Rayas fighting for the gold in 2024

  Tuesday, March 12, 2024
  Community, Student Life, Athletics

By Matthew Cavazos

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MAR. 12, 2024 – Alejandro Rayas has been training for his chance to return to the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) Collegiate Championships, and this spring, he will have that opportunity.

“This year I’ve gained more experience and I feel more confident,” McAllen native Rayas said. “If I keep getting medals, hopefully, I can go and make the team this time.”

Now a senior at UTRGV majoring in economics, the black belt competed last year in the NCTA National Collegiate Sparring and Poomsae Team Trials in Boulder, Colo.

UTRGV student taking part in Taekwondo competition
Alejandro Rayas (red) during his match with Ian Lopez (blue) in the semifinals of the NCTA National Collegiate Sparring and Poomsae Team Trials. (Courtesy Photo)

For the black belt competitors, the winner would advance to the Chengdu 2021 International University Sports Federation (FISU) World University Games in Chengdu, China as a member of USATKD. The games originally were scheduled for 2021 but were cancelled due to the pandemic and rescheduled for 2023.

Black belt athletes represent the highest level of skill in Taekwondo. A black belt is required to compete in the highest degree of international events including, the Olympics, Pan American Games, or world championships.

Prior to the team trials, Rayas received permission to compete under the university’s name, making him the sole competitor from UTRGV and one of only three black belt athletes to medal from Texas at the team trials.

In team trials, each fight between two opponents is determined by a point system in a best-of-three rounds format. In the semifinals, Rayas faced Ian Lopez from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Lopez, the hometown hero, had the crowd behind him when they started the match and took the advantage early, but Rayas fought back to even the score.

Following a comeback victory, Rayas would fall in the finals to earn silver in the team trials and was selected as the alternate for USATKD in the Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games.

Rayas will continue fighting under the UTRGV banner at the 2024 NCTA Collegiate Championships, which is hosted by the University of California Berkeley from April 12-14.

The winner will gain a spot on the USATKD team for the 2024 FISU America Games in Cali, Colombia. The FISU America Games will feature athletes from universities across North and South America.

As he trains for those games, Rayas uses the UREC gym and the Track & Soccer Field at the UTRGV Edinburg Campus.

UTRGV student taking part in Taekwondo competition
Alejandro Rayas (red) strikes Ian Lopez (blue) in the semifinals of the NCTA National Collegiate Sparring and Poomsae Team Trials. (Courtesy Photo)

“Physical activity has helped me put my mind on things besides school, and I think everyone should be physically active because if your body is better, then your mind is better, as well,” he said.

Rayas further sharpens his skills at Warriors Taekwondo in San Juan under the mentorship of Fabian Cortez.

“He really helped me,” Rayas said. “I started training when I was 5 years old. I have been competing at a high level for four years, training twice a day, going to opens and traveling the world.”


According to the FISU website, FISU is the key driver to expand the role and reach of university sport around the world. FISU organizes four major worldwide competitions consisting of 79 sports for college students. The four major competitions include the FISU Summer World University Games, FISU Winter World University Games, FISU World University Championships, and FISU University World Cups.

FISU America is the continental sports organization that represents North and South America for FISU. According to the FISU America website, The FISU America games are held every two years, in odd-numbered years, that is organized by a member country of FISU America. For more information on FISU America member countries click here.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.