For Immediate Release- Toledo, OH. ( 7/3/11 ):
By earning his fourth Jr. National Judo title, Andrew Varga (Menomonee Judo Club / Chicago, IL. ) proved the age old adage that it isn’t how you start, but how you finish. Competing at the USJA / USJF Jr. National Championships, Andrew got off to a less than auspicious start. In his first match he faced Cody Kagawa from Hawaii. Having never faced Kagawa before, Andrew intended to use the beginning of the match to get a feel for his opponent’s Judo. Unfortunately, he never got the chance. Very early in the match Varga was caught by a left side forward technique for a quarter point score. Historically left handed opponents can cause problems for most strong right handed players. Although Andrew temporarily leveled the match with a quarter point of his own, Kagawa eventually scored the decisive point with a second major left handed throw.
This loss put Varga in the loser’s bracket with the unenviable task of having to win 5 matches in a row to earn the gold medal. Andrew was undaunted, calling upon the memories of other previous tournament successes. “ Back in 2004 at the USJA Jr. Nationals I had 24 kids in my division. I lost a match early in the tournament and had to win 7 consecutive matches just to make the final. Although I ended getting second place, it’s moments like that which give me confidence in my ability to succeed no matter the situation.” said a victorious Varga.
Andrew faced another tough left handed opponent in his next match. A loss would not only end his day, but also erase the momentum that he had worked so hard all year to gain. In a very tough and tense five minute affair, Andrew moved forward with a much needed victory, “ Once I got that first win under my belt, I was extremely confident that I would see Kagawa again in the finals. “ said Varga. There was still work to be done, including a third consecutive match against a left handed opponent. This is extremely rare in Judo, especially here in the United States. The experience of the previous two matches was beneficial as Andrew took on a skilled player from California. He wasted no time moving forward as he scored a full point
( Ippon ) within the first 45 seconds of the match. “I saw an opening and went for it. I shot my hips across and was able to lift my opponent off the ground. Once I had him up, I knew it was over. “explained Andrew.
Andrew credits his training at the Wolf Judo Camp this summer for helping prepare him for the Jr. National Tour. The intense training schedule of 25 hours per week on the mat is vital for sharpening his techniques and pushing his conditioning to a new level. “I have great training partners and instructors that push me to my limits each and every day. Although Judo is an individual sport, no one can do it by themselves. I might be the one with the medal around my neck, but each and every player from camp deserves a part of this. “ stated a jubilant Varga.
Eventually Andrew found himself back in the finals against the tough Hawaiian, Kagawa. To secure the gold medal / national title, he would have to beat Kagawa twice because of the earlier loss. The rematch looked nothing like the match from two hours earlier. Thanks in large part to a tactical adjustment that he made in between matches, Andrew took control of the match from the onset. Although still dangerous, Kagawa was slowly being broken down by the physical and mental pressure that Varga was putting on him. Around a minute and a half into the match, Andrew took the match to the ground and secured a submission technique. After trying to fight off the inevitable, Kagawa eventually tapped twice signifying his submission. “I knew I had the choke in pretty deep. It was a race against the clock, because I didn’t want the referee to call a break and stand us back up. I saw my opportunity and made the most of it. “said Andrew of his equalizing victory.
The win was so decisive that Kagawa decided to forgo the final match and hand Andrew the title. It was sweet revenge for Varga. “Winning national titles never gets old. You put in so much work and make so many sacrifices for moments like this. I’m excited to use this event as a springboard for the rest of the summer tour “explained a philosophical Varga.
This was Andrew’s fourth national title overall, but his first victory at the USJF Jr. Nationals. He now has won titles at four of the five Jr. National Championships held domestically each year. It puts him in very elite company with a select group of the top players in the country. With a victory later this month at the Jr. US Open, Andrew could complete a career sweep. His previous best finish at the Jr. US Open was a silver medal is 2008.
“I’m going to enjoy this for the next 24 hours, but then it’s right back to work. I can’t forget what got me this title. With continued hard work and dedication, I’m looking forward to a very successful summer. “said Andrew Varga, a deserving champion on and off the mat.
Andrew Varga’s Jr. National Titles:
2006 USJA Jr. Nationals – Boca Raton, FL.
2008 USA Judo Scholastic National Championships – Chippewa Falls, WI.
2010 USA Judo Jr. Olympics – Atlanta, GA.
2011 USJA / USJF Jr. Nationals – Toledo, OH.