Team USA Juniors

Take Six Medals in Chile

At PanAms over Weekend


September 12, 2011 – Some of the nation’s finest young judoka are headed home from Chile with a fist full of medals from the Pan American Junior and Juvenile Championships this weekend in Santiago, Chile, a major tournament on the march to the Junior World Championships later this year in South Africa.

Taking gold for Team USA were Kyle Taketa, 66 kg, (Taishi Judo Club, Torrance, CA) and Lauren Baez, 57 kg, ( Ki-Itsu-Sai, Florida ).

On the first day of competition, ages 15 and 16, Baez dominated her way up the podium for her first Junior Pan American title. She went 4 - 0 on the day, including three ippon victories, Previously, Lauren had taken bronze ( 2009 ) and silver ( 2010 ) medals at the event.

Alisha Galles (Mojica Judo, California) had a very strong showing, earning a silver medal in the female 63kg division. Alisha won her first two matches with strong gripping and mat work before losing a tough match to the Brazilian in the final.

Galles also took bronze at the South American Games, a “very tough” tournament following the Junior and Juvenile Pan Ams, said Brett Wolf (Menomonee Judo Club, Chicago, IL), the team’s head coach. Galles took bronze at the Games but won three-out-of-four matches to get there. “She had a very disappointing first match against Chile, but refocused and won three tremendous matches after that,” Wolf said. “She was a star this weekend.”

Matthew Kearney (Okuri Judo, Texas), also in the juvenile 15-16 age competition of the Pan Ams, showed great mettle and determination in bringing home the silver in the male 50kg division. In the process of beating a tough Puerto Rican player in the semi finals, he suffered a shoulder injury that kept him from competing in the gold medal match. Kearney's performance was an inspiration for the rest of the team. Michael Assels ( Becerra Judo, Texas ) added to his Junior Pan American medal collection with a bronze medal in the male 66kg division. Michael lost a very tightly contested match against the eventual gold medal from Brazil, before rebounding to beat the reigning junior champ from Argentina. Willie Inserra ( Sport Judo, Virginia ) put the experience he gained from competing at the recent Cadet World Championships in Kiev, Ukraine to good use in taking the bronze medal in the male 60kg division. Willie had two decisive victories wrapped around a tough, tightly contested loss to Brazil in the semi finals.

Competition continued on the second day with the Junior divisions, age 17 - 19 years. Kyle Taketa, 66 kg, was a returning veteran, the most experienced and decorated member of the team, taking gold last year at this event … He did it again.

In his final match, Taketa beat a Brazilian with an uchimata. It was a tense match, even the Brazilians were uncharacteristically quiet. Winning the gold at Pan Ams against top competitors gives him some great momentum to medal in South Africa at the World Championships. 

Winning bronze were Carla Genoa-Butler, 63 kg and Nathan Kearney, 55kg. On his way to the podium, Kearney lost only to the eventual gold medalist from Venezuela.

Leading the team with Coach Brett Wolf was Assistant Coach  Henry Okamur, also of Chicago, IL.

A complete roster of athletes competing this weekend in Santiago includes:

JUNIOR TEAM, ages 17 - 19:

Mary Decker, 57 kg, Colorado

Carla Genao-Butler, 63 kg, Colorado

Nathan Kearney, 55 kg, Texas

Kyle Taketa, 66 kg, California

Andrew Varga, 73 kg, Illinois

Austin Cavanaugh, 81 kg, Illinois

Derek Wojcik, 90 kg, Georgia

Max Bermont, 100 kg, Illinois

Jimmy Barnes, +100 kg, Oklahoma

JUVENILE TEAM, ages 15 and 16:

Lauren Baez, 57 kg, Florida

Alisha Galles, 63 kg, California

Seraiah Martin, 70 kg, Texas

Matthew Kearney, 50 kg, Texas

Adonis Diaz, 55 kg, Florida

William Inserra, 60 kg, Virginia

Michael Assels, 66 kg, Texas

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