Mid-week musings: Big statement by Kadena in mat opener

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer comes away from season-opening Okinawa Activities Council wrestling dual meet amazed. But not surprised.

That was about as much a visit to the woodshed as any home team could ever take, especially as one as decorated as Kubasaki, with its 21 Far East Tournament team titles.

The Dragons sure took one on the chin Wednesday in the Dragons’ Den, falling 45-15 to a Kadena Panthers program debuting its new coach, Justin Armstrong. It was as big a victory as he could have ever dreamed for, especially in his teams’ rival’s home digs.

But if I may ask, despite those seven pinfall victories and two technical falls – even Christina Thompson, the senior 101-pounder who transferred from Daegu High, got into the act with a second-period pin – let’s not read too much into this.

Armstrong has those guys working. Hard. Most didn’t play a fall sport (Thompson played tennis), and they’d all been working in the room for weeks. Most of Kubasaki’s, on the other hand, played football and had been on the practice field all the way up to Nov. 15, getting ready for the Division I championship game at Yokota. Kadena’s football season ended on Oct. 29.

That alone can make a huge difference in preparation.

“I’m not upset. It’s about what I expected,” Kubasaki assistant coach Justin Cook said.

Even Armstrong, while saying he was “happy overall” with the outcome, said it wasn’t perfect.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said, adding that the Panthers need work on their short offense, controlling headlocks and controlling opponents’ heads on takedowns. “This gave us a good framework to work with.”
Folks who watched wrestling two years ago might remember World War 215, the 215-pound weight class loaded with eight wrestlers, any of whom could have won that weight at Far East.

This season, that might be the 135-pound weight class. It’s a weight that’s produced quite a few noteworthy grapplers in the last 10 years or so, including Kubasaki’s Bernam Tapang, Nile C. Kinnick’s Elijah Gamble and Cameron Butts and perhaps the greatest 135-pounder in Far East history, Zolboo Enkhbayar of Brent International-Subic.

With the season just days old, we’ve already seen toughness in the persons of Alex Rojas, a former Alaska state champion now with Kadena; he wrestled Wednesday at 141 pounds, but could drop to 135. Sam Johnson of Christian Academy Japan, Kinnick’s Marvin Newbins, Alex Pannullo of Seoul American who won gold in Europe two years ago, and Kalik Battle of Yokota, a bronze medalist out of South Dakota. Thomas McGrath of E.J. King could surprise. Josh Elliot of Zama American could drop to 135 from 141.

“Easily the toughest weight class this season,” Yokota coach Brian Kitts said.

Better than 215 in 2011?

“Far better,” Kitts said. “This one’s nuclear.”
A congratulations to sophomore Alison Bowman of Guam High, who for a long-distance and cross-country runner is proving pretty fair at handling a basketball. She was named to the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam’s All-Island second team.
Just when it looked as if American School In Japan boys basketball would run the table in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools, along comes Zama American, a middle-of-the-pack Division II school, which got 16 points from Andrae Adams – a former Mustang! – and 12 from distance specialist Yoshi Nicolas in a 68-66 shocker over ASIJ on Tuesday.

Then at St. Mary’s International School, it was Hayden Griffiths pouring in 21 points as the Titans pulled a shocker of their own, 58-48 over Yokota.

Guess Halloween arrived a little late this year.

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Ornauer on AFN


Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)


Sept 28:Dave Ornauer is back with the latest on the Pacific sports scene.

May 22:Yokota has dominated in first year at D-II spring championsihps.

May 8: Dave Ornauer highlights a few athletes who are participating in the Kanto Plains track and field finals Saturday.