April 16, 2001 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Two Wallowa County men have qualified for the Tae Kwon Do nationals.

Stephen Bronson, 41, of Wallowa is the state champion of sparring in the senior mens red belt division for ages 35 and older.

Jesse Eaves, 26, of Enterprise won third in state in age 18-to-34 red belt sparring.

The state tournament was put on at Portland State University by Grand Master Tae Hung Choi, a ninth-degree black belt and head of Tae Kwon Do in Oregon.

Also competing at Saturdays tournament were Bill Rautenstrauch, 51 and his grandson John J.J. Tye, both of Enterprise. J.J. celebrated his 13th birthday on the day of the competition.

Were just a small studio from the pastures of Wallowa County, and this was the big league, Wallowa County Tae Kwon Do Academy instructor Dean Metcalf said.

Im extremely proud of everybody that went and of their performances. Theyve grown a lot.

The three-year-old academy has done well in previous large competitions.

The academys first such competition was at the 1999 Northwest Martial Arts Championships at Mount Hood Community College. Bronson won first-place in his division, and Eaves and Tye both had third-place finishes.

The Korean martial-arts style stresses self- and mutual-respect, Metcalf said. He insists that his teachings be a defensive art.

Tae Kwon Do also teaches how to communicate clearly, how to handle oneself with others and how to respectfully supervise others.

The Wallowa County Tae Kwon Do Academy has given numerous demonstrations of the art for schools and the public.

The academy also teaches self-defense to women at Safe Harbors and has been asked by the Wallowa County Educational Service District to put on a demonstration for the May 12 Youth Empowerment Conference.

Metcalf has given Tae Kwon Do instruction to men and women of all ages. He emphasizes physical conditioning. Some come for relaxation, flexibility and exercises, while those like Bronson, Eaves and Tye seek proficiency, advancement in rank and competition in the sport.

Classes meet from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays at the Enterprise Odd Fellows Hall.

For information, call Metcalf at 432-7009.