Things learned, observed at “Beast” wrestling tournament
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer survives yet another dangerous landing and is glad to be in one piece:
For somebody who transferred to Kubasaki last summer, Aaron Stravers has spent a goodly portion of time either at his old Nile C. Kinnick stomping grounds or facing the Red Devils both on the gridiron and wrestling mat so far this school year. And there’s more yet to come.
Stravers, a senior fullback-linebacker and 180-pound wrestler, and his Dragons beat his old school 28-14 in a DODDS-Pacific Division I football game on Oct. 13 at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium.
Then last Saturday, he returned to his old Yokosuka Naval Base haunt and won the 180-pound gold medal in the Kinnick Invitational “Beast of the Far East” wrestling tournament at the Red Devil Dome. And he did it against his old teammate and good friend Ian O’Brien, via three-period decision.
“It feels great. I’m happy to be back,” Stravers said. “Definitely feels strange, but I’m adapted to it. I’m used to being a Dragon.” This, several minutes after he was seen wearing his old red-and-white Kinnick letterman’s jacket.
Stravers will return to Yokosuka for next month's Far East tournament, which begins in ... wow ... 34 days?
Those new singlets worn by Yokota, base teal color with black lines and a gold Panther mascot in the middle. Quite an eyeful.
You don’t see them very often, but Kinnick’s Marvin Newbins got the crowd ooh-ing and ah-ing when he lifted E.J. King’s Thomas McGrath airborne and sent him thundering to the mat for a five-point throw. Got everybody’s attention. Newbins won a superior decision, but lost to Christian Academy Japan’s Sam Johnson in the quarterfinals.
Interesting mask worn by American School In Japan’s 129-pounder Ansel Marsh, black processed rubber designed to protect his nose, which he fractured as a freshman. Marsh lost in the quarterfinals, then got pinned in a bout that would have sent him to the bronze-medal match had he won. Smart to wear something like that, though.
Among other homecomings, albeit a temporary one, Joey Buccilli of St. Mary’s International, Class of 2009, could be seen chatting it up with his old coach, Ian Harlow, in the Devil Dome bleachers. Buccilli is studying health consulting and life sciences at Johns Hopkins University, although Harlow is of the mind that Buccilli will “come back and teach and coach here.”
A couple of old-school coaches with new-school ties, Charles Capps and Bruce Derr, could be found in the Devil Dome as well.
Capps coached Yokota wrestling from the time the school opened in the 1970s. His Panthers won the Far East tournament team title in school history in 1979 and mentored the first Outstanding Wrestler in school history, Clint Yamaoka, in 1980.
Officially retired, Capps these days serves as Yokota football assistant coach and can be seen at home basketball games working the score table along with his fellow “Three Wise Men,” longtime Yokota math instructor and former track and cross-country coach John Thek and retired Yokota guidance counselor Don Kalina.
Derr was retired until last spring, when he was recalled to take over as principal of Zama American. The former DODDS Japan district superintendent has inextricable roots to that school, having coaches wrestling and volleyball there in the 1970s and early 1980s. He coached the Trojans to the 1979 Far East tournament title and a share of the 1982 crown with St. Mary’s.
Derr and Capps enjoyed a reunion with 1982 Far East gold medalist Robert Vasconcellos. He’s the father of current St. Mary’s unbeaten 122-pounder Ryan Vasconcellos and two-time All-Far East volleyball player Jade Vasconcellos.
Kalina, for those new to the Pacific, is the father of 1989 Yokota graduate Christine Kalina Rowan, the wife of Chad Rowan, a retired sumo yokozuna (grand champion).
Among the battles at “Beast,” perhaps none was better than two competitors from the teams that finished 1-2 in the tournament. At 168 pounds in a consolation bout, Tyshon Butler of champion Kubasaki edged Kyle Milburn of second-place Kadena in a three-period decision. A battle for the ages if there ever was one. Butler went on to lose the bronze-medal bout.
How close was the gap between Kubasaki, with 38 points, and Kadena with 34 in the team standings? All Kadena needed was for two of its six silver medalists to win gold instead.
Interesting, it was, that the two Okinawa powers, two of the most decorated programs in Pacific history, Kubasaki with 21 Far East team titles and Kadena with six, stood atop the heap after “Beast.” Also interesting that the Dragons had five finalists, each of whom won, while Kadena had six finalists, each of whom lost.
Looking ahead to next month’s Far East tournament, also at Kinnick, one coach remarked about the Panthers and their new coach, Justin Armstrong: “Kadena is going to win Far East, hands down. Their coach knows what he’s doing. I’m impressed.”
Kadena won each of its dual meets with Kubasaki last month before “Beast.”
Probably one reason Kubasaki was able to come away with the team title was the adjustments that head coach Ron Geist and his assistant, Justin Cook, made to the lineup. Last month, it wasn’t clear who would wrestle at 180 or 168, but they determined that they stood the best chance of winning if Stravers was at the former and Butler the latter.
Problem was, the two needed to cut weight to get to those weights, with reigning Far East champion Fred Suniga entrenched at 215.
“We don’t force people to cut weight,” Cook said, adding that the staff left it up to Stravers and Butler, and also newcomer Daniel Mora, who dropped from 122 to 108. Butler trimmed a handful of pounds, but Stravers had to cut the lion’s share – 24 pounds.
Perhaps the tournament’s biggest revelation was Mora, a transfer from California who stunned the 108-pound field. First, he shocked reigning Far East champion Justin Duenas of Kadena in the quarterfinals, pinning him in 4:35, then buzz-sawed the rest of the field, scoring a superior decision in the final over St. Mary’s Lucas Shiraki.
Another guy to watch for is Robert D. Edgren’s Kaleb Atchison, a 141-pound newcomer who appeared doomed to defeat against Kadena’s Alex Rojas, an Alaska state champion, until Atchison caught Rojas trying a gut wrench and pinned him in 3:25.
Did Kadena’s James Alexander succeed in that three-point roll on Zama’s Chad Wilder, the reigning Far East Outstanding Wrestler, in that 158-pound final? A referee’s signal that the move took place out of bounds was the difference between that bout going to a third period. And perhaps Alexander even winning it.
Kinnick’s Alex Banks, who’s already beaten Wilder and St. Mary’s reigning Far East champion Jeffrey Koo, got an education himself on Saturday, getting thrashed all over the mat by Shonan Military Academy’s Shohei Nagashima. The latter took “Beast” Outstanding Wrestler honors.
Kinnick’s Eddie Sheridan is going to be tough to beat at 101 this season.
Next up: Rumble on the Rock, Feb. 1-2 at Kubasaki.