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Yukon judokas clean up at Alaska championships

Judo Alaska wants its Sato Cup back. Members of Judo Yukon took possession of the cup at the 57th annual Alaska State Judo Championships over the weekend in Anchorage.

Judo Alaska wants its Sato Cup back.

Members of Judo Yukon took possession of the cup at the 57th annual Alaska State Judo Championships over the weekend in Anchorage.

Never before has the Sato Cup, the trophy for the junior male team competition, left the state of Alaska.

“We’re really pumped about that. I know the Alaskans might be a little bit ticked,” said Judo Yukon president Richard Zebruck. “Hopefully next year we’ll have a bigger team with a female team, and then we can take their other cup.”

Judo Yukon took the trophy with a 3-2 win over Anchorage’s Mountain View Judo Club, winning three out of five junior male age divisions in fights between the Yukoners and Mountain View competitors.

Yukon clinched the cup with a win by Jaydon Leenders in the 13-14 age division. Teammate Ove Maxfield won the 11-12 division, beating Gavin Melon, who placed fourth at a U.S. national tournament last year.

Yukon’s Damon Tonner claimed victory in the 7-8 division by default. The Yukon team returned the favour in the 9-10 division since it didn’t have a fighter to enter.

Yukon’s Rowen Kingston took a loss in the 15-16 division against Darion Melon, a larger, more experienced competitor.

In addition to taking the Sato Cup, the Yukon team captured seven gold, a silver and a bronze and placed second overall in team standings behind the Mountain View club. That’s up from a total of five medals at last year’s state championship.

“I was very impressed by our athletes - I always like being impressed,” said Zebruck. “We did really good, the team fought really hard, everyone had tough fights. I’m really proud of them, they did a really good job.”

Daniel Tonner, a green belt with Whitehorse’s Shiroumakai Judo Club, was a standout, winning gold in two separate divisions.

Daniel won two fights for gold up a division in U15 under-88 pounds, twice defeating a judokas who travelled from Las Vegas for the event.

Daniel then picked up a second gold in U13 under-92 pounds, throwing his competitor for an ippon (an automatic win) in the final.

“Daniel has been training hard all year with numerous competitions. He’s been to more competitions than anyone out there - other than Cassi (Jensen), she’s been to quite a few as well,” said Zebruck. “He worked hard all year and you get out what you put in.”

Cassi Jensen kept a win streak going in Anchorage, taking home a gold for a fourth straight year. Jensen won three straight bouts for gold in the girls U13 under-114 pounds division.

Leenders went 2-0 in the U15 over-144 pounds division to take gold.

“Jaydon just dominated his division. He was just a beast,” said Zebruck. “I hope to see him out at more tournaments in the future.”

Maxfield went undefeated for gold in the U13 under-114 pounds for gold.

Damon Tonner overcame an opponent who defeated him last year to win gold in the U9 under-66 pounds division.

Kingston fought up a division to a silver in U18 under-145 pounds.

“He had a really stacked division, but he fought and did well in all his matches,” said Zebruck. “I’m proud of him for sticking in there.”

Zebruck won two fights on his way to gold in the senior men’s over-220-pounds division. He also pocketed a bronze in the masters open division.

“We were actually hoping to have more come with us to Anchorage,” said Zebruck. “Hopefully, by bringing home all those medals, the other kids see that and know how good of a time we had, how well we did, and next year we get a few more competitors come with us.”

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