York County youngsters earn eight medals in karate during AAU Junior Olympics in Houston

  • Three York County youngsters recently won eight karate medals at the AAU Junior Olympics.
  • The trio trains at the American System Shotokan & Mixed Martial Arts dojo in Red Lion.
  • Sensei Ismael Munoz, a Brooklyn native and retired correctional officer, coaches the medal winners.
Rion Nogel, Brevin Nogel and Kaitlyn Hatchell are shown with sensei Ismael Munoz.

Sensei Ismael Munoz didn’t start teaching martial arts to produce the next “Karate Kid.”

Instead, years ago, the Brooklyn native opened up his American System Shotokan & Mixed Martial Arts dojo in Red Lion to give his pupils an experience.

That was also the goal when Munoz, a retired correctional officer, took three of his karate students to Houston last month for the AAU Junior Olympics.

That trio did more than just have an experience.

Between Kaitlyn Hatchell and siblings Rion and Brevin Nogel, the three came back to York with a total of eight karate medals, which far exceeded the expectations of their sensei.

“We took the chance and we did pretty well,” Munoz said. “I was amazed. They were not expected to win anything.”

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Hatchell and Rion Nogel both competed in the same female division as 13 year olds. Hatchell finished with bronze medals in weapons and kata, while Nogel took silver in weapons.

Facing off for gold: In an unexpected circumstance for Munoz, his two students squared off in the finals of the fighting competition. It was a rare moment at the Junior Olympics when a sensei was a coach for both combatants.

“You could actually coach your kids and there I was screaming at both girls,” Munoz said. “And people were looking at me funny, but I had to do that. I had to coach both of them, and when they found out they were both my girls then they realized why I was screaming at both of them.”

Hatchell outscored her friend to claim the gold medal for fighting, with Nogel taking her second silver of the event.

Setting his student straight: Munoz recalled how Hatchell was disappointed that she only won bronze in both weapons and kata, but the veteran martial arts expert had to set his prized pupil straight.

“She made a mistake in weapons, which is why she finished third,” Munoz said. “And I asked her how she could be disappointed? I told her that when she came here (to the Junior Olympics) that she was not expected to win anything, but she got the bronze. And I told her I think she did great.”

Brevin Nogel excels at young age: Brevin Nogel, who is just 11, competed in the male division and took silver in both weapons and kata, as well as a bronze in fighting.

“Brevin is a boy and he wants to do things fast,” Munoz said. “So, we have to slow him down and remind him that when we compete at this level that it’s not about speed, it’s about knowledge. And he also did quite well.”

With low expectations before the event, Munoz couldn’t have been happier with his trio after competing in the event, which featured more than 250 competitors.

An event that prepares youngsters for the Olympics: The Junior Olympics also holds a special part in his own heart from his time competing as a youth.

“This is the organization that prepares kids for the Olympics,” he said. “And when I was younger, this is the organization that I competed in. While we have competed in other places outside of the country, like (Puerto Rico) and Saint Lucia, this one was more dedicated. It’s where they actually track kids to see if they could make it all the way to the Olympics by the time they’re 16 or 17.”

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.