USA Judo News Team USA to Compete ...

Team USA to Compete at Junior and Cadet Pan Ams in Lima, April 9-10

By Nicole Jomantas | April 07, 2022, 12:57 p.m. (ET)

Dominic Rodriguez qualified for the 2022 Junior Pan American Championships at the Youth Nationals in Lansing. 

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Team USA’s junior and cadet athletes will bring a wealth of experience to the Junior and Cadet Pan American and Oceania Championships in Lima, Peru when 25 judoka fight for gold this weekend.

The two-day individual competition will see the best junior (U20) and cadet (U17) athletes from throughout North and South America compete alongside athletes from Australia for the first time with individual competition taking place on April 9 and 10 for cadets and juniors, respectively.

Cadet Pan American and Oceania Championships Live Results

Junior Pan American and Oceania Championships Live Results

The junior competition will include athletes from 15 countries with athletes from 12 nations fighting the cadet event.

Three of Team USA’s five Junior Pan Am medalists from 2021 will be returning to competition in Lima, including gold medalists Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, Ill. / NYAC / Cohen Brothers Judo Club / 90kg) and Nicole Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center / 52kg) as well as Dominic Rodriguez (Lehigh Acres, Fla. / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) who won bronze at 81kg in 2021 and will compete at 73kg this year.

Knauf holds not only the 2021 Junior Pan Am Championship title, but also the 2021 Junior Pan Am Games gold and is the reigning Senior National Champion at just 20 years old. He also won his first Youth National Championship as a junior in March to qualify for Team USA.

Seventeen-year-old Cancela will compete in both the junior and cadet events after winning gold as a junior in 2021 and bronze as a cadet. Cancela, who swept both the junior and cadet titles at the 2022 Youth Nationals will attempt to pull off double wins this weekend.

Rodriguez won his third straight Cadet Pan Am title in the 73kg event last year and moved up to 81kg for the junior competition the next day, taking bronze. The 17-year-old will be one of four junior athletes who will stay in Lima to fight at the Senior Pan Ams from April 15-16.

Nick Yonezuka (West Long Beach, N.J. / NYAC / Cranford Judo / 81kg), Christian Konoval (Rockport, Texas / NYAC / +100kg) and Tasha Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center / 57kg) will be joining Rodriguez in competing in both the junior and senior events.

This will be the third Pan Am appearance for 19-year-old Yonezuka who won bronze as a cadet in 2019 and took silver as a junior in 2020. In 2021, Yonezuka earned two medals at senior Pan American Open events and made his debut at the Junior World Championships last fall.

A two-time Junior World Team member, Konoval qualified for the Junior Pan Am Team with his first gold medal win at the Youth National Championships. Competing on the Senior World Tour for the first time this season, the 18-year-old has had early success, finishing seventh at the Paris Grand Slam in October and fifth at the Portugal Grand Prix in January to qualify for the Senior Pan Am Team.

Tasha Cancela, whose younger sister Nicole is competing in the 52kg event, placed seventh at the Tunis African Open last month, and holds two Pan Am medals, taking gold as a cadet in 2019 and silver as a junior in 2020.

In addition to Nicole Cancela, six members of Team USA also will be competing in both the Junior and Cadet Pan American Championships.

Shavon Gonzalez (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) won the 2021 Cadet Pan Ams as a 15-year-old and is back for both another cadet title as well as junior gold in the 70kg event. Gonzalez won gold in Fuengirola to earn the Cadet World No. 1 ranking and claimed double gold in juniors and cadets at Youth Nationals.

A gold medalist in the 55kg event at both the 2020 and 2021 Cadet Pan Ams, 16-year-old Christopher Velazco (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) moved up to 60kg this season, winning gold in both the junior and cadet events at Youth Nationals and will be a contender for both titles in Lima.

Harlee Hiller (Evanston, Ill. / Cohen Brothers Judo Club / 48kg) competed at her first Junior Pan Ams as a 14-year-old in 2021 and will be one to watch in both the cadet and junior events this year. The gold medalist in both events at Youth Nationals also won the junior and cadet events at the Presidents Cup in November and swept the senior, junior and cadet events at the U.S. Open last summer.

Fifteen-year-old Emily Jaspe (Hialeah, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) made her international debut at the Fuengirola Cadet European Cup in February, taking silver in the 63kg division. A gold medal win as a cadet and bronze medal finish as a junior at Youth Nationals allowed Jaspe to punch her ticket to both events in Lima.

Fourteen-year-old Daniela Diaz-Negrete (Lehigh Acres, Fla. / Chief Pride Judo Club) will be the youngest member of both the junior and cadet squad. The heavyweight followed a silver medal finish in the +70kg cadet event at Youth Nationals with a gold in the +78kg junior competition and berths in both events in Lima. 

Jacob Yang (Los Angeles, Calif. / LA Judo Club) also will be fighting in double events in his Pan Am debut. The 17-year-old won Youth Nationals in the cadet category to qualify for Team USA and added a slot in the junior event with his junior bronze in Lansing.

Team USA’s cadet roster includes six returning Cadet Pan Am medalists, including Cancela, Gonzalez and Velazco as well as Javier Delgado (Miami, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center), a silver medalist at 50kg who has moved up to 55kg; Aiden Cohen (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Cohen Brothers Judo), 81kg bronze medalist; and Nikolas Vithoulkas (Whitestone, N.Y. / International Judo Center), 90kg silver medalist.

The complete delegation roster is as follows:

Junior Team
Men’s 60kg
Christopher Velazco (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, two-time Cadet Pan American Champion and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion
Joshua Yang (Los Angeles, Calif. / LA Judo Club), 2020 Cadet Pan American Champion and 2022 USA Judo Youth Nationals silver medalist

Men’s 66kg
Jacob Yang (Los Angeles, Calif. / LA Judo Club)
, 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Men’s 73kg
Dominic Rodriguez (Lehigh Acres, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, three-time Cadet Pan Am Champion and 2022 Senior Pan Am Team member

Men’s 81kg
Nick Yonezuka (West Long Beach, N.J. / NYAC / Cranford Judo)
, 2020 Junior Pan Am silver medalist and 2022 Senior Pan Am Team member
Mikhail Ershov (Philadelphia, Pa. / Yawara Force), 2022 USA Judo Youth Nationals silver medalist

Men’s 90kg
Alexander Knauf (Yorkville, Ill. / NYAC / Cohen Brothers Judo Club)
, 2021 Junior Pan Am Champion and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Men’s 100kg
Victor Bird (Walthill, Iowa / Sioux City Judo Club)
, 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Men’s +100kg
Christian Konoval (Rockport, Texas / NYAC)
, 2022 Senior Pan Am Team member and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Women’s 48kg
Harlee Hiller (Evanston, Ill. / Cohen Brothers Judo Club)
, 2021 Junior Pan Am Team member and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Women’s 52kg
Nicole Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2021 Junior Pan Am Champion and 2022 Youth National Champion

Women’s 57kg
Tasha Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2020 Junior Pan Am silver medalist and 2022 Youth National Champion

Women’s 63kg
Danielle Pekler (Prairie View, Ill. / Cohen Brothers Judo Club)
, 2022 Youth Nationals silver medalist
Emily Jaspe (Hialeah, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center), 2022 Youth National Champion

Women’s 70kg
Shavon Gonzalez (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2021 Cadet Pan American Champion and 2022 Youth National Champion
Isabella Garriga (Richmond, Texas / Texas A&M University Judo), 2021 Junior Pan Am Team member and 2022 Youth Nationals bronze medalist

Women’s 78kg
Crystal Acton (San Antonio, Texas / Universal Judo)
, 2022 Youth National Champion

Women’s +78kg
Daniela Diaz-Negrete (Lehigh Acres, Fla. / Chief Pride Judo Club)
, 2022 Youth National Champion

Cadet Team
Men’s 50kg
David Alexander Leiva (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2022 Youth National Champion

Men’s 55kg
Javier Delgado (Miami, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2021 Cadet Pan Am silver medalist and 2022 Youth National Champion

Men’s 60kg
Christopher Velazco (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, two-time Cadet Pan American Champion and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Men’s 66kg
Jacob Yang (Los Angeles, Calif. / LA Judo Club)
, 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Men’s 81kg
Aiden Cohen (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Cohen Brothers Judo)
, 2021 Cadet Pan Am bronze medalist and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Men’s 90kg
Nikolas Vithoulkas (Whitestone, N.Y. / International Judo Center)
, 2021 Cadet Pan Am silver medalist and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Men’s +90kg
Anthony Shaw (Providence, Utah / Cache Valley Judo Club)
, 2022 USA Judo Youth Nationals silver medalist

Women’s 44kg
Joanne Dinh (Kansas City, Mo. / Welcome Mat Judo)
, 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Women’s 48kg
Harlee Hiller (Evanston, Ill. / Cohen Brothers Judo Club)
, 2021 Junior Pan Am Team member and 2022 USA Judo Youth National Champion

Women’s 52kg
Nicole Cancela (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2021 Junior Pan Am Champion and 2022 Youth National Champion

Women’s 57kg
Suneha Kumar (Lake Stevens, Wash. / Ippon Judo)
, 2022 USA Judo Youth Nationals bronze medalist

Women’s 63kg
Emily Jaspe (Hialeah, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2022 Youth National Champion

Women’s 70kg
Shavon Gonzalez (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
, 2021 Cadet Pan American Champion and 2022 Youth National Champion

Women’s +70kg
Daniela Diaz-Negrete (Lehigh Acres, Fla. / Chief Pride Judo Club)
, 2022 Youth National Champion

Coaches:
German Velazco (Coral Springs, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
Colton Brown (Bridgewater, N.J. / Colton Brown Training Center)
RJ Cohen (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Cohen Brothers Judo)

Coach / Manager:
Lucy Gonzalez (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)