Team USA Show Promise in Cuba

July 05, 2019, 8:32 p.m. (ET)

On the heels of winning the 2019 IWF Junior World Championship in Suva, Fiji as a team, Team USA competed just two weeks later in Havana, Cuba at the 2019 Junior Pan American Championship. Given the proximity, a number of athletes who competed at the 2019 IWF Junior World Championship did not board the plane for Cuba. This allowed some young athletes, and their personal coaches, to receive a first taste of international competition in Havana.


Results were headlined by 4-time Junior World Champion, CJ Cummings (Team Divergent), competing in the 73kg category. The Beaufort, South Carolina phenom lifted 154 (144/148/154) in the Snatch, followed by 193 (180/185/193) in the Clean and Jerk for a total of 347. All of these lifts set new Junior World Records, Pan American Senior and Junior and American Senior and Junior records for the second time in the month of June. As a result of his record breaking performances, CJ earned a nomination for Team USA athlete of the month for June, which you can vote for him at voting ends XXXX! CJ will skip the Pan American Games choosing to focus his preparation on the 2019 IWF World Championships in the fall.


Also coming off a Junior World Championship and participating in Cuba was Katherine Nye (Team Hercules), competing in the 71kg category. The 20 year old from Oakland Township, Mich. is in her last year of Junior Competition. While Nye unfortunately did not register a Snatch, she did register a 123kg Clean and Jerk to go away with the Gold medal. Like Cummings, Nye also ticked off a Gold qualification event on her Olympic Games qualification series. Competing in the same session, Romy Gold (Red Zone Weightlifting) of  followed up with a strong showing and a 189kg total (83/106/189).


Cummings was not the only athlete to break international records. 17 year old Ryan Grimsland (Mash Mafia Weightlifting) competed in the 67kg category, the Lewisville, N. Carolina athlete went 120/153/273 to register new Youth Pan American Records, adding the Clean and Jerk and Total to the Snatch record he already made in the 2019 IWF Youth World Championships (also won by the USA), in Las Vegas earlier in the year. His 153kg was good enough for Silver on the day, and his 273kg good enough for Bronze on the day. Grimsland has 3 years of Junior eligibility left. 18 year old Logan Griffith (Krypton Barbell) of Virginia Beach, Va., made his international debut with a total of 257kg in the same category


Junior World Championship team member Dennis Tan (Performance One) of Queen Creek, Arizona also experienced success, becoming Pan American Junior Champion in the 102kg category taking a commanding 14kg lead over his nearest rival from Mexico, with a big advantage in the Clean and Jerk, taking gold in both lifts and the total, meanwhile in the same session 16 year old Morgan McCullough (Mash Mafia Weightlifting) in the lower 96kg category threw up 130/180/310 to take home the Bronze, with some 4 years of Junior eligibility left for the exceptionally promising teenager who continues to chase down the 96kg Youth World Record for the Clean & Jerk.

Also returning from the Junior Worlds, Kaela Stephano (Team Divergent) who resides in South Florida competed with a 76/94/170 performance to set herself up to set her sights on her final Junior Worlds in 2020. Meanwhile, Emma Nye (Vero Beach Weightlifting), who competed in the 2019 Youth World Championship opened her junior career with 70/90/160.


In a steam of medals at the heavier categories, Minnesota’s Nadeen Pierre (Union Weightlifting) joined the “medal rush”, working to a Bronze medal in the Clean & Jerk in the 76kg category behind two promising athletes from Cuba and Colombia, finishing with a 203kg total for 4thplace overall.


Meanwhile in the +87kg category, another Junior World roster member, Sha’la McMillan (Full Circle Performance) made the short trip over the water from South Florida to take Silver in the Clean & Jerk with 126kg, while receiving Bronze overall in a 94/126/220 performance. Mackenzie Miller (Out of Step Barbell) who has another year at the Junior level made her debut in the same group, going 90/116/206 in her international debut. Shay Carlock (Heart and Barbell) was due to compete in the 87kg category but unfortunately had to withdraw due to injury.


Elsewhere, Tyler Schade (Garage Strength) went 126/161/287 in the 89kg category in his second international competition following his debut in the Tamas Ajan Cup competition last December, while Alexandra Thornton (Spoon Barbell) competed in the 64kg category with a 78/102/180 result, to close out two Junior international competitions with 2 years of eligibility still left. In the 81kg category, Bret Pfieffer (Northern Michigan University) returned to Cuba where he also competed as a youth athlete in 2015, going 131/156/287 in his first competition internationally since moving to the Northern Michigan University Olympic Training Site team, picking up a Bronze medal in the Snatch.


Fellow Northern Michigan University athlete Lukas Zielke (Southwest Michigan Barbell) made his international debut with 96/130/226 in the 61kg category, while Brandon Bauer of Victoria, Tx., also made his debut in the category with 102/126/228.


In the 49kg, World University medalist Veronica Restrepo (Unattached), overcame significant travel issues to go 60/80/144 in the 49kg category, while young Dylan Chubbuck (Performance One) made his junior debut with an 88/115/203 performance in the 55kg category.


Up against full strength teams from other Pan American nations, Team USA scored a respectable 3rdplace in each gender in the team Competition.