1974 MARDI GRAS NATIONAL KARATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Wren Recaptures Title and $1,000 Grand Prize
By LYNN SHERMAN
THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS has added to its Mardi Gras festivities by serving as host to the annual Mardi Gras National Karate Championsips. Jim and Jenice Miller, both tournament champions themselves, have come up with a winner by producing a tournament during the festivities of Mardi Gras. This year close to 700 competitors were on hand to compete and enjoy the Fat Tuesday celebrations. For those who are not 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 tournament, an American Karate Black Belt Association sanctioned affair, ran smoothly as usual, and the some 2,500 spectators and tans witnessed top notch amateur competition during the daytime preliminaries. The tournament finals began with the Holy Cross High School Band playing Dixieland Jazz. After the gala opening the special guests and top officials were introduced. Special awards were given to the parents committee who had been working for months on the decorations for the finals, the Mardi Gras parade and the training of ring keepers. Al Dacascos of Denver, Skipper Mullins of Dallas, and Pat Burleson of Ft. Worth were presented with honorary citizenships and keys to the city of New Orleans from the Mayor of New Orleans for their contributions to the promotion of the Martial Arts. A special award for Sportsmanship was awarded to Mr. Ronnie Cox of Dallas, Texas. Another special award was presented by the Southern Black Belt Academy during the finals.
Each year brown belt members of the Academy compile points from tournament wins and the strident with the most points is the winner of the “Southern Black Belt Academy Lagniappi Award”. The french word “lagniappi” means something or someone extra special. This years winner was 11 year old Mark Maher of Metairie, Louisiana. The practice of having awards of this type has certainly become popular. It is great help to induce more interest in tournaments amongst students and a great builder of morale for students who excell. The advanced women’s competition. as always, promised to be quite exciting although it gets a little rough from time to time in this area. The dynamic Joy Turherville of Dallas, Texas met Gina Romano of the Southern Black Belt Academy for top honors in that category. Unfortunately due to excessive contact Miss Turberville lost the match. Black Belt kata was also won by a woman as Malia Dacascos took top honors in that category. After the novice belt and women’s 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 eight year old King Bradley Miller and his six year old Queen Diana Guthrie, to the music of Dixieland Jazz. The gym was decorated in the most festive colors to really give the audience the atmosphere of Mardi Gras. This parade is certainly one of the highlights of the Mardi Gras Open and a pleasant addition to a Karate event. After the excitement of the parade it was back to the fighting. This time it was to decide the overall Grand Champion and the winner of the $1,000 grand prize. The 3rd place winners had been decided during the eliminations so only the title matches were decided in the evening. Fighting for 1st place in the Lighweight Black Belt division was Demetrius Havanas of Dallas. Texas and Wade Bergeron of Lafayette. Louisiana. These two competitors had met several times before in New Orleans and the “Golden Greek— had always dominated the matches. This time Mr. Bergeron seemed determined to be the winner. Even though Havanas looked as impressive as ever he failed to score the winning point and the scrappy Bergeron won 3-2. Fighting for 1st place in the Middleweight division was Bruce Lee trophy winner. Jeff Smith of Washington, D.C. and defending champion of the tournament of St. Louis, Missouri. Both men are consistently in the top of the Top Twenty of North America by PROFESSIONAL KARATE. Jeff Smith asked for and received a change of officials before the match began. Fred Wren immediately put on the pressure by blitzing with hand techniques. which seemed to keep him inside of the range of Jeff’s famous kicks. Fred Wren won the match and the Middleweight title in a close hard-fought battle of champions. Fighting for the Heavyweight Black Belt title was Ernie Smith Of Beaumont, Texas and Gerald Giles of Hattisburg, Mississippi. Both men are very agile for heavyweights and used a good combination of kicking and hand techniques. “Radar Smith has become one of the most consistent winners in the country as of late.
He won the big heavyweight title at the U.S. Championships in Dallas just a few weeks before. Gerald Giles. who Joe Lewis said will be a man to watch in the future. bested the tough Smith for the heavyweight title. Before the matches to decide the Grand Champion Miss Mindy Laws of the Southern Black Belt Academy gave an impressive demonstration of self defense. Mindy is only twelve years old. but is one of the top female contenders in the U.S. She was assisted by Black Belts Jack LoCoco and Dan Daugherty. Next Mr. Mike Radulovich of Denver. Colorado presented the weapons kata that won him first place honors. Mr. Radulovich, a student of Al Dacascos, brought the audience to its feet with his demonstrations of the three sectional staff. The first match to decide who would become the S1,000 winning Grand Champion was the Heavyweight winner Gerald Giles and Middleweight Fred Wren. Giles fought hard but the more experienced Wren was in complete control of the match from the start. To continue the Round-Robin, Gerald Giles fought the light-weight winner Wade Bergeron. Gerald Giles was still warm from his match with Fred and he really poured on the steam in his match with the tough Bergeron. Giles won the match over Bergeron, so since Wren was the only undefeated man in the three man elimination, he automatically became the Grand Champion of the 1974 Mardi Gras National Karate Championships for the second year in a row. However, this year he also won the S1.000.00 for his efforts. Tournament directors Jim and Jenice Miller can be congratulated for another tournament success. The Millers, who plan their tournaments one whole year in advance, have already scheduled next years event for February 8, 1975.
Further reading: Mardi Gras Championships 1973