Juniors of the Month – Assuan Castañeda, Timmy Hansen, and Graci Wargo!
by Gary Wargo
At the 2022 48th USAR National Junior Championships, held June 23-26 in Des Moines, Iowa, junior racquetball athletes competed to qualify for Junior Team USA. The team goes on to compete at the 2022 International Racquetball Federation (IRF) 33rd World Junior Championships, which is being held December 2-10 at the Domo Complejo de Racquetball, a new 10 glass-back court facility in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Team Florida has three Junior Team USA qualifiers that have been supported by the Florida Racquetball Association, Inc. They are Assuan Castañeda, Timmy Hansen, and Graci Wargo.
Photo Credit: Dylan Shoemaker/Enrique Villaseñor
The first Florida qualifier is Assuan Castañeda of Hialeah, Florida. Assuan, 20, is an awesome young man who experienced his first USAR National Junior Championships this year. He was able to compete for the first time at this Junior Team USA qualifying event since he earned his U.S. citizenship only 14 months prior in April 2021. Assuan began playing racquetball in Cuba at age 5. His racquetball journey got derailed when, a week after he got his U.S. citizenship, he was on his motorcycle and was involved in a hit-and-run accident, fracturing his leg in multiple places. Assuan was fortunate to have survived.
Now, many months later after surgery and much rehab, Assuan has endured this adversity and is excited to have qualified to represent his new home country on Junior Team USA. He will be competing at the IRF World Junior Championships later this year in Guatemala. At this year’s Junior Nationals, Assuan earned a Gold, a Silver, and a Bronze medal in Boy’s 21 & Under Doubles, Mixed, and Singles. Assuan played Boy’s 21 & Under Doubles with Micah Farmer (Texas) and Mixed 21 & Under Doubles with Graci Wargo (Florida). Other than playing some racquetball in his youth in Cuba, this was Assuan’s first tournament competition outside of Florida. Assuan was coached onsite by Felix Hernandez.
Next up in the box, Timmy Hansen of Wellington, Florida. Timmy, 19, is the youngest of the three Florida members of Junior Team USA and was competing this year at his 7th National Junior Championships. He earned a Gold and two Silver medals in Age 18 & Under Mixed, Singles, and Doubles. Timmy played Boy’s 18 & Under Doubles with Andrew Gleason (Iowa) and Junior Mixed 18 & Under Doubles with Heather Mahoney (California). This will be Timmy’s 6th international IRF racquetball competition, having competed in Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico (twice), and Costa Rica.
Timmy already has a Gold medal in Boy’s 14 & Under Doubles from the IRF World Junior Championship back in 2018. This December at the IRF World Junior Championships in Guatemala, Timmy will be competing for Junior Team USA in Boy’s 18 & Under Singles and Doubles (with DJ Mendoza - Texas) as well as Mixed 18 & Under Doubles (with Heather Mahoney - California). Although he is provided great advice, support, and onsite behind-the-glass coaching from his USA Racquetball Hall of Fame father Tim Hansen, Timmy continues to write his own story and drives his own racquetball championship journey. Tim will be courtside there in Guatemala coaching Timmy on in his pursuit of a World championship.
Florida’s oldest Junior Team USA competitor at age 21 is Graci Wargo. In June, Graci, of Palm Harbor, Florida, competed at her 13th National Junior Championships. After the pandemic canceled the 2020 National Juniors and World Juniors, Graci aged out of juniors on January 1, 2021, as the #1 ranked junior female racquetball player in the USA. Then, 13 months later in February 2022, the IRF added 21 & Under divisions, so she was back! At the 2022 Junior Nationals, a full 18 months after Graci initially aged out of juniors, she earned a Gold, a Silver, and a Bronze in the Girl’s 21 & Under Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and Singles. Graci’s doubles partners were Shane Diaz (Texas) in Girl’s Doubles and Assuan Castañeda (Florida) in Mixed Doubles.
Just prior to Junior Nationals, Graci battled through various injuries, multiple MRI’s, and crutches, but she still met her goal of qualifying for Junior Team USA once again for a near-record 11th year and will compete for the USA at the IRF World Junior Championships in Guatemala. This will be Graci’s 11th World Juniors and her 7th international competition, having competed in the Dominican Republic (twice), Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and Costa Rica, as she looks to add to her six World medals (2 Gold, 4 Bronze). Graci is supported onsite by Coach Felix Hernandez and also by Coach George Bustos.
Assuan Castañeda, Coach Felix Hernandez, Graci Wargo
2022 USAR Nationals Junior Championships Results
- Gold – Boy’s 21 & Under Doubles (Micah Farmer - Texas)
- Silver – Junior Mixed 21 & Under Doubles (Graci Wargo - Florida)
- Bronze – Boy’s 21 & Under Singles
- Junior Team USA Qualifier
- Gold – Mixed 18 & Under Doubles (Heather Mahoney - California)
- Silver – Boy’s 18- Singles
- Silver – Boy’s 18 & Under Doubles (Andrew Gleason - Iowa)
- Junior Team USA Qualifier
- Gold – Girl’s 21 & Under Doubles (Shane Diaz - Texas)
- Silver – Mixed 21 & Under Doubles (Assuan Castañeda - Florida)
- Bronze – Girl’s 21 & Under Singles
- Junior Team USA Qualifier
The Florida Racquetball Association sends congratulations to the Junior Team USA Floridians with their performance at the 2022 Junior Nationals and wishes them all the best at the upcoming 2022 IRF Junior World Championships in Guatemala!
Graci Wargo, Timmy Hansen, and Assuan Castañeda
Photos Courtesy of Gary Wargo except where noted.