Heading into the U.S. team trials in Colorado Springs in early 2020, Wasowicz was brimming with confidence and poised for destruction. But during her matches against rival Cirrus Lingl that day, curious things happened, according to Wasowicz and Ruiz — their claims backed by both video footage and the independent investigation.
John DiPasquale, the president and chairman of USA-NKF, which has enormous influence over the sport, walked behind the scorer’s table several times during Wasowicz’s matches against Lingl. DiPasquale runs a top dojo in Illinois where Lingl trained, and during one of the early matches between the fighters that day, Wasowicz grew incensed, feeling DiPasquale was trying to influence the scoring in favor of Lingl. During a break, Wasowicz and Ruiz decided that if it happened again, she would complain to the referee.
A video of one of those later matches shows Wasowicz gesturing in consternation toward DiPasquale as he hovered behind the table during a scoring review. He is also seen pacing behind the table, perhaps just nervous for his fighter, during the action. But as the U.S.O.P.C. pointed out, it looked inappropriate and raised doubts.
Wasowicz contends that she had Lingl beaten earlier in the day but was not awarded the points she deserved. That result kept Lingl in the competition, and ensured she and Wasowicz would fight again, in the final. There, Lingl, an expert in her own right, won with a deft head kick. Furious, Ruiz unloaded on DiPasquale, charging that the president had affected the outcome.
When reached by phone for comment on the investigation, DiPasquale said, “Not a chance, pal,” and hung up.
Others in the U.S. federation dismissed complaints of bias. “Maya is one of the best we have,” said Brody Burns, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team and a sensei at a top dojo in Texas. “But it’s not like she lost to a no name. She lost to a good fighter.”
Wasowicz agrees that she and Lingl are evenly matched. But on that day, she felt she was better, and that she should have earned a spot in the all-important Paris qualifying event.