Maryland Crowns a New State Champion
By Klaus Wood, Co-Tournament Director
For years, the state of Maryland has been home to some of the nation’s strongest table tennis athletes. This past weekend, the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg hosted the 2019 Maryland State Table Tennis Championships, with 88 players from all across the state gathering to compete for state titles. Here are complete results, care of Omnipong, and here are the rating results. Six rating events were held on Saturday. Then came Sunday, with the Championship events - Men's and Women's Singles and numerous junior and senior age events. Here is how it all went down.
In the morning there were two junior and three senior events. In the Under 18 event, first seed Klaus Wood dominated his way to a state title, winning in straight games every match. Finalist William Huang battled through multiple grueling five-game matches before reaching the final. In Under 15, it was Jackson Beaver over James Zhang. On the flip side of the age spectrum, Michael Huang took home two golds, powering his way to victory in the Over 40 and 55 events showing outstanding stamina and resilience throughout the tournament, along with a very deceptive serve and angled forehand loops. In Over 70, it was Mark Radom 3-0 over chopper Ed Watts.
As the afternoon session rolled around, star players in Men’s and Women’s Singles began to arrive and warm up. Noticeably, most of the eligible MDTTC coaches and top players laced up and took the court, including defending champion Lidney Castro (2533, a former professional table tennis and soccer player from Brazil) and defending runner-up, Wang Qingliang (2511, previously 2642 and a 2012 U.S. Open Men's Singles Semifinalist). Another coach looking to make some noise this year was Martin Jezo (2528, former member of the Slovakia National Team, 2007-2015).
Wang Qingliang, a chopper with a big forehand loop, battled his way through a difficult round robin stage and even tougher quarterfinal and semifinal matches. He was able to avenge his loss in the final of last year’s state championships by defeating Lidney Castro, 4-3 in the semifinals. After battling for roughly 45 minutes, Wang pulled away in the final game, winning 11-8 and securing his spot in the final. On the other side of the bracket, Martin Jezo mostly cruised along to his first ever state championship final, though he had to battle with Khaleel Asgarali in the semifinals, winning 4-2, 11-9 in the sixth. Once there, he confidently looped his way to a 4-0 victory in the final.
In Women's Singles, junior star Stephanie Zhang chopper her was to victory, going 4-0 in the final RR without losing a game. Coming in second at 3-1 was Joanna Kubler-Kielb, who just last year won a bronze in Over 45 Women's Doubles at the World Veteran's Championships.
As the other singles events concluded shortly after the final of Men’s Singles, the three doubles events took over the show. After already playing for countless hours, players were asked to persevere through a few more events. In Open Doubles, there were no upsets according to rating until the final where Wang Qingliang/Klaus Wood defeated the top-seeded Martin Jezo/Lidney Castro for the gold medal. The dynamic chopper looper duo of Wang and Wood proved to be an effective strategy as they cruised their way through the event without dropping a single game.
When the final point of the tournament finished at roughly 9:30 PM, it signified the conclusion of yet another successful Maryland State Championship. Special thanks go to sponsors JOOLA (tournament and club sponsor), Pongmobile (who sponsored the doubles events), and Referee Stephen Yeh, who sponsored the $150 prize money for Under 18. Each year more and more players are signing up for this tournament as the sport continues to grow. We are looking forward to see what next year’s event has in store for the fans.