THE JOURNEY might not have been smooth from the onset, but National University’s “drive for five” was accomplished.
The Bulldogs, down a jin for the entire competition, annexed a fifth consecutive UAAP Men’s Taekwondo championship after defeating the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Jins in their “virtual championship contest”, 4-3, on Wednesday at the Marikina Sports Complex.
The title is the first for the school this season after runner-up finishes in men’s badminton, and men’s and women’s beach volleyball.
Heading into the final series for the season, the Tiger Jins were undefeated with a 4-0 record and had an automatic 1-0 lead in the series while the Bulldogs suffered a sorry 3-4 defeat against the De La Salle University Green Jins, thus putting championship repercussions in their tussle.
With NU down one match to two, eventual Season MVP and featherweight (under-68 kg) gold medalist, Nusair Lao, set up the heroics of Sturdy Gilbuena and Carl Louie Ayaton with a dominant finish of Tiger Jin Reyvin Villanueva, 2-0 (6-0, 15-2).
Gilbuena and Ayaton, who ultimately bagged the lightweight (under-74) and the welterweight (under-80 kg) golds, then took the next two matches for the Bulldogs to seal the victory.
The Season 82 Rookie of the Year–MVP Gilbuena took care of his eventual silver medalist John Kim Pasion, 2-1 (2-1, 5-0, 0-0 on superiority), while Ayaton clinched the championship in style with a 2-0 (14-4,4-0) win over Mark Arby Gariega.
Eventual middle/heavyweight (over-80 kg) gold medalist Israel Cantos bagged the final match for UST, 2-0 (8-3, 5-0) against NU’s Gabriel Soria, but the championship already went the Bulldogs’ way.
The Bulldogs pulled the five-peat off despite missing as the squad missed the services of Olympian and last year’s MVP Kurt Barbosa this season due to personal reasons, resulting in NU not fielding a finweight for the entire two-day meet.
UST finished with an identical 4-1 win-loss record to finish second with bantamweight (under-63 kg) gold medalist and Rookie of the Year awardee, Legolas Peñaredondo, leading the way. The Season 85 High School Boys’ MVP was backstopped by flyweight (under-58 kg) champion Rommel Pablo and middle/heavyweight titlist Cantos.
Far Eastern University, on the other hand, took third place over De La Salle University despite similar 3-2 win-loss cards on virtue of its 4-3 win against the latter the previous day. Romar Javier, the bronze medalist in the lightweight, proved pivotal in the eventual podium finish.
De La Salle bagged the other individual gold in the finweight under-54 kg) division — the weight class Barbosa lorded over for three years — with Johnson Lloyd Rosario.