Off the martial arts competition ring, 13-year-old Zachary Hampton is funny, kind and somewhat quiet. On the ring, he is, quite literally, a lean, mean fighting machine.
Hampton recently earned a gold medal at the USA Taekwondo National Competition held from July 2 to July 9 in Salt Lake City.
Hampton, who attends Leander ISD’s Canyon Ridge Middle School, earned the spot competing in Utah by way of an Austin-based tournament which led to team trials, according to the Texas Taekwondo Varsity League website.
TTVL athletes all medaled at nationals, bringing home gold, silver and bronze in their respective divisions.
TTVL's mission is "To develop Taekwondo as a NCAA recognized sport through the creation of the Texas High School League and the leading path to provide varsity letters for these high school students. Also, to give all high school students the opportunity to learn/compete in taekwondo at their local high school as a Varsity Sport."
Master Hyun Kim, owner of HK Taekwondo in Cedar Park, is the head coach for the 2018 Texas Taekwondo Varsity League (TTVL) male team and has taught the sport for 20 years. The TTVL sparring team consists of six high school students; two players each for light, middle and heavy weight categories. The sparring team competed in a tag team sparring competition which is a fast-paced, exciting sparring match of three, three-minute rounds.
The TTVL team represented Texas at the US High School Taekwondo (USHT) National Championships held in Salt Lake City on July 9. Texas beat California by point gap and ended the fight in the second round with a final score of 56-21. Texas brought home the gold, making this the second consecutive gold medal for the Texas team.
Hampton won gold in the cadet light heavy division at the national competition.
“I want all of my students to take away discipline from their classes,” said Kim. “I think the reason why (Zach) won was because he has great discipline. He would come every day thirty minutes before practice and stay for a total of ninety-five minutes. Kids have to learn how to work hard and have a little bit of bravery to compete. They have to stay under control and they have to be disciplined.”
Kim opened the school in Aug. 2006 and the Hamptons joined not long after.
“It’s a good way for me to get off the couch,” smiled Hampton. “It just helps with not getting angry. It helps me mentally and physically.”
The young Austinite said he has been practicing taekwondo since he was 5 years old.
“Taekwondo is one of those sports that doesn’t happen overnight,” said Hampton. “It takes a long time to get good at it because you have to be on the mat all the time. You just have to push through it and get quality time on the mat. You have to try and do every practice as best as you can.”
Hampton isn’t the only taekwondo athlete in the family. His two younger siblings, Bryce, 10, and Danica, 7, and his mother, Nicole, also participate in the sport.
“When [Zach] was five, we were just trying to find sports to do,” said Nicole. “We tried a variety of things and then a new taekwondo school opened close to the house and we gave it a month-long trial. We loved it, loved the school, loved the master and Zach seemed to have a certain knack for it so we’ve been continuing on since then. It’s a lifestyle and its benefits are amazing… it’s really great because we’re fighting together and sweating together.”
“I get to be a part of their journey,” said Kim. “I get to see my students grow and mature. I get to see them succeed and fail. I really enjoy my students coming back to see me as well. I have a student who was five years old when she started with me and now she’s a teacher with me at 18 years old.”
Hampton will attend eighth grade in the fall. He will also be representing Team USA, which represents the nation in the Olympics, in the President Cup. The President Cup will be held Oct. 11-14 in Las Vegas.
For more information about TTVL, visit https://www.ttvl.org/