HERAKLION, Greece – The United States weightlifting team reclaimed its women’s title and the American men returned to their team podium when the 2022 IWF Junior World Championships wrapped earlier this week after nine days of competition on the Greek island of Crete.
Team USA finished with 13 medals (four golds, four silvers, five bronzes), finishing fifth on the medal table behind Turkey (19), Mexico (15), Armenia (14) and Ukraine (13).
The U.S. medal haul matches the amount the 2019 team earned, which is the second highest for the country in junior worlds history (18 U.S. medals were collected in 2018). The seven athletes who earned medals also matches the amount from both 2018 and 2019, Team USA’s greatest number of medalists by a long shot in the event’s 47 years.
Five of the U.S. medals were earned for athletes’ totals, the only category awarded at the Olympic and Pan American Games. That number stands alone as second to the six medals from 2018 for totals. The prolific 2018 team included half the athletes who went on to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team (CJ Cummings, Jourdan Delacruz, Harrison Maurus, Kate Nye) and 2021 world champion Meredith Alwine.
The stacked U.S. team in Heraklion left with 24 personal records, plus a junior world record, senior American record, junior Pan American record and two junior American records.
Hampton Morris (61kg; Marietta, Ga.) is the face behind that junior world record, setting the first of four seen at the meet when he made a successful clean & jerk of 160kg for his third attempt to win gold in both the clean & jerk and total; the previous record of 159kg stood since October 2019. His mark also bested his own senior American record, junior Pan American record and junior American record of 156kg. The 18-year-old also holds the 61kg youth clean & jerk and total world records, set when he won the 2021 youth world title, and is the only U.S. man to hold a current junior world record.
Seventeen-year-old Katie Estep (59kg; Auburn, Wash.) is responsible for the other junior American record. Her 200kg total earned her the silver medal and reset the junior American record that Alpha Barbell teammate and fellow junior world team member Meaghan Strey (59kg; Auburn, Wash.) had set two months (to the day) earlier at the North American Open Series 1 in Columbus, Ohio. Estep also matched Strey’s 91kg junior American record when she won snatch gold.
Estep and Morris both won their first junior worlds medals seven months after winning golds at youth worlds.
Amanda Robles (87kg; Oakley, Calif.) lifted the standing junior Pan American record of 100kg when she took bronze in the snatch.
At the world’s premier competition for weightlifters aged 15 through 20, Team USA had topped the women’s team classification in 2018 and 2019 before placing third in 2021. The U.S. women returned to the top this year – for just the fourth time this century – with a whopping 632 points, which is 117 more points than second-place Turkey and 247 ahead of third-place India.
All 10 of the U.S. women finished with totals in the top 10, as did six of the men.
The U.S. men rose to a podium position of third after coming in seventh last year in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. After a second-place finish in 2019, this marks the second podium for the U.S. men’s team in at least the last decade. Turkey was top on the men’s table with 604 points with Armenia second (464) and the U.S. a close third (443).
The U.S. medalists, in chronological order, include:
- Leila Cook (55kg; Chicago, Ill.) – clean & jerk silver
- Morris (61kg) – clean & jerk gold, total gold
- Estep (59kg) – snatch gold, total silver
- Ryan Grimsland (73kg; Lewisville, N.C.) – snatch bronze, clean & jerk bronze, total bronze
- Olivia Reeves (71kg; Chattanooga, Tenn.) – snatch gold, clean & jerk silver, total silver
- Robles (87kg) – snatch bronze
- Avery Owens (87kg; Alexandria, Va.) – total bronze
Initially an alternate for the team, Cook had six weeks to prepare and then medaled at her first world championships at any level. Grimsland did so at his junior worlds debut after taking 67kg clean & jerk bronze at the 2019 youth worlds.
Both Owens and Reeves were on the 2021 junior worlds podium as well.
Robles, meanwhile, had competed at both youth and junior worlds last year but did not medal; she was one kilogram short of the youth +81kg clean & jerk podium.
Nearly every U.S. medalist has collegiate ties. Cook (Arizona State University), Grimsland (Lenoir Rhyne University), Owens (Northern Virginia Community College/transferring to Northern Michigan University) and Reeves (University of Alabama at Birmingham/transferring to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) are all current student-athletes. Estep (University of Washington) and Robles (University of California, Berkeley) will begin their college careers in the fall.
Momentum was on Team USA’s side as it produced a four-day medal streak, winning 11 medals in its first four days of competition (May 3-6 as the U.S. team did not have any athletes competing the first day of the event), before returning to the podium for its final day of competition (May 9 as the U.S. did not have any athletes competing the last day of the event).
That final day saw two Americans medal in the same bodyweight category at junior worlds for the first time in 25 years when Robles took bronze in the snatch and Owens bronze in the total for the women’s 87kg.
The finish by Owens, 20, was almost prophetic. It comes 25 years after her coach, Cara Heads Slaughter, secured junior worlds bronze herself – also at age 20. Heads went on to make the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, the first time women’s weightlifting was contested at the Games.
Although no one on the U.S. team was perfect on the competition platform, these six athletes were close to it by going five for six on their lifts: Caden Cahoy (73kg; Jacksonville, Fla.), Cook, Grimsland, Reagan Henry (71kg; Warrensburg, Mo.), Mario Marquez (67kg; Mission, Texas), Preston Powell (81kg; Chattanooga, Tenn.).
Eleven Americans set personal bests in the competition, highlighted by Cook, Cahoy and Henry, who achieved PRs across the board in the snatch, clean & jerk and total. Morris had one PR – his junior world record – while the following athletes each set two: Estep, Grimsland, Morgan McCullough (102kg; Hickory, N.C.), Owens, Powell, Abby Raymond (64kg; Roselle, Ill.), Reeves.
All but one of the 20 U.S. team members competed. On the day he was slated to take the platform, medal contender Ryland Shriver (109kg; Sacramento, Calif.) tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw. Along with the rest of the U.S. delegation, Shriver tested in order to re-enter the country the following day.
While several team members – Alyssa Ballard (76kg; Amarillo, Texas), Cahoy, Timothy Davis (96kg; Owensboro, Ky.), Estep, Morris, Robles – can continue to compete at the junior level through 2024, Heraklion marked the final junior worlds for nearly half this decorated squad. Cook, Grimsland, Henry, Anna McElderry (81kg; Oley, Pa.), Owens, Shriver, Dade Stanley (89kg; Beaufort, S.C.), Strey and Lander Wells (89kg; Elko New Market, Minn.) all age out at the end of this year.
The 2022 Junior Pan American Championships, scheduled for Oct. 19-23 in Lima, Peru, is the next international competition for many of these athletes. The final qualification event that counts toward rankings for that team is USA Weightlifting Nationals Week, which begins June 25 in Las Vegas.
Team USA Results
Hampton Morris (61kg; Marietta, Ga.) – Snatch: 116kg (6th), Clean & Jerk: 160kg (gold), Total: 276kg (gold)
Mario Marquez (67kg; Mission, Texas) – Snatch: 121kg (7th), Clean & Jerk: 150kg (8th), Total: 271kg (7th)
Ryan Grimsland (73kg; Lewisville, N.C.) – Snatch: 145kg (bronze), Clean & Jerk: 182kg (bronze), Total: 327kg (bronze)
Caden Cahoy (73kg; Jacksonville, Fla.) – Snatch: 122kg (14th), Clean & Jerk: 165kg (8th), Total: 287kg (11th)
Preston Powell (81kg; Chattanooga, Tenn.) – Snatch: 140kg (7th), Clean & Jerk: 166kg (11th), Total: 306kg (10th)
Dade Stanley (89kg; Beaufort, S.C.) – Snatch: 135kg (14th), Clean & Jerk: 159kg (17th), Total: 294kg (14th)
Lander Wells (89kg; Elko New Market, Minn.) – Snatch: 130kg (20th), Clean & Jerk: DNP
Timothy Davis (96kg; Owensboro, Ky.) – Snatch: 147kg (7th), Clean & Jerk: 180kg (10th), Total: 327kg (8th)
Morgan McCullough (102kg; Hickory, N.C.) – Snatch: 146kg (8th), Clean & Jerk: 184kg (7th), Total: 330kg (8th)
Ryland Shriver (109kg; Sacramento, Calif.) – forced to withdraw due to positive COVID-19 test
Leila Cook (55kg; Chicago, Ill.) – Snatch: 78kg (11th), Clean & Jerk: 106kg (silver), Total: 184kg (4th)
Katie Estep (59kg; Auburn, Wash.) – Snatch: 91kg (gold), Clean & Jerk: 109kg (7th), Total: 200kg (silver)
Meaghan Strey (59kg; Auburn, Wash.) – Snatch: 89kg (5th), Clean & Jerk: 109kg (6th), Total: 198kg (4th)
Abby Raymond (64kg; Roselle, Ill.) – Snatch: 88kg (6th), Clean & Jerk: 108kg (5th), Total: 196kg (6th)
Olivia Reeves (71kg; Chattanooga, Tenn.) – Snatch: 107kg (gold), Clean & Jerk: 129kg (silver), Total: 236kg (silver)
Reagan Henry (71kg; Warrensburg, Mo.) – Snatch: 88kg (10th), Clean & Jerk: 117kg (8th), Total: 205kg (9th)
Alyssa Ballard (76kg; Amarillo, Texas) – Snatch: 84kg (10th), Clean & Jerk: 112kg (6th), Total: 196kg (8th)
Anna McElderry (81kg; Oley, Pa.) – Snatch: 98kg (4th), Clean & Jerk: 118kg (6th), Total: 216kg (4th)
Avery Owens (87kg; Alexandria, Va.) – Snatch: 99kg (4th), Clean & Jerk: 123kg (4th), Total: 222kg (bronze)
Amanda Robles (87kg; Oakley, Calif.) – Snatch: 100kg (bronze), Clean & Jerk: 112kg (8th), Total: 212kg (7th)