Team USA on the Rise at Junior Worlds

by Nicole Jomantas

2022 Junior World bronze medalist Jack Yonezuka. 


(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Team USA ended the Junior World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador with some of its best overall results in the last three decades as the Americans ended the tournament with a historic bronze medal win by two-time Junior World Team member Jack Yonezuka (West Long Branch, N.J. / NYAC / Cranford Judo & Karate Center) as well as a fifth-place finish and three seventh-place results.

2022 Junior World Championships Complete Results

Just two days after Yonezuka’s podium finish in the 73kg division on Thursday, three-time Junior World Team member Christian Konoval (Rockport, Texas / NYAC / Becerra Judo) fought for bronze, but ended the tournament with a fifth-place finish.

Seventh-place finishers included two-time Junior World Team members Tasha Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center / 57kg) and Isabella Garriga (Richmond, Texas / Texas A&M Judo / 70kg) and 2019 Cadet World Team member Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, Ill. / NYAC / Cohen Brothers / 90kg).

Along the way, the Americans upset several of the sport’s future stars:

  • Yonezuka def. Gabriel Falcao (BRA), Junior World No. 1
  • Konoval def. Utkirbek Turoboyev (UZB), Junior World No. 8 and 2021 Junior World bronze medalist at 100kg
  • Garriga def. Luana Carvalho (BRA), Junior World No. 2 and 2022 Senior Pan Am silver medalist

Each of Team USA's top-seven finishers climbed the Junior World Rankings at the conclusion of the tournament. 

Knauf and Konoval each hold top-10 positions with No. 6 and 8 rankings in the 90kg and +100kg events, respectively. 

As Yonezuka moved up from 66kg to 73kg since last season and he has fought only as a senior on the international circuit this season, he entered the Junior Worlds unranked at 73kg and moved up to No. 13 after his bronze medal finish. 

Cancela rose from No. 15 to No. 12 in the 57kg event while Garriga shot up from No. 62 to No. 22 in her debut on the World stage. 

Overall, Team USA finished in 15th place out of 63 nations in the event with seven U.S. athletes winning at least one match during the four-day competition.

The squad included athletes representing nine clubs:

Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center (5)
Women’s 57kg: Tasha Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla.)
Women’s 63kg: Emily Jaspe* (Hialeah, Fla.)
Women’s 70kg: Shavon Gonzalez* (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
Men’s 60kg: Christopher Velazco* (Coral Springs, Fla.)
Men’s 73kg: Dominic Rodriguez (Lehigh Acres, Fla.)

New York Athletic Club (5)
Men’s 73kg: Dominic Rodriguez (Lehigh Acres, Fla.)
Men’s 73kg: Jack Yonezuka (West Long Branch, N.J.)
Men’s 81kg: Nick Yonezuka (West Long Branch, N.J.)
Men’s 90kg: Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, Ill.)
Men’s +100kg: Christian Konoval (Rockport, Texas)

Cranford Judo & Karate Center (2)
Men’s 73kg: Jack Yonezuka (West Long Branch, N.J.)
Men’s 81kg: Nick Yonezuka (West Long Branch, N.J.)

Becerra Judo (1)
Men’s +100kg: Christian Konoval (Rockport, Texas)

Budokan Judo Dojo-Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington (1)
Women’s 48kg: Jayne Loo (Mercer Island, Wash.)

Cohen Brothers Judo (1)
Men’s 90kg: Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, Ill.)

Pedro’s Judo Center (1)
Men’s 66kg: Amin Bakhtiyor (Fairfax, Va.)
Rocklin Judo (1)
Men’s 100kg: Elias Sabin (Elk Grove, Calif.)

South Bay Judo (1)
Men’s +100kg: Romeo Sangdee-Takeuchi (Lomita, Calif.)

Texas A&M Judo (1)
Women’s 70kg: Isabella Garriga (Richmond, Texas)

Top Game Martial Arts (1)
Women’s 57kg: Leana Nelson (Coventry, R.I.)

USA Stars (1)
Women’s 63kg: Karlee Carrouth (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

*Also will compete at 2022 Cadet World Championships, Aug. 24-28 in Sarajevo.

Team USA was 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).