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Aaron Kunihiro Places Ninth at Belgium Open

Feb. 03, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - Eighteen-year-old Aaron Kunihiro (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) had the best result among the 18 U.S. athletes that competed at the Belgium Open in Vise on Saturday, placing ninth in the 60kg division in his first major senior European tournament.

Kunihiro won his first match by ippon (instant win) against Guenther Enrico (GER).  In his next match, Kunihiro and his next opponent fought for 10 minutes, including a Golden Score period before Kunihiro won the match by referees' decision. 

Kunihiro lost his next match by a yuko (quarter-point) score to Leon Borgsteede (FRA), a 2007 Rotterdam Super World Cup medalist, but was pulled through to the repechage where he lost by a koka (smallest points) to place ninth.

Three-time World Cup medalist Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) was seeking to reach the medal stand for the second time after placing third in 2006. 

Reser had a first round bye and then won his first match by a waza-ari (half-point) against Laurent Bosch (FRA).  In the third round, Reser threw 2006 Vienna World Cup medalist Konstyan Ananchenko (UKR) for ippon with a te guruma (hand wheel throw).  Reser's next match, however, went a full five minutes with Reser losing by two yuko scores to a Georgian player. 

Also competing in the 73kg division, two-time Pan Am Champion Chuck Jefferson (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) and 2006 U.S. Open Champion Bobby Lee (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) lost in the first round.  Both players were pulled through to the repecharge where Jefferson and Lee each won his first match and lost his second. 

Nick Delpopolo (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center), the 2007 Senior Nationals silver medalist in the 73kg division, won his first match in Golden Score, but lost his second by a penalty and was eliminated.

Michael Eldred (Fruitland, Idaho / Western Idaho Judo Institute), a five-time medalist at international B-Level tournaments in 2007, pinned his first opponent, but lost his second match by a waza-ari.

RJ Cohen (Buffalo Grove, Ill. / Cohen's Judo) and AJ Silverman (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) both lost by ippon in the first round of the 73kg division. 

In the 60kg division, junior player Jeff Fujimoto (Los Angeles, Calif. / Sawtelle Judo) had an impressive senior European debut.  Fujimoto won his first match by a yuko, but lost in the next round by a waza-ari (half-point).  Fujimoto was pulled through to the repecharge where he lostby a koka.

Fujimoto's 60kg teammates Jeff Sato (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) and Dan Gomez (College Station, Texas / Texas A&M) both lost in the first round.  Sato was pinned for ippon while Gomez was thrown for ippon with a kata guruma (fireman's carry).

In the 90kg division, 2007 Pan Am Games medalist Rick Hawn (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) had the best results for among the U.S. players in his division, going 1-1 against French players. 

Garry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y. / NYAC / Starrett Judo), a 2007 Pan Am Championships medalist; Brian Olson (Boulder, Colo. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center), a 1997 World medalist; and Roger Mazzella (Natick, Mass. / Tohoku Judo Club), the 2006 Senior Nationals silver medalist, each lost in the first round of the 90kg division.

Eric Duus (Saratoga, Calif. / Stanford Judo) lost was the only 90kg player to compete in the repecharge, but didn't produce a win, losing both matches by ippon.

Both men's +100kg players also were winless.  Daniel McCormick (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE), the 2007 U.S. Open silver medalist), lost in the first round by a koka.  Derek Alef (Santa Barbara, Calif. / Santa Ynez Community Judo) lost in the first round by ippon, but was pulled through to the repecharge where he lost his next match.

Competition continues on Sunday with the 66kg, 81kg and 100kg divisions.

Complete results are as follows:

Completed Draws

Men's 60kg
1. Damien Bomboir (BEL)
2. Ashley McKenzie (GBR)
3. Remi Vinolo (FRA)
3. Shintato Toyoda (JPN)

Also Competed: Aaron Kunihiro (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE), 2-2
Jeff Fujimoto (Los Angeles, Calif. / Sawtelle Judo), 1-2
Jeff Sato (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center), 0-1
Dan Gomez (College Station, Texas / Texas A&M), 0-1

Men's 73kg
1. Yasuhiro Awano (JPN)
2. Fabian Seidlmeier (GER)
3. Nico Mueller (GER)
3. Manuel Mueller (GER)

Also Competed: Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center), 2-1
Chuck Jefferson (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University), 1-2
Bobby Lee (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE), 1-2
Michael Eldred (Fruitland, Idaho / Western Idaho Judo Institute), 1-1
RJ Cohen (Buffalo Grove, Ill. / Cohen's Judo), 0-1
AJ Silverman (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center)

Men's 90kg
1. Stefan Kronberger (AUT)
2. Max Schirnhofer (AUT)
3. Meheddi Khaldoun (FRA)
3. Jorge Benavides (CUB)

Also Competed: Rick Hawn (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE), 1-1
Garry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y. / NYAC / Starrett Judo), 0-1
Brian Olson (Boulder, Colo. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center), 0-1
Roger Mazzella (Natick, Mass. / Tohoku Judo Club), 0-1; and Eric Duus (Saratoga, Calif. / Stanford Judo)

Men's +100kg
1. Kazuhiko Takahashi (JPN)
2. Fabian Hubert (GER)
3. Oscar Brayson (CUB)
3. Michel Nijenhuis (NED)

Also Competed: Daniel McCormick (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE), 0-1 and Derek Alef (Santa Barbara, Calif. / Santa Ynez Community Judo), 0-2

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