UT student Tommy Pitzen will represent the United States at the fourth annual World Kickboxing Council World Championships this week, Tuesday through Sunday, Oct. 2-7.
The U.S. National Karate team will go head to head with approximately 30 other countries in the championships in Montreal.
"I'm excited to fight against people that I've never competed against," said Pitzen, who is studying criminal justice at The University of Toledo. "I've been all over the country and a little into Canada, but to an extent you don't really get that international flavor."
Pitzen placed second at the March 10 regional qualifier in Toledo and went on to win the June 9 national qualifier in Detroit. The top four at each regional qualifier advanced to compete at the national level, and the top four at the national qualifier made the American team.
He has been training in martial arts for 16 years and competing for 11. He has won several state and national championships, including a world title in 2002 in Panama City in the National Black Belt League's Super Grands.
Pitzen had been in retirement up until Richard Plowden, president of the World Kickboxing Council and coach of the American team, began putting events on Facebook and reignited his interest in competition. He began training four weeks before the regional qualifier.
"Given the fact that I wasn't training and wasn't in shape, I was very happy to perform as well as I did," Pitzen said. "I was also excited to be able to compete with one of the guys who I looked up to — Jeff Gears."
Gears, who owns Jeff Gears Mixed Martial Arts on Monroe Street in Toledo, is a big part of why Pitzen became involved with tournament competition karate in the first place. His original trainer was partners with Gears and told stories about his successes.
"It's like getting to play golf with Tiger Woods every day or basketball with Michael Jordan," Pitzen said. "The first time we sparred, I was in awe that someone who is considered one of the greatest middleweight fighters was standing in front of me and willing to share his wisdom, knowledge and experience."
Pitzen plans to graduate from UT with a bachelor degree in criminal justice.
"UT is a very respected institution, especially in the criminal justice field," Pitzen said. "I really want to finish my degree and maybe move on to a graduate program — possibly even law school."