She began practicing karate at 4, teaching at 12 and bought the family business from her parents five years ago. Now 31, Sheri Ingram-Angwin simply can't believe all the noise that her once quiet dojo on Little Road is making in the karate world.
A 40-student contingent, ranging in age from 6 to 47, captured 47 medals, including 24 gold, at last month's AAU National Championships in Fort Lauderdale. A week earlier, two of Ingram's best, Shawn Roof and Tony Previte, were part of silver and bronze medal-winning American teams at the World Karate Confederation World Championships.
"It was by far our most successful year," Ingram-Angwin said. "We did so well, it just doesn't make it seem as hard as it was."
Ingram's Karate began 32 years ago as an evenings-only operation so Sheri's parents, previous owners John and Cindy, could mow 80 lawns a week for the majority of their income. Now the dojo is a nationally renowned producer of some of American's best young masters of the art.
And the medals are only a small part of the success. The background of masters like Roof, 19, a recent Mitchell High graduate, tells much more.
Roof grew up in a children's home, was adopted at 12, and walked into Ingram's Karate shortly thereafter.
At that time, according to Ingram-Angwin, Roof was tough, but troubled. Yet he showed dedication to the sport and used its structure to create stability in his own life. He's now the youngest of the dojo's four on-staff instructors, Ingram-Angwin, Previte, 24, and fifth-degree black belt Jennifer Davenport.
"He's an amazing person," Ingram-Angwin said. "I've never seen a human being turn a life around like this kid, and be able to channel everything into such positive energy. He has the most pure intentions of anyone I know, and he's as tough as nails."
The last part came in handy at worlds, when Roof, in a Kumite (sparring) Ippon team finals match, had his nose broken on a single blow by his opponent from Team Germany.
Measures were taken to stop the bleeding from Roof's nose, but he had no intentions of retiring. In the words of Ingram-Angwin, he "annihilated the guy," winning easily, to keep a personal undefeated record in the tourney. Only doctor's orders to avoid fighting kept him from a shot at gold.
Ippon (one-point) fighting is decided by the first fighter to land a single scoring blow. Any blow which injures does not count. Previte's team bronze came in the sanbon (three-point fighting) division, where competitors must earn three consecutive points to win a match.
The AAU Nationals were highlighted by teenager Chris Ruland's gold-medal winning match in Kumite against fellow Ingram's student and friend Hiro Chestine. It is the first time the dojo has had two of its own fight each other for a national championship.
"We still have some people here, including my parents, who have been doing this from Day One," Ingram-Angwin said. "What's gotten us to this point is all the hard work and dedication."