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Turlock taekwondo students impress in Santa Cruz
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Turlock Academy taekwondo students: back row from left; Coach Corey Viray, Coach Laura Merafuentes, Master Tony Merafuentes. Front, from left; Oscar Flores, Liam Wickstrom, Mika Viray, A.J. Borovansky, Albie Borovansky, and Kai Merafuentes. - photo by Photo Contributed

Tony Merafuentes has been a taekwondo practitioner for 35 years and an instructor for 22 of those years. Merafuentes’ instructing career began in Modesto when he was just 24 years old, but three years ago he brought his knowledge and love for the Korean martial art to the Turlock Academy on East Main.

Since then Merafuentes has welcomed those interested in taekwondo, guiding and teaching them in the many areas of the art.

“A lot of the things we focus on are self respect, discipline, and confidence,” Merafuentes said. “Taekwondo is more than a fighting, martial art. It teaches principles of respect, control and physical and mental well-being in a structured classroom environment.”

This past weekend Merafuentes took five of his students to the 2012 Santa Cruz Open Taekwondo Championships to test what they had learned. His students, ranging from six to 14 years old, didn’t disappoint, earning a number of different medals in both the beginning and intermediate levels of sparring and traditional forms.

In the sparring competitions, Albie Borovansky and A.J. Borovansky earned gold medals; and Mika Viray, Liam Wickstrom, and Oscar Flores earned bronze medals.

In the traditional forms category, which emphasizes a combination of balance, technique, focus, power, and speed, Viray, Wickstrom, and Flores earned gold medals and the Borovansky brothers walked away with silver medals.

“We competed against some of the largest and best known schools in Northern and Central California, and our kids did an awesome job,” Merafuentes said.

The Santa Cruz Championships was the second tournament for the Merafuentes Tae Kwan Do Martial Arts Academy this year. The first was held in San Andreas and the next one will be held in Hayward on March 31. Those interested in taekwondo and the academy are encouraged to visit Merafuentes at his location on East Main.