Scott Stukenberg, an owner and head instructor of USA Martial Arts Southwest in Columbus, saw a lot of potential in Greg Rummel when the Westland High School sophomore joined his training facility at age 7.
"He had drive and energy, and he had a ton of it," Stukenberg said. "That is huge."
That energy has helped Rummel excel in martial arts. Now 15, he has a second-degree black belt in Iaido, first-degree black belts in karate and tae kwon do and brown belts in judo, jujitsu and aikido. He also has been an instructor, better known as a sensei, at Stukenberg's training facility since age 10.
"He does a great job of motivating the other students and setting a great example of coming in and working hard," Stukenberg said.
Rummel has traveled around the country and abroad to compete in martial arts. Most recently, he won gold medals in kumite and kata, which are forms of karate, and a silver medal in kobudo, a form of karate that includes weapons, while competing for the first time in the Arnold Sports Festival on March 2 and 3 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Rummel was awarded a $2,000 college scholarship from the Arnold Sports Festival and Columbus Rotary Club for his career in martial arts. During the awards luncheon March 3, he met Arnold Schwarzenegger, for whom the annual event is named.
Rummel will compete in the same three forms of karate in the Junior International Cup on March 29 and the USA Open on March 30 and 31 in Las Vegas. He will participate in the 16-17 age division in both events, which include competitors representing 36 countries.
Rummel then will prepare for the USA Karate/USA National Karate-do Federation (NKF) National Championships and USA Junior National team trials, which will be held July 11-14 in Greenville, S.C. USA Karate/USA NKF is the national governing body for sport karate sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Rummel is looking to earn a spot on the U.S. Junior National team for the third consecutive year.
"I'll definitely push (for a qualifying spot)," he said. "Something can always happen. It's always a tight group. U.S. athletes are some of the best athletes in the world. There are definitely a few of us that it always comes down to right at the end."
Last year at junior nationals, Rummel won gold medals in both advanced Korean kata and elite kumite, two silver medals in advanced short weapons and a bronze medal in advanced kata. He qualified for the junior U.S. Olympic team for earning the gold medal in elite kumite (combat sparring) and competed in the event in the Junior Pan-American Games held Aug. 30-Sept. 1 in Cancun, Mexico.
Rummel has dreams of competing in karate in the Summer Olympics someday. However, karate currently is not an Olympic sport. Olympic organizers will vote in September to determine if karate will become an exhibition sport for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
If voted in, karate would become an official sport for the 2020 Olympics.
"I'm really hoping that karate gets in," Rummel said. "If it gets voted in, I will be training to go for 2016."
Rummel's busy schedule the last two years has included competing on the Westland wrestling team. He competed at 126 pounds in the Division I sectional tournament Feb. 16 at Westland, finishing 0-2.
"I really think wrestling is helping Greg with balance and defense in his fighting," wrestling coach Bret Busby said. "I have seen him position his hips lower this year in wrestling and I think this will also help in his fighting stance. I am very excited to see him fight in Las Vegas over our school spring break. I have never seen him fight live."
Wrestling team expects district qualifiers back
The wrestling team expects to return its two Division I district qualifiers in juniors Devyn Van Handel (138) and Tommy Stone (170).
Van Handel went 1-2 in the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby to finish 22-19 on the season. Stone went 0-2 and finished 29-16.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the state tournament held Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State.
Westland scored three points at district to finish 32nd behind champion Marysville (163) as 35 teams scored. The Cougars placed eighth (75) in the 10-team sectional Feb. 16 at Westland behind champion Hilliard Davidson (224.5).
Van Handel placed third at sectional and Stone placed fourth, as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.
Westland went 0-7 in OCC-Central Division duals to finish eighth, behind Marysville (7-0), Thomas Worthington (6-1), Davidson (5-2), Olentangy Liberty (3-4), Upper Arlington (3-4), Central Crossing (2-5) and Dublin Coffman (2-5).
Westland was seeded fifth in Region 6-A in the inaugural state team tournament and lost to fourth-seeded Grove City 42-30 in the first round Jan. 23 at Davidson.
Westland loses four seniors, including Jacob Ball, who finished 25-5 at 120 after suffering a season-ending torn ligament in his right elbow during the All-North Tournament on Feb. 2 at Dublin Jerome.
In addition to Rummel, Stone and Van Handel, expected to return are junior Romero White (132), sophomores Cesar Averja (220), Steven Park (113) and Blake Rece (106) and freshmen Josh Brown (145), Kyle Culp (heavyweight), Fernando Lagunas (195), Ethan Laver (113) and Anthony Maynard (152).
"I see the light," Busby said. "I have no complaints. I'm excited. The next big thing is the weight room. We have to get them in the weight room."