News

Team USA to Compete at Junior Worlds Beginning on Wednesday

by Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Sixteen athletes will represent the United States at the Junior World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador from August 10-13.

2022 Junior World Championships Live Stream and Results

Competition Schedule
Wednesday, Aug. 10: Men’s 60kg, 66kg and Women’s 48kg, 52kg
Thursday, Aug. 11: Men’s 73kg, and Women’s 57kg and 63kg
Friday, Aug. 12: Men’s 81kg, 90kg and Women’s 70kg
Saturday, Aug. 13: Men’s 100kg, +100kg and Women’s 78kg, +78kg

The American contingent includes four athletes ranked among the top 25 in the world in their weight category and seven returning members of the 2021 Junior World Team.

Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, Ill. / NYAC / Cohen Brothers Judo) may be making his Junior World debut, but the 20-year-old will be one to watch with a No. 7 world ranking in the 90kg event. A two-time Senior National Champion and two-time Junior Pan Am medalist, Knauf primarily fought on the senior circuit this season where he traveled to Guayaquil in a tuneup for the Junior Worlds to win gold at the Pan Am Open.

At just 18 years old, Christian Konoval (Rockport, Texas / NYAC / Becerra Judo) brings the most Junior Worlds experience having fought at this event in 2019 and 2021. The reigning Senior National Champion comes in at No. 10 in the +100kg Junior World Rankings after a silver at the Junior Pan Ams in April. Konoval also is expected to compete at the Senior World Championships in October after a season that included top-five and top-seven results on the World Tour as well as bronze at the Senior Pan Ams.

Tasha Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) will be competing on her second Junior World Team and will enter the event ranked No. 15 in the world at 57kg. Cancela, who will join Konoval on the Senior squad as well, won silver medals at the last two Junior Pan Am Championships and traveled to Guayaquil earlier this month where she placed second in the Senior Pan Am Open.

Dominic Rodriguez (Lehigh Acres, Fla. / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) comes into the event ranked No. 24 in the 73kg division. Returning to his second Junior World Team, Rodriguez has been a standout on the senior circuit, becoming the youngest U.S. man to win gold at the Senior Pan Ams where he took the title in April at just 17 years old. Rodriguez also is expected make his Senior Worlds debut in the fall.

In addition to Konoval, Cancela and Rodriguez, Team USA has four more returning athletes who competed at the 2021 Junior Worlds.

Nicolas Yonezuka (Long Branch, N.J. / NYAC / Cranford Judo & Karate Center / 81kg) followed his 2021 Junior World debut with his first senior team qualification at the 2022 Senior Pan Ams. Yonezuka recently qualified for the 2022 Senior Worlds where he will join Konoval, Cancela and Rodriguez on a team that is expected to include at least five junior athletes. A 2020 Junior Pan Am medalist, Yonezuka also won silver at the 2022 Senior Nationals and gold last year in Guayaquil at the Senior Pan Am Open.

Yonezuka’s younger brother, Jack Yonezuka (Long Branch, N.J. / NYAC / Cranford Judo & Karate Center), also will return to his second Junior Worlds. The reigning Senior National Champion at 73kg, Yonezuka won gold at the 2020 Cadet Pan Ams and silver at the Junior Pan Ams the same year.

The women’s 70kg event features two returning athletes in Shavon Gonzalez (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) and Isabella Garriga (Richmond, Texas / Texas A&M Judo).

Gonzalez, who also qualified to compete at the Cadet World Championships in Sarajevo from Aug. 24-28, is the top-ranked cadet in the world after winning gold at the Fuengirola Cadet European Cup in February and silver at the Coimbra Cadet European Cup in May. A 2021 Cadet Pan Am Champion, Gonzalez also won bronze medals at both the Junior and Cadet Pan Ams in April.

A two-time medalist at the Senior National Championships, Garriga also earned bronze medals at both the 2022 Youth Nationals and Junior Olympic Championships.

Three members of the Junior World Team also will be competing at the Cadet Worlds later this month, including Gonzalez as well as her Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center teammates Christopher Velazco (Coral Springs, Fla.) and Emily Jaspe (Hialeah, Fla.) Velazco won the 60kg title at the Senior National Championships in April while Jaspe earned bronze at Seniors.

Team USA will be coached by Jhonny Prado (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center), German Velazco (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) and Colton Brown (Bridgewater, N.J. / NYAC / Colton Brown Training Center).

The complete athlete roster is as follows:

Women’s 48kg
Jayne Loo (Mercer Island, Wash. / Budokan Judo Dojo-Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington)

Women’s 57kg
Tasha Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
Leana Nelson (Coventry, R.I. / Top Game Martial Arts)

Women’s 63kg
Emily Jaspe (Hialeah, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
Karlee Carrouth (Oklahoma City, Okla. / USA Stars)

Women’s 70kg
Shavon Gonzalez (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
Isabella Garriga (Richmond, Texas / Texas A&M Judo)

Men’s 60kg
Christopher Velazco (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)

Men’s 66kg
Amin Bakhtiyor (Fairfax, Va. / Pedro’s Judo Center)

Men’s 73kg
Dominic Rodriguez (Lehigh Acres, Fla. / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
Jack Yonezuka (West Long Branch, N.J. / NYAC / Cranford Judo & Karate Center)

Men’s 81kg
Nicolas Yonezuka (West Long Branch, N.J. / NYAC / Cranford Judo & Karate Center)

Men’s 90kg
Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, Ill. / NYAC / Cohen Brothers)

Men’s 100kg
Elias Sabin (Elk Grove, Calif. / Rocklin Judo)

Men’s +100kg
Christian Konoval (Rockport, Texas / NYAC / Becerra Judo)

Romeo Sangdee-Takeuchi (Lomita, Calif. / South Bay Judo)

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