Seawolf Spotlight: USJO Champion Juan Torres Lara '24
With just over 950 competitors, the U.S. Junior Open, USJO, is the largest individual squash tournament in the world. In the days leading up to winter break, Tabor Academy’s squash teams travelled to Philadelphia for the esteemed athletic contest. On Tuesday, December 20, 2022, Seawolf Juan Torres Lara ’24 became the USJO U19 Champion after a climactic final.
“Squash is one of the most physically and aerobically demanding sports, on par with full-court basketball or competitive swimming,” says Guillermo Moronta ’02, Director of Squash and Associate Director of Admissions at Tabor Academy.
In the USJO, there are five age divisions for girls and five for boys— U11, U13, U15, U17, and U19. Each country nominates its top eight players for each age division. The largest draw size is 128 players.
“Players are seeded based on their Universal Squash Rating, which is an algorithm that considers wins and losses and is a measure of skill level relative to other players,” explains Moronta. “The rating is from zero to seven. Torres is a 6.6 and was seeded third in the USJO.”
Torres is among the top eight junior players in the world. This past summer, in August 2022, he lost to top-seeded Rowan Damming in the quarter finals of the World Junior Squash Championships in Nancy, France. Torres had the opportunity to rematch Damming in the USJO finals; this time he prevailed after an exciting head-to-head match.
“I have been playing and coaching squash for almost 28 years and it was some of the best squash I have ever witnessed,” says Moronta, “The fourth and fifth games were very emotional. I don't think I have pumped my fists and yelled so hard at any competition. I was so incredibly happy for him.”
Torres won the first, second, and fifth games of the U19 final match. In each game, Torres was at a significant point deficit. According to Coach Moronta, Damming was able to capitalize on the mistakes Torres made in the fourth game, like not moving well or hitting with precision, and was able to win that round 11-2. Both Damming and Torres had two championship points under their belt by the fifth and final game of the match. To win, Torres had to win four consecutive points.
“The fourth game gave Damming some confidence, but Torres was able to settle in the fifth game and hit the ball consistently well. One squash tactic is to keep the opponent in the back corners to force and error, but Torres is very precise and can stretch his opponent to the front corners,” continues Moronta, “His ability to recover from pressure is one of the best in the game.”
Torres is seeded third in the British Junior Open taking place in Birmingham, England, on January 4-8, 2023. You can read more about the USJO online or watch Torres play Damming in the final match starting from the 6:16 timestamp.
There were four other Tabor students that competed in the USJO who are also deserving of recognition. Congratulations to the following Seawolves for their efforts and triumphs:
- Ana Margarita Quijano ’24, GU19, 35th out of 112
- Kendry Navas Perez ’25, GU19, 49th out of 112
- Thomas Valderrama ’24, BU19, 95th out of 128
- Belal Kadry ’23, BU19, 37th out of 128
Photos below courtesy of US Squash.