Xander Huhsamen, Stephanie Pole and Kayla Hochmuth celebrate the attainment of black belt status.
Xander Huhsamen, Stephanie Pole and Kayla Hochmuth celebrate the attainment of black belt status. RON BURGIN

Squad fights for coach's memory

MARIO  Rejtano was a hero to his students; and when he was tragically lost earlier this year they could well have left the sport he loved and ended that chapter in their lives.

Instead the squad have hardly missed any training since and four ASP students have finished the year with junior black belts — the ultimate tribute to their former mentor.

Stephanie Pole, Xander Huhsamen, Kayla Hochmuth and Jackson Curtis all received black belts, continuing the legacy established by Mario.

With Mario’s favourite saying “I feel good, it’s great to be alive” emblazoned on their dress shirts, it’s clear the inspirational leader is always in their thoughts.

“When he passed it was hard to keep up, hard on the kids and all of us,” Mario’s widow Penny Rejtano said.

“But it’s made them more dedicated; and these black belts are a testament to that.”

She said it was always a case of “what would Mario do”, while they were training.

“It was obvious they all wanted these black belts for Mario, it didn’t need to be spoken,” she said.

Tim Annett, a recent fourth dan black belt and incumbent ASP instructor, said the belts were designed to be earned, not given away, and these students had shown they were worthy.

“It’s a tough grading — some of the students have put it off for six months to ensure they were ready for the challenge,” Annett said.

The new head instructor was Mario’s student 11 years ago and today is proudly steering the club in the right direction.

“It’s definitely special to see the kids stick around and not give up,” he said.

“Not only have they continued, but they’ve improved their skill level as well.”

The quietly-spoken fighters will now let their hair down for seven weeks before ASP regroups in 2010.



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