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'Really huge tournament': Shade graduate's overseas journey includes international karate titles

May 18—Shade High School graduate Alex Beegle traveled across the ocean, but never left his comfort zone while earning multiple championships at the Traditional Tang Soo Do Federation United Kingdom Invitational Championships.

Beegle, 22, made his first trip to Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, United Kingdom.

A student, competitor and instructor at Joe Goss Karate in Johnstown, Beegle also made quite an impression while finishing first in forms, weapons and sparring in the black belt men's division. He then won grand champion in both forms and weapons.

"The day of the tournament, I saw there were over 600 people competing, maybe up to 1,000," Beegle said. "It's a really huge tournament. I've never competed in anything this big before."

The United Kingdom Invitational Championship is Europe's largest Tang Soo Do championship with more than 1,000 competitors, according to Joe Goss Jr., who made the trip to coach and support his longtime student.

"There are competitors there from all across Europe, Canada and the United States," Goss said. "I had dozens of masters and grand masters tell me afterward — and students coming up to me over there — they're all really amazed by what they've seen (in Beegle)."

The Wales competition extended a long winning streak by Beegle, who has won six grand champion karate titles in the past six months.

In November, he topped the field at the National Korean Karate Championships at Seven Springs.

He claimed the Zang Invitational March 23 in Pittsburgh. Beegle later added a championship April 6 at the Tang Soo Do Karate College Invitational in McKees Rocks. He capped off his circuit with a title at the Delaware County Championships in Aston during the month of April.

Those successes set the stage for Wales.

"The trip overseas was really good, even though the flight was longer," said Beegle, who plans to graduate this fall from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a history major and business minor. "It was the longest flight I've had in my life. Once we landed, I saw a whole new world across the seas. This is a real good experience. This is awesome. New landmarks, landscapes."

As the competition began, Beegle went to work just as he does throughout his training back home.

"I just went out there and did the best I could against people in my division," Beegle said. "Then I waited a few hours later to compete in grand champion.

"My favorite part of the whole grand champion is when the Welsh host announced the winner of the championship. The way he said it was really awesome to me."

Master John Trudgill made the announcement. He is the founder and chief instructor of the Traditional Tang Soo Do Federation headquartered in Wales.

" 'From the United States, Alex Beegle,' just the way he said it, I was just emotional," Beegle said. "It was a really good feeling to hear that announcement. It's something I never thought I would hear in my life."

Joe Goss Karate has been a big part of Beegle's life — long before the Wales adventure. He even teaches the sport to young athletes in the age 6 to 8 classes.

"He started with us at age 9," Goss said. "He's been training 13 years. The week before we left for Wales, he tested for fourth-degree black belt.

"He trains every day we're open," added Goss, noting that Beegle drives 45 minutes from Indiana to drill and then returns back to the university. "If I was open seven days a week, he'd be here practicing seven days a week. He does strength training and martial arts training every day."

What's next for the grand champion?

"I'm just going to keep training as hard as I can," said Beegle, who graduated from Shade in 2020. "I want to help Master Joe Goss train kids. In June, we have a home tournament in Johnstown. We're going to be ready to compete."

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.