MERIDEN — The Pragano family bonds over taekwondo.
Stuck at home like most everyone else during the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony and Renata Pragano have turned their garage into a gym in an effort to keep the family to stay in shape — particularly their 9-year-old son Lorenzo, who has budded into a taekwondo standout on a national level.
The biggest showing of Pragano’s young career came earlier this year at the 2020 U.S. Open, held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. Pragano, a third-grader at Israel Putnam School who turns 10 in June, finished second in the 10-11 boys black belt division.
The Meriden resident rolled through his first four bouts before falling in the final to an opponent from Canada. As the top finisher from the United States, Pragano earned a sponsorship from the USA National Team.
The performance also left him ranked No. 23 nationally in his weight class.
“It was a five-day competition and he fought fighters from all over the world,” Anthony Pragano said.
“His first fighter was from Nicaragua. He had another opponent from Ecuador. He dominated his first four fights before losing in the final.
“He did it with a lot of hard work and practicing. He works out five or six hours a night and shows a lot of heart. When you find something you love, you can’t stop doing it. That’s how he is.”
Lorenzo’s performance in Florida opened some doors. He is now a member of World Taekwondo, the Swiss-based international federation that governs the sport.
As a member, Pragano is qualified and registered for any event sanctioned by the organization.
Pragano’s showing at the U.S. Open also qualified him for the Pan-Am Games.
The downside: The Pan-Am Game, scheduled to be held in Spokane, Wash. in May, were cancelled in response to the coronavirus.
So next up for Pragano, barring another cancellation, is the Connecticut state tournament, scheduled to be held in Newtown next month. Pragano is a reigning state champ.
Also on the itinerary is the USA Taekwando national tournament in San Antonio the week of July 1-7. It will be followed by the AAU nationals in Las Vegas.
Pragano trains at Olympic Taekwondo Academy in Southington. His mentor there is Master Ilseong Oh.
Pragano also spent three weeks competing in South Korea last summer and trained in Brazil in December.
With facilities currently shuttered by the coronavirus, Pragano has been training virtually in the newly converted home gym.
“He went from three or four hours a night to one hour three times a week,” Anthony Pragano said. “But everybody is in the same boat. He trains online with friends from Stamford. He woke up at 6 a.m. this morning to train online with a friend in Belgium.”