DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — For the first time ever, a Wiregrass karate dojo is sending athletes to their biggest tournament yet.
Ten athletes from Wolfpack Karate and MMA in Dothan are competing for Team USA at a karate world championship.
Next month team Wolfpack will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as part of Team USA for the World Union Karate Federation World Karate Championships.
The athletes couldn’t be more excited for this new experience.
“There’s like 7.8 billion people in this world,” 11-year-old Vincent Courtway said. “The chances of getting into worlds is like really low, so that’s why I’m super excited.”
When Wolfpack owner and sensei Steve Baxley opened the dojo in 1993 a world championship wasn’t exactly on his radar, but when he got a call inviting his team six months ago he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“I wanted them to feel what it felt like to compete at the world stage and then maybe one day, when they’re adults, they’ll believe that they can play at the world stage, whether it’s in sports or maybe even politics,” Baxley said. “They may change the world so that’s kind of the way I look at it. It’s about the journey of each one of the athletes and what they learn about themselves.”
The Wolfpack team is made up athletes ages seven to their late thirties.
Now they’ll compete with more than 1,200 athletes from all across the globe.
“Look at what that’s doing,” Baxley said. “That’s making the world this big to these children. They’re growing up different than we grew up. They’re growing up exposed to these different cultures and they’re friends with them and that may lead to world peace through karate do.”
Nine-year-old Sadie Hall has been training at Wolfpack for more than five years.
She says without Baxley she wouldn’t be competing in her biggest tournament yet.
“One thing that he said to my parents when I was just starting, I still remember this like it was like two days ago, he was like,’I see something in her,'” Hall said. “He means a lot to me for my moves. I wouldn’t even be going to worlds if I didn’t start here.”
Each athlete hopes to do well for Team USA, but no matter what happens they’re just proud to take what they love from Dothan, Alabama to the global stage.
The world championships take place July 2-7.
Team Wolfpack is asking for donations for uniforms, lodging and travel expenses.