For Immediate Release – Cape Town, South Africa (11/4/11)
November 4, 2011 is a day that will always be remembered at the Menomonee Judo Club. On a day that rivaled Max Schneider’s gold medal performance at the Youth Olympic Games (Singapore) on August 21, 2010, two Menomonee Judo Club members competed at the Junior World Judo Championships in Cape Town, South Africa. Max Schneider and Andrew Varga were vying to earn the first medal by a U.S male since Marcus Dawson won a bronze back in 1992. The Junior World Championships is unquestionably the most prestigious and difficult junior Judo tournament in the world. Max and Andrew represented the United States in the – 73kg division. They were the only teammates from the United States and quite possibly the world who qualified to compete in the same division. The journey to reach this pinnacle was full of twists and turns. It started way back in the late 1990’s as Max and Andrew began training together as five year olds at Menomonee. From the very beginning they have been lead by Sensei Brett Wolf. Over the last 14 years the three have built a bond that has taken them around the world and back. Making the experience even more memorable was having Sensei Wolf on the Team USA staff as assistant coach to Greg Chow (Hawaii Tenri, Hawaii). ” This is something that we’ve talked about for a long time. To be able to share the moment with friends and teammates makes it all the more special. ” explained Max Schneider.
Cape Town 2011 -73kg SCHNEIDER (USA)-STEWART (GBR)
Along with the 66kg male division, the 73kg division was the most difficult of the tournament. There were a total of 44 competitors in the division. Many of them, established world class Judoka. At an event like the Junior World Championships, the draw plays a huge determining factor in the final results. It is single elimination until you reach the quarterfinals. The draw for all divisions took place on Wednesday November 2nd. Although both Max and Andrew received first round byes, the draw did them no favors. Schneider drew reigning European Junior Championship silver medalist Max Stewart from Great Britain. Andrew waited to face the winner of the first round match between local hero James Wepner (South Africa) and the dangerous Ken Kennes of Belgium.
The day started with Kennes (Belgium) quieting the locals by scoring a decisive Ippon (full point, instant victory) victory over Wepner (South Africa). Although competing in his first Junior World Championship, Andrew’s competitive resume is extensive. he recently competed in his third Junior Pan Am Championships and is a four time Junior National Champion. He would need to every ounce of experience and toughness in his match against Kennes, currently ranked the #14 Junior in Europe at 73kg. For the better part of two minutes Varga was able to play heads up with the older, more experienced player from Belgium. He gripped well and got off a couple of solid attacks. Eventually Kennes secured a solid grip and scored a yuko (1/4 point). The match continued on the mat where Kennes pinned Andrew. Try as he might, Andrew was unable to get out of the pin before time expired. Kennes had an Ippon victory and a ticket to the third round. His day would end in his next match where he lost to eventual silver medalist Kalkamanuly from Kazakhstan.
“I’m pleased with the way I fought. I would have liked to win a couple of matches and go a few rounds, but all in all it was a great experience.” said a disappointed, but satisfied Varga. “I’ll be a much better player because of the experience and I’m more motivated than ever to get back to this level and make some noise,” Andrew proclaimed after he was finished.
As soon as the draw came out, people began talking about the Schneider vs Stewart match. It was clearly one of the marquee early round matches of the tournament. It not only pitted two of the more decorated players at the event (Schneider: Youth Olympic Gold Medalist, Junior Pan American Gold Medalist and 5th place at the Cadet World Championships. Stewart: European Junior Championships Silver Medalist, Three Time European Cup Winner), but also a distinct contrast in styles. Stewart uses his height and reach to keep his opponents outside, while Schneider cuts distance and uses a variety of acrobatic techniques to throw unsuspecting opponents. The winner of this match would clearly be in the hunt for a medal. The loser would have his day cut short and be left thinking “what if “.
From the beginning it was a tactical match fought at a deliberate pace, which favored Stewart. Forget for a minute the fact that Stewart is an extremely talented player. It was an extremely difficult style match up for Schneider. The first three minutes of the match went scoreless without either player threatening to execute a throw. With a minute left, Stewart tried his bread and butter technique, an uchimata. Schneider tried to turn out, but landed on his shoulders / side. It was a Waza Ari (1/2 pt) score for Stewart. Schneider pushed the pace for the last minute, but it was no to avail. Time ran out for the match and temporarily put on hold Max’s dream to add a Junior World title to his Youth Olympic Gold Medal. “I’m extremely disappointed that I was unable to win this match. I felt great and fully expected to be on the medal stand at the end of the day. That being said, all credit to Max Stewart. He fought a heck of a match and executed his game plan to a T,” said Schneider, who showed class in defeat. Stewart went on to win his next match against Dauletkhan from Kazakhstan before being defeated in the quarterfinals by eventual gold medalist Ono from Japan. In the repechage final, he ipponed the player from Georgia. This put Max Stewart in the bronze medal match against Jung from South Korea. He lost a tightly contested match to finish 5th. With this result, Stewart becomes the number one ranked junior player in Europe at 73kg.
Only 4 players (two bronze medals are given) left with medals out of the 44 players who participated in the 73kg division. Competing at this event and matching skills against the best young Judoka in the world is truly a victory and achievement unto itself. “I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. We didn’t get the results we anticipated, but both boys fought their hearts out. I’m honored to be able to coach these outstanding young men. We have every intention of coming back for another chance at glory in 2012,” proclaimed Sensei Wolf.
Junior World Judo Championships – Cape Town, South Africa
November 3 – 6, 2011 – men’s – 73kg
1. ONO, Shohei (JPN)
2. KALKAMANULY, Aziz (KAZ)
3. ZOLOEV, Vladimir (RUS)
3. JUNG, Hae Joo (KOR)
5. MUKI, Sagi (ISR)
5. STEWART, Max (GBR)
7. MOLLAEI, Saeid (IRI)
7. CHOKHELI, Mikheili (GEO)