Joshua Wilson can’t recall the number of matches he lost in his first two years as a novice taekwondo student.
All he knows is he didn’t win any: His record was zero-and-something.
Wilson’s fortunes have made a 180-degree turn in his last two years of competition, however; last month, Wilson, a 15-year old Weddington resident, won an AAU Junior National championship.
By virtue of his title, he will compete for a spot on the AAU Junior National Team (for 15- to 17-year-olds) at trials Sept. 11-13 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
In the meantime, Wilson is training with fellow students at two local facilities: Ballantyne Kicks and Kick, Train, Achieve (KTA) taekwondo in Mint Hill.
“It’s Cloud 9,” said Wilson, a rising sophomore at Weddington High. “(My instructors) tell me how well I’ve done, and that if one person wins, all of the students win.”
Wilson splits time training under Russell Aupied at Ballantyne Kicks and Justin Laloan at KTA; the two partner to coach several of the same students.
Wilson is the only Ballantyne Kicks/KTA student invited to the AAU Junior National Team Trials this year. To receive an invitation, one must finish in the top four in his weight class at the AAU Junior Nationals, a tournament for individuals.
Wilson captured the 139-149-pound weight class championship at the June 29-July 4 event, his first national title – a long way from how Wilson fared when he started taekwondo four years ago.
Like many first-time students, Wilson became interested in taekwondo by watching martial-arts movies. He particularly liked those with actor Jackie Chan.
“I wanted to jump 30 feet high and be able to kick,” Wilson said. “When I first started I wanted to be the toughest I could be, to help friends if they were being bullied and to calm things down.”
Only after he started taekwondo did Wilson learn that students could compete in it as a sport. His first school was Wow taekwondo in Waxhaw, where he continues to work on belt advancement.
Wilson started training with Ballantyne Kicks and KTA two years ago to concentrate on competitions. After losing every match in his first two years, Wilson finally won a match at the N.C. Open, in August 2014.
“I needed to drop weight and get faster,” Wilson said. “Master Russell would point out my heavy feet. I became faster and more powerful than others.”
Once he tasted victory, Wilson did not turn back. He started 2015 by winning his next 25 matches, including his AAU national championship. Wilson’s only loss this year was at the USA taekwondo National Championships in Austin, Texas, the week after AAU nationals.
“The best part of his game is setting up opponents,” Laloan said. “He’s athletic but not as athletic as others. He understands the game so well.”
At the AAU Junior National Team trials next month, Wilson will battle three fighters he finished ahead of at AAU Nationals last month. If he takes gold, Wilson would earn a spot on the AAU Junior National Team, which would compete at an international event in either Germany or Spain next spring.
Though Wilson is the only Ballantyne Kicks/KTA student to qualify for the Junior National Team trials because of his age group, he’s not the only student to medal at national events this summer.
Others include: Wyatt Pugh (10, Mint Hill); Brandon Ramos (8, Mint Hill); Kai Davis (9, east Charlotte); Brielle Diliegro (10 Rock Hill); David Kim (20, Ballantyne); Lauren Pardue (44, Waxhaw); Natalie Goodfellow (10, Mint Hill); Sean Laloan (9, Mint Hill); Avery Pardue (11, Waxhaw); Bryson Tisdale (11, east Charlotte); and Carter Cardona (13, Indian Trail).
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.