Alex Knauf Wins Pan American Games Bronze
by Nicole Jomantas
(Santiago, Chile) – Two years ago, Alex Knauf (Yorkville, IL / NYAC / Cohen Brothers Judo) left the Junior Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia with a gold medal and a bonus – a direct qualification berth to the 2023 Pan American Games.
Now 21 years old, the former junior standout has become a contender on the senior circuit, winning his first major senior international medal with a bronze in the 90 kg category at the Pan Am Games.
After a bye into the opening round, Knauf drew six-time Senior Pan Am Championship medalist Robert Florentino (DOM) who threw Knauf twice, scoring a waza-ari (half-point) and ippon (instant win) in the second minute.
Knauf rebounded with a pair of strong wins to secure his position on the podium.
In the repechage, Knauf needed just 90 seconds to throw three-time Pan Am Open medalist Carlos Paez (VEN) for ippon to advance to the bronze medal final where he would face Mariano Coto (ARG) – a bronze medalist at the Senior Pan Am Championships in Calgary last month.
In a rematch of their 2022 Guayaquil Pan Am Open final where Knauf defeated Coto for gold, Knauf threw Coto for a waza-ari score in the second minute and ippon in the third.
“I threw him uchimata for ippon in the first exchange in Ecuador so I knew the plan going into this match was to bang the uchimata and wait for him to defend that, but the uchimata scored, so I just kept hitting it,” Knauf said.
Knauf also fought for bronze in September at the Senior Pan Ams in Calgary where he fell short of the podium with a fifth-place finish.
“It feels great to be on the podium at this event because at the Pan Am Championships I just missed it and got fifth so I kind of redeemed myself at this event,” he said.
While Knauf has competed on the World Tour and at Junior and Senior World Championship events, the Pan American Games serves as Knauf’s first opportunity to live in a multi-sport village environment with more than 6,000 other athletes from 40+ countries.
“Seeing all of the athletes here from Team USA and other countries is very cool and to be in one area in the village is very cool,” Knauf said. “It’s inspired me to push for 2024 and 2028.”
A bronze medalist in the 100 kg division at the Senior Pan Ams last month, Nate Keeve (San Rafael, CA / NYAC) came one win short of fighting for another bronze.
Keeve opened with a strong victory over Ivo Dargoltz (ARG), throwing Dargoltz for a pair of waza-ari scores in the round of 16.
In the quarter-finals, Keeve took on 10-time Grand Slam medalist Shady Elnahas (CAN) and held the Canadian scoreless until the final five seconds when he threw Keeve for ippon to take the match. Elnahas went on to win his first Pan Am Games gold after four Senior Pan Am Championship title wins.
Keeve fought Liester Cordona (CUB) in the repechage, but was unable to score on the 2019 Senior Pan Am bronze medalist. Cordona picked up a waza-ari in the second minute and went on to throw Keeve for a second score in the final minute.
Fighting on his first Senior National Team, Geronimo Saucedo (Wylie, Texas / Becerra Judo) drew a bye into the quarter-finals of the 90 kg division where he was thrown for ippon in the second minute by 2018 Senior World silver medalist Ivan Silva (BRA) who went on to win gold.
In the repechage, Saucedo went the full four minute regulation period against six-time Pan Am Open medalist Daniel Paz (COL), but couldn’t overcome an early waza-ari score by the Colombian.
A two-time Senior World Team member, Mackenzie Williams (El Lago, TX / Westlake Judo) earned the No. 4 seed going into the +78 kg event, but was thrown early in the match by 2023 Senior Pan Am bronze medalist Brigitte Carabali (COL) who transitioned into a pin to take the match before going on to win silver in the event.
Williams fought three-time Pan Am Open medalist Izayana Marenco (NCA) in the repechage, but dropped the match on penalties.
Philip Horiuchi (West Covina, CA / Los Angeles Tenri Judo Dojo) was one of three athletes competing on their first National Team in Santiago where he fought in the +100 kg division. Horiuchi trailed 2022 Junior World medalist Omar Cruz (CUB) by two penalties to one early in their round of 16 match before Cruz threw Horiuchi for a waza-ari score. Horiuchi kept pace with Cruz until the fourth minute when both athletes were given stalling penalties. The penalty was the third for Horiuchi which gave Cruz the match.
Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:
Men’s 90 kg
1. Ivan Silva (CUB)
2. Rafael Macedo (BRA)
3. Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, IL / NYAC / Cohen Brothers)
3. Robert Florentino (DOM)
5. Mariano Coto (ARG)
5. Daniel Paz (COL)
7. Geronimo Saucedo (Wylie, TX / Becerra Judo)
7. Carlos Paez (VEN)
Women’s 78 kg
1. Samanta Soares (BRA)
2. Sairy Colon (PUR)
3. Camila Figueroa (PER)
3. Eiraima Silvestre (DOM)
5. Vanessa Chala (ECU)
5. Lianet Cardona (CUB)
7. Coralie Godbout (CAN)
7. Karina Venegas (CHI)
Men’s 100 kg
1. Shady Elnahas (CAN)
2. Thomas Briceno (CHI)
3. Kayo Santos (BRA)
3. Francisco Balanta (COL)
5. Liester Cardona (CUB)
5. Leonardo Goncalves (BRA)
7. Nate Keeve (San Rafael, CA / New York Athletic Club)
7. Junior Angulo (ECU)
Women’s +78 kg
1. Idalys Ortiz (CUB)
2. Brigitte Carabali (COL)
3. Moira Morillo (DOM)
3. Beatriz Souza (BRA)
5. Izayana Marenco (NCA)
5. Amarantha Urdaneta (VEN)
7. Yuliana Bolivar (PER)
7. Mackenzie Williams (El Lago, TX / Westlake Judo)
Men’s +100 kg
1. Andy Granda (CUB)
2. Francisco Solis (CHI)
3. Rafael Silva (BRA)
3. Jose Nova (DOM)
5. Marc Deschenes (CAN)
5. Freddy Figueroa (ECU)
7. Sergio Del Sol (MEX)
7. Omar Cruz (CUB)
Also Competed: Phil Horiuchi (West Covina, CA / Los Angeles Tenri Judo Dojo), 0-1