Sitting around waiting for his first match, tae kwon do team captain Jeremy Klaperman ’01 was getting nervous. His solution to calming down — kicking his decidedly larger opponent over the scorer’s table.
But Klaperman’s victory was just one of many in an impressive showing for the Yale tae kwon do team last weekend. The Yale squad finished third, just one point behind second-place Cornell and 16 points behind first-place Pennsylvania at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.
This close finish was even more impressive because at such tournaments, the first place team usually blows everyone else away by at least a hundred points, according to team participant Charles Moore ’02.
But more importantly, Yale’s third place showing was a surprising and significant feat, considering the team’s difficult past few years.
“We’ve kinda been in the doghouse,” Moore said.
Collegiate tae kwon do is divided into a fighting component and a forms component. Within fighting, there are A, B and C divisions. Competitors are placed into their respective divisions according to experience and belt level. Within each division there is a heavyweight, middleweight and lightweight representative.
According to Klaperman, a B-level heavyweight, the team had been around for about five or ten years, but only in the last three years has the team grown. Five years ago, there were 10 people attending open classes at Payne Whitney Gym. This year, just under 100 participate.
But a greater competitive presence goes hand in hand with growth. Under the tutelage of Grandmaster Hosoo Hwang, an eighth-degree black belt, about 40 men and women traveled to John Jay. They competed against nine other schools, including Ivies Columbia and Cornell, two of Yale’s powerful rivals.
Both men and women contributed to the results. On the women’s side, a strong showing from In-Kyong Kim ’02 in fighting and second place from Anne Nissinen ’01 in forms were key. In women’s A-team fighting, Brenda Pai ’01 contributed to a first place finish with two key victories.
In her first match, Pai faced a Harvard opponent who defeated her last year.
“I didn’t expect to do well against her this year,” she said. But after prevailing, Pai gained confidence. “[She’s] the one I had been scoping the most.”
Yale dominated the C fighting divisions, sweeping all categories. Although Nnamdi Okeke ’02 went undefeated in his fights, and he attributed his success to the team and his coach.
“I didn’t really look at it as just my fight,” he said. “I just kinda went in to win my fight for the team.”
Okeke also praised his coach, Hwang.
“He tells you what you are doing wrong, even if you are winning,” Okeke said.
The next tournament will be at Yale April 8, with All-Ivies coming later in the month.
The John Jay outcome has pumped up many members of the team. They now expect a more formidable challenge from squads like Cornell, but they also expect to be more of a threat.
“Our coach was thrilled we’ve stepped up our training,” explained Moore. “We expect to just slay people at our home meet.”
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