EBJI Competitors Take Top Honors at the 2005 Senior Nationals
By Sayaka Matsumoto
The 2005 Senior National Championships and World Team Trials were held on April
22-23 at the Pavilion Convention Center in Virginia Beach, VA. Over 300 competitors
from all over the country competed to win the honors of Senior National Champion
and a spot on the 2005 U. S. National Team which will be traveling to Cairo,
Egypt in September to compete at the prestigious World Championships, which
are held once every two years. Representing the East Bay Judo Institute in El
Cerrito, CA, were Ann Shiraishi, Sayaka Matsumoto, Molly O’Rourke, Dale
Hata and Thomas Henry. Impressively, the group came away with a total of three
medals, two gold and one silver. Accompanying the team was coach, David Matsumoto,
head instructor of East Bay Judo Institute and Takenari Asanuma, part of the
official medical staff for the tournament.
21 year-old Molly O’Rourke, found herself in an advantageous position,
with Olympian, Nicole Kubes opting not to compete in the tournament. This moved
O’Rourke to the top-seeded position, giving her the opportunity to take
the spot on the World Team without opposition if she won the national competition.
O’Rourke did not fail to display her dominance, winning all her preliminary
matches by ippon (Equivalent to a K.O. in boxing.) En route to the final, O’Rourke
easily defeated, Marina Shafir (NY), Rhonda Morrell-Pruitt (OH) and Alison Walters-Stevens
(PA) in a round-robin competition. In the final, O’Rourke faced Nina Cutro-Kelly
(NY) O’Rourke seemed to be in control of the match, but was surprised
halfway into the match, getting thown with a high Uchimata, which was luckily
ruled out-of-bounds. O’Rourke then made a strong comeback, throwing Cutro-Kelly
with Haraigoshi for ippon in the last minute of the match. This gave O’Rourke
her first Senior National title and also a spot on her first World Team, which
will give her the opportunity to face the top competitors in the world.
UC Berkeley Alumni, 26 year-old Thomas Henry represented EBJI in the men’s
under 81 kilogram category. Henry, who traveled to Korea in September to train
for a year, made a special trip back to the states to compete in the Senior
Nationals. In his first round, Henry faced Akin Kurtulan (TX) whom he pinned
for ippon. He then advanced to face Christian Haire (SC) in the second round.
Haire gained a minor point early in the match, putting him into the lead, but
Henry came back aggressively. With about a minute remaining, Henry attacked
an ouchigari, which Haire attempted to counter, and Haire was controversially
awarded the score which gave him the match. Haire then lost the next round,
eliminating Henry from his second Senior National competition.
Number-one seed, 22 year-old Sayaka Matsumoto started her day by easily defeating
up-and-comer Jeanette Rodriguez (FL) by arm-barring her into submission. In
the semi-final she faced Michelle Sternick (PA) whom she threw with osotogari
to advance into her seventh Senior National final. In the final she faced fellow
teammate, 19 year-old Ann Shiraishi. A newcomer to the EBJI squad, Shiraishi
displayed marked improvement in her path to the finals. Shiraishi had impressively
defeated Cassandra Bezoski (OH) in the first round by two wazaris then proceeded
to beat Diana Capocasa (TX) in the semi-finals, putting her into her first Senior
national final, and ensuring her first national medal in senior competition.
Matsumoto was able to get past Shiraishi in the final, throwing her with ouchigari
at around the three minute mark. Shiraishi’s second place finish put her
into the number-three ranking in the nation while Matsumoto asserted her dominance
as a top-level competitor with her sixth consecutive Senior National Title and
a spot on her third World Team.
16 year-old, El Cerrito High sophomore, Dale Hata defeated Luis Puentes (FL)
in the first round with a nice kouchigari, then advanced to face Matthew Dias
(CA) from San Jose State University. Hata had defeated Dias in their previous
meeting at the San Jose Buddhist Memorial in February. Here, Hata looked to
be in control, making strong attacks, but was caught with haraigoshi for ippon
at around the halfway mark. Dias lost his next round, eliminating Hata from
his first Senior National competition, but giving him valuable experience for
the upcoming junior nationals in July.
The East Bay Judo Institute competitors all represented their dojo well, regardless
of their result. They attribute their success and the opportunity to compete
to their parents, dojo members and especially acknowledge their coach, David
Matsumoto for his selfless contribution of time and expertise that is vital
to their progression as elite level athletes.
O’Rourke and Matsumoto now turn to the Pan American Judo Championships
to be held in Puerto Rico, May 19-20.