(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) - Ronda Rousey (Scotia, N.Y./63kg) was more than a little familiar with her finals opponent, Ikumi Tanimoto (JPN) at the U.S. Open Judo Championships Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
In fact, last week the two matched up at the Rendez-Vous Canada in Montreal with Rousey taking the gold medal and Tanimoto changing her plane ticket home in favor of a trip to Fort Lauderdale for the U.S. Open and another chance at the 2004 World Junior Champion.
Rousey came out as the clear aggressor of the match, scoring points early before throwing Tanimoto for ippon (instant win)
"I was just trying to keep my hands down and fight well," Rousey said of her final match. "My head was a lot more into it this week and the home crowd was awesome."
And when asked if she thought Tanimoto regretted the extra leg of her trip, Rousey laughed: "It's not like Fort Lauderdale's in the middle of nowhere!"
Rousey's 2005 World Championships teammate Katie Mocco (Scotia, N.Y./70kg) secured her first U.S. Open title, scoring waza-ari with a foot sweep on Emilie-Claude Leroux (CAN) with a minute remaining in the gold medal final and pinning her for ippon.
After her win, an elated Mocco ran off the mat into a bearhug from her coach Jason Morris (Scotia, N.Y.)
"I really want to thank my coach Jason Morris because without him none of this would have been possible," Mocco said.
Anthony Turner (Miami, Fla./+100kg) secured the final U.S. gold medal for the day, defeating Canadian Travis McAlpine by ippon (instant win).
Turner proved that he was one of the best conditioned athletes in his heavyweight division throughout both prelims and finals.
"I really have to credit my coaches Juan Carlos Santana of the Human Performance Institute and Rhadi Ferguson of Into-Combat," Turner said. "They've given me an awesome program and the difference it's made has been great."
Nine other U.S. athletes stood on the podium Saturday, including silver medalist Denis Utkin (Brooklyn, N.Y.) who lost a close decision to Alexandru Ciupe (CAN) in the final as well as the following bronze medalists: Kayla Harrison (Middletown, Ohio/63kg), Jaclyn Feuerschwenger (Linden, N.J./70kg), Molly O'Rourke (El Cerrito, Calif./78kg), Eva Smith (Fall River, Mass./+78kg), Olympian Rick Hawn (Wakefield, Mass./81kg), Aaron Cohen, (Buffalo Grove, Ill./81kg), Daniel McCormick (Arlington, Texas/+100kg) and Jonathan Leonhardt (San Jose, Calif./+100kg).
Cohen, a 2005 World Team member, recovered well from an early round loss to Alex Emond (CAN) to battle his way to the repechage where he faced Bandi Davaadorj (MGL). Cohen threw Davaadorj for what looked to be an ippon, but scored only as waza-ari (half point) during the first minute of the match.
"I really thought I had the ippon because his back hit flat on the mat, but then I saw it was waza-ari and thought: 'Please change the scoreboard!'" Cohen said. "That's always the hardest thing when you score like that early because now the other person doesn't have anything to lose and you know you're in for a long match."
Indeed, the match ran a full five minutes, but Cohen defended well, winning the bronze.
This weekend's matches are Cohen's last for at least four months as he will be having reconstructive surgery on Anterior Crucial Ligaments in both knees.
"I haven't had ACLs in both of my knees for three years and I just kept fighting rather than having the surgery," he said. "It's really hard though because I was never in top shape and always felt like I was at a disadvantage since I was worried about having one of them give out."
O'Rourke was the fourth member of the 2005 World Team to earn a medal, throwing Yildirim Zarife (TUR) for ippon three minutes into the match.
"The match could've gone better. I kept getting my grip and then losing it, but I'm happy with the result," O'Rourke said. "Two years ago I finished seventh here and last year I finished fifth, so this is great."
Results are as follows:
1. Katie Mocco (Scotia, N.Y.)
2. Emilie-Claude Leroux (CAN)
3. Jaclyn Feuerschwenger (Linden, N.J.)
3. Fraser Bowslaugh (CAN)
5. Tomoyo Yoshinaga (Warrenville, Ill.)
5. Kathleen Sell (Oshkosh, Wis.)
1. Marylise Levesque (CAN)
2. Andree Bijould (CAN)
3. Molly O'Rourke (El Cerrito, Calif.)
3. Leidi German (DOM)
5. Yildirim Zarife (TUR)
5. Chiao-Wen Chen (Chinese Taipei)
1. Kei Eguchi (JPN)
2. Melissa Mojica (PUE)
3. Eva Smith (Fall River, Mass.)
3. Olia Berger (CAN)
5. Charmaine Alsager (Black Earth, Wis.)
5. Sylvia Hausot (CAN)
1. Bobby Rich (GBR)
2. Sylwester Gawel (POL)
3. Maxime Roberge (CAN)
3. Adam Daniel (ROM)
5. Michael Pedro (Lynn, Mass.)
5. Maje Omagbaluwaje (NGR)
1. Alexandru Ciupe (CAN)
2. Denis Utkin (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
3. Carlos Santiago (PUE)
3. Scott Edward (CAN)
5. Thierry Lemair (CAN)
5. Carl Trottier (CAN)