black Belt competition so was unable to compete. He did, however, give a dazzling point demonstration for the finals. Each fight for first place in all of the kumite divisions was presented at the finals but the real excitement began with the Ladies division. Miss Cindi Peterson, a veteran fighter from Denver, and Debbie Foreman, from Dallas fought for the 1st place honors. Both girls showed good technique but Chinese stylist, Cindi Peterson, came out with the top honors. Next up were the Lightweight Brown Belts with Lonnie Lindley of Dallas and Bob Beasley, also from the Dallas area, battling for 1st. The match went into overtime with Beasley winning. The Heavyweight match was between two fighters from the Southern Black Belt Academy of New Orleans under the instruction of Jim Miller so once again it was a very even and hard fight. Sam Harrell and Tommy Brumfield fought hard despite the fact that they were fellow teammates. Sam Harrell won the title by one point with a backfist as the time ran out. After the Brown Belt finals the audience was pleasantly surprised by the
entertainment provided for the competitors and spectators. A parade of youngsters dressed in masquerade paraded through the audience throwing trinkets, toys and Mardi Gras doubloons to the delight of both young and old. The parade was led by seven year old King Bradley Miller and his six year old Queen Diana Guthrie, to the music of Dixieland Jazz performed by the famous Isidore Newman High School Jazz Band.
Well after the excitement of the parade it was back to the fighting. The four Black Belts competing for the four places in the Lightweight Black Belt Division were Jim Harkins of Boulder, James Stevens of Louisiana, Al Dacascos of Denver and Wade Bergeron of Louisiana. The first match was between Jim Harkins and Wade Bergeron with Bergeron winning by one point. Then, Al Dacascos of Denver and James Stevens, one of the toughest new fighters in the Southwest, who should get a pretty high rating in his region, battled it out with Dacascos winning with a reverse punch. Jim Harkins and James Stevens then met to decide 3rd and 4th places in the Lightweight division. It was a tight fight but Harkins lost to Stevens by one point in overtime. Next, Al Dacascos and Wade Burgeron met to decide the Lightweight Championship. Both men fought aggressively, but could score no points. In overtime, Dacascos hit the tough Louisianan with a surprise left handed reverse punch to win the Lightweight title. Decascos, who is normally a defensive counter fighter, was really aggressive all day using continuous barrages of offensive combinations. Fighting for the Heavyweight Black Belt honors were Fred Wren of St. Louis, Ernest Smith of Louisiana, James Stevenson of Denver, and Dan Smith of Jackson, Mississippi. Dan Smith defeated Stevenson and Wren defeated Ernest Smith, so it was to be Wren and Dan Smith in the Heavyweight finals. The match for third place saw Louisiana’s Ernest Smith defeat Denver’s James Stevenson 2-1. To decide the Heavyweight Championship, Fred Wren met Dan Smith. Wren, who was looking for his third Grand Championship in three weeks, seemed his old self again as he really blasted his way through the eliminations. He seems to have completely recovered from a knee operation that had curbed his proficiency severely for the greater part of 1972.
GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
Wren had now earned the right to meet Al Dacascos for the Grand Championship finals. The Grand Championship match began with both men being very careful and throwing techniques very cautiously. At the end of the first neither man had scored. They did, however, give each other bloody noses. These two are supposed to be friends. As the second round began both Al and Fred seemed to loosen up some and a flurry of punches and kicks began. Fred received one point early in the match and then on a clash Al fell to the floor after Wren’s foot sweep and his right shoulder was dislocated. Dacascos was unable to continue. So the 1973 Grand Champion of the Mardi Gras National Karate Championships went to Fred Wren. The injured Al Dacascos had to settle for the Lightweight title and 1st place, honors in Black Belt Kata. His Kata victory was sensational to say the least. Especially since no one on the Board of Judges was even vaguely familiar with Kung Fu. Dacascos was so elegant that no one was even close on the final score. Tournament Director Jim Miller and his attractive wife Jenice can be congratulated for putting on such an outstanding new tournament on the karate circuit and running it like karate events should be run. Next year this tournament should he one of the real big ones in Region 5.
WOMENS KATA DIVISION:
1st Cindi Peterson – Denver, Colo.
2nd Malia Decascos – Denver, Colo.
3rd Yvonne Arceneaux – New Orleans
4th Tommie Dare Clemons – New Orleans
COLOR BELT KATA DIVISION:
1st Kelly Williams – Jackson, Miss.
2nd Raymond McCallum – Dallas, Texas
3rd David Denton – Univ. of Miss.
4th Roy Thornhill – Jackson, Miss.
BROWN BELT KATA DIVISION:
1st Bob Beasley – Commerce, Texas
2nd Dennis McMullin – St. Louis, Mo.
3rd Chin Lam – New Orleans
4th Kevin Maher – New Orleans and Jimmy Cole Jackson, Miss.
BLACK BELT KATA DIVISION:
1st Al Decascos – Denver, Colo.
2nd Dan Smith – Jackson, Miss.
3rd Wage Bergeron – Lafayette, La.
4th Ben Edwards – Memphis, Tenn.
MINI-PEE WEE KUMITE
1st Ronald Case – Baton Rouge, La.
2nd Louis Vazquez – Houston, Texas
3rd Mark Maher – New Orleans
4th Leon Craig- New Orleans
1st Mark Koeniger – New Orleans
2nd Billy Reilly – New Orleans
3rd Mark Vogel – New Orleans
4th Alan Bankston . New Orleans
1st Raymond McCallum – Dallas, Texas
2nd John Backstedt – New Orleans
3rd Kerry Najolia – New Orleans
4th David Boudreaux – New Orleans
1st Cindi Peterson – Denver, Colo.
2nd Debbie Foreman – Dallas, Texas
3rd Carol Minshew – Houston, Texas
4th Malia Decascos – Denver, Colo.
LIGHTWEIGHT WHITE BELT KUMITE:
1st William Gray
2nd Kenneth Shivley
3rd Ricky Henderson – Grambling, La.
4th Bill Petill – St. Louis, Mo.
HEAVYWEIGHT WHITE BELT KUMITE:
1st Keith Brussard – New Orleans
2nd Randy Capp – Baton Rouge, La.
3rd Don Goidry – New Orleans
4th John Chandler – New Orleans
GRAND CHAMPION: Fred Wren – St. Louis, Mo.
1st PLACE TEAM – AMERICAN KARATE BLACK BELT ASSOC.
2nd PLACE TEAM – ROCKY MOUNTAIN TEAM
LIGHTWEIGHT GREEN BELTS:
1st Derk Busk – Lake Charles, La.
2nd Raymond Kobetz – Dallas, Texas
3rd Paul Trebotich Jackson, Miss.
4th Don Oliver – Houston, Texas
HEAVYWEIGHT GREEN BELTS:
1st Mike Phillips
2nd Bob Abernathy
3rd Ernel Porche – New Orleans
4th Don Green – New Iberia, La.
LIGHTWEIGHT BROWN BELTS:
1st Bob Beasley – Commerce, Texas
2nd Lonnie Lindley Texas
3rd Earnest Hart – St. Louis, Mo.
4th Jeff Passmore – New Orleans
HEAVYWEIGHT BROWN BELTS:
1st Sam Harrell – New Orleans
2nd Tommy Brumfield – New Orleans
3rd Warren Menard
4th Ronny Pitts
LIGHTWEIGHT BLACK BELTS:
1st Al Dacascos – Denver, Colo.
2nd Wade Bergeron – Lafayette, La.
3rd James Stephens – Lake Charles, La.
4th Jim Harkins – Boulder, Colo.
HEAVYWEIGHT BLACK BELTS:
1st Fred Wren St. Louis, Mo.
2nd Dan Smith – Jackson, Miss.
3rd Ernie Smith – Lake Charles, La.
4th Jonies Stevenson Denver, Colorado