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Pennsburg Man to Compete for Spot on USA Taekwondo Team
Written by Bradley Schlegel Staff Writer
2016-11-30

Paul Conrad, 20, trains at the United Taekwon-Do Studio in Pennsburg. Conrad hopes to qualify for the National Taekwon-Do Association team in the spring.

        Paul Conrad described his initial involvement in taekwondo as a stroke of luck. Conrad followed his younger brothers into the martial arts discipline. But as their interest shifted, his passion in taekwondo expanded.

        Seven years later, Conrad, 20, has moved to within one step of earning a spot on the National Taekwon-Do Association team that will represent the United States in the International Taekwon-Do Federation World Championships next year in Dublin, Ireland.

        In October, the student at the United Taekwon-Do Studio, 510 Main St. in Pennsburg, performed well enough at a New York ITF Taekwon-Do Takedown Tournament to try out for Team USA this spring in California.

        The middleweight Pennsburg resident won a gold medal in men's first degree patterns and silver in sparring during the tournament in Queens, according to Mike Montero, Conrad's coach.

        "Paul is a very good student," said Montero, owner of the United Taekwon-Do Studio. "He is very consistent."

        Conrad said his participation in martial arts helped him to overcome a degree of shyness and awkwardness. According to Montero, the student has emerged as a natural leader.

        "Paul loves to be an example," Montero said. "He's always the first to help. He's young, so he teaches with his body."

        Three years into his training, taekwondo surpassed soccer as his primary passion. Though the home-schooled Conrad played on Upper Perkiomen's soccer team as a sophomore, he chose to focus on the martial art in subsequent years.

        Two-and-a-half years into his training, Montero said he realized Conrad could be "the real deal."  "Paul always practiced well and comes back better," Montero said.

        When Conrad earned his first-degree black belt, described by Montero as the mastering of the discipline's fundamentals, in June 2013 the teacher said he believed his student was prepared to delve into the true meaning of taekwondo. 

        "A black belt is a white belt that never quit," Montero said.

        Once he earned the black belt, Conrad decided that he liked to compete in the ring and that the martial art would become an important part of his life. 

        "I like testing myself by going against good competitors," he said. "It's always a great experience."

        Conrad will spend the next four months preparing to compete in the national team trials. Montero said his goal will be to make his student's training as tough as possible.

        "I want to make his six minutes in the ring seem like a vacation compared to what I put him through," said Montero, who has competed in two world championship tournaments.

        Conrad said he won't be upset if he doesn't make the team, but expects to perform at his best. Managing his anxiety will be crucial.  

        "I need to control my breathing," Conrad said. "The days leading up to an event are always the worst for me. Once I get into the ring, that all goes away."

        On Nov. 19, Montero's studio hosted a fundraiser to help fund Conrad's trip to California.

        The event featured a demonstration by Julio Carlos, an ITF world champion, and his brother Emanuel Carlos, who Conrad defeated in October and will battle again for one of two spots on the national team.

        Additional fund raisers are in the works, according to Montero. Conrad estiamtes he needs to raise between $3,000 and $4,000 for his trip to the West Coast.


 

 

 

 

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