If Cole Noretto has his way, he will someday be an Olympic contender, and ideally an Olympic champion in taekwondo.
Noretto, 13, not only holds three state titles, taking home gold medals in Oregon, California and Washington, but also represented Oregon at U.S. nationals last year, winning two national titles.
A student at U.S. World Class Taekwondo in Sherwood, Noretto then rounded out the season by going to the U.S. Open from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. The event is one of the most prestigious international tournaments for taekwondo, where the Tigard youth met Olympians from all over the world in a tournament second only to the Olympics.
Not too bad for someone who has only been practicing for only three years and received his black belt in November.
Michael Tornincasa, Noretto's certified master and coach, said he first met Noretto when the youth came upon his board-breaking booth at the Sherwood Robin Hood Festival several years ago.
"I thought that was cool," said Noretto, a Tigard resident who attends Hazelbrook Middle School.
From there he was hooked.
"We were very fortunate he chose us," Tornincasa said of the youth's decision to join the Sherwood studio.
"It was the best season I ever had for a student," said the coach, a 31-year veteran of the sport who has brought home a total of 74 state titles. "He's an Olympic hopeful."
Held in Virginia last year, the 2016 U.S. Nationals were a proving ground for Noretto, where he ended up being named No. 1 in his age, belt and weight class in the United States in both the sparring and board-breaking events.
That meant going against 32 contenders in the sparring portion of the competition and 50 contestants in the board-breaking competition. The latter is judged not only on breaking the board but on creativity as well. His individual stats at the nationals were staggering as well, setting up, breaking and cleaning up 30 of the standard 8-inch-by-6-inch boards in three minutes.
Those pine boards, by the way, are an inch thick.
"He chopped down a few trees that day," Tornincasa pointed out. "He's got a big target on him now,"
What impressed Tornincasa most, in addition to student's taekwondo prowess was his desire to attend the tournament early to cheer on his teammates.
Rounding out his season, Noretto recently attended the U.S. Open in Las Vegas.
"We ended up losing in overtime," said Tornincasa, who quickly added that he was proud that Noretto was willing to attend a very scary and dangerous match consisting only of black belt contenders. "We picked a tough one to start us off."
"I wasn't necessarily nervous," Noretto said of the Vegas matchup. "I was excited."
And all along the way, Noretto has adhered to the five tenants of taekwondo: Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.
Tornincasa said Noretto's goal isn't only to represent Sherwood in future high-level matches but to represent the entire country as well.
So does the coach think his student is headed for future Olympic competition?
"(I) definitely think he'll be there," said Tornincasa.
A straight "A" student with an interest in history and plans to go to college, Noretto is confident he'll be going to the Olympics as well, saying he wants to be a coach "after I retire."
"I'd like to instruct," he said. "That would also be great,"
Noretto's mother Tonja credit's her son's master with her son's success.
"He said, 'look, I can make you a champion if you work hard, give me 100 percent and you're focused," she said. "So Cole was like, 'wow!'"
Tonja Noretto said Tornincasa is so inspirational that if his studio was located in an old garage, they would follow him to train at that site.
"(Cole's) journey has been an absolute amazing journey" she said. ?