Local teen wins balisong knife flipping competition

Icy Flips was cool under pressure while competing in his most recent balisong knife flipping competition.

Cole Benton was 12 when he went down to the largest knife store in the world, Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville, Tennessee, in 2019 for his first competition and placed second out of nine people. Fellow Seymour resident Corbin Lovins won the inaugural event.

The store’s second such competition, now called SMKW Summer Bali Bash, was July 2. With Lovins serving as host instead of competing, that left the door open for Benton to take the title.

The 15-year-old made it through all three intervals and claimed the trophy against 16 competitors.

“Since Corbin wasn’t competing, I kind of felt like I was going to get first place,” Benton said, smiling. “But it was still scary because the guy that was in second was really good. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know who I was going up against.”

Benton had a drop in one round, but he bounced back.

“The kid that he went up against dropped his, too, in the final round, and it went behind the stage, so he couldn’t get it really quick. When Cole dropped, when he picked it up, he went straight into doing his routine,” Benton’s mother, Brittani Montgomery, said.

“Every second matters up there. You can’t waste any of it,” Benton said. “You just get up there and try to pull off the hardest tricks you can. Dropping it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t vote you.”

When it came down to the final three competitors and they were waiting for the results to be announced, Montgomery said she could tell her son won by looking at him.

“I was really nervous, my heart was beating really fast and I was really excited,” Benton said, noting he won $500, a balisong knife valued at $500, a large trophy and swag from Smoky Mountain Knife Works.

“I’m really proud of him,” Montgomery said.

Her view on balisongs, also known as butterfly knives, has changed since her son first told her in 2019 he was going to give knife flipping a try.

“He said, ‘I watched this cool video on YouTube. I need one of these.’ I’m like, ‘That’s a knife.’ He says, ‘It’s not real. The blade is fake at first,’” Montgomery said.

“I was just scrolling on YouTube and a guy was like, ‘Check out these 10 cool butterfly knife tricks,’” Benton said. “It was a real knife and he wasn’t getting cut doing it, so I ordered one off Amazon.”

Benton started with trainer knives until he felt comfortable using a real knife. Now, he has 16 balisong knives in his collection.

“You’ve got to practice,” he said. “Even the best can still get cut doing it. It’s just how it is.”

During the Seymour Oktoberfest in 2019, he did knife flipping for the talent show. A couple of weeks later, he went to Tennessee for his first competition.

“I was pretty excited because it was first-ever one and I got a $400 knife,” he said.

In June of this year, he went to the world’s largest knife show, Blade Show, in Atlanta, Georgia. That competition had 48 contestants, and Benton said he didn’t fare as well.

“It was way more scary because there were big YouTubers there recording it,” Benton said.

“It was a much bigger competition,” Montgomery said.

He didn’t let that deter him, as he went back to Tennessee earlier this month and plans to go back there for a fall competition and then will return to Blade Show East next year.

Even his 4-year-old brother, Damien, got onstage with a trainer knife at Smoky Mountain Knife Works.

“He’s definitely looking up to big brother. He wants to do it just as much,” Montgomery said.

Benton said some of his friends have seen him flip knives and are trying it, too.

“You’ve just got to practice and you’ve got to really commit because it takes a long time, it takes forever to learn tricks and stuff. You have to be dedicated to it,” he said. “Not too many people can do anything on it, and I can do tons and tons of stuff, so it makes me feel more accomplished.”

It’s something he started at a young age and can continue to do for as long as he wants.

“I’ll probably always do it,” Benton said.