Things learned, observed in Pacific high school sports winter Week 10.1

Five things we learned over the last weekend in Pacific high school sports:

1) Now, it can be told: Kadena is the team to beat at the Far East High School Wrestling Tournament later this month at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, with Kubasaki nipping at the Panthers’ heels close behind.

Five golds and five silvers. Team titles in both Friday’s dual-meet portion and Saturday’s individual freestyle phase of the 6th Rumble on the Rock tournament at Kubasaki High School.

“I’m proud of the guys and the way they wrestled,” said Justin Armstrong, who became the team’s fourth head coach in four seasons, inheriting a team that has six Far East team titles to its credit, but none since 2010.

From 115 to 168, the Panthers appear loaded and a solid threat to end that team-title skid, thanks to the likes of David Hernandez, Zach Fanton, Cole and Kyle Milburn, newcomer Vao Mustafa, Alaska state champion Alex Rojas, Elijah Takushi, James Alexander and heavyweight Nolynn Riley.

Armstrong credits the push that his Panthers have gotten from their foes ’cross-town at Camp Foster. His wrestlers have had to earn their keep, Armstrong said, with guys like Austin Cyr – who beat Takushi for 148-pound gold on Saturday – and Tyshon Butler, who knocked off Kyle Milburn at 168.

“You wrestle Kubasaki so much, every week, it’s so intense,” Armstrong said. “We’re so close, pushing each other to higher levels.”

They’ll see each other again, the Dragons and Panthers, on Wednesday at Kubasaki. Far East is scheduled for Feb. 19-21; St. Mary’s International is the two-time defending champion.

2) But don’t cry poor for the Dragons, who still have that team title in last month’s “Beast of the Far East” tournament, buoyed by five gold medals, edging out a Panthers team that had six finalists and finished with six silvers.

Back to back, at 108 and 115, the Dragons are dangerous with Daniel Mora and Steven Walter, and again at 180 and 215 with Aaron Stravers and Fred Suniga, in addition to Cyr and Butler. Walter is gunning for his third straight Far East gold medal, while Suniga is seeking a repeat.

Then, there’s Nile C. Kinnick, third at “Beast,” and champion in virtually every other tournament they’ve entered this season. The Red Devils pounded Christian Academy Japan 58-3 on Saturday, three days after winning by the same score against American School In Japan.

The Red Devils, too, have an armada of weaponry, brothers Zach and Brady Yoder, upper-weight contenders Alex Banks and Ian O’Brien and Marvin Newbins, he one of two Pacific wrestlers to execute five-point throws this season (more on that later).

Kinnick improved to 9-0 last week and visits 8-1 St. Mary’s for the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools regular-season crown. The league tournament is Saturday at Yokota.

3) A shame, it is, that Father Duenas Memorial, which attended Far East last year and Rumble last weekend, will not return to Far East this year.

Organizers say the field this year is capped at 15 teams, with the intent of making it an even 16 next year with the addition of Humphreys High School in Korea. That would give the event 13 DODDS-Pacific/DDESS-Guam schools, along with charter Far East tournament participants St. Mary’s, CAJ and ASIJ.

It would have been something to see guys like Michael Franquez of Okkodo, who won the 101-pound Rumble title, and Father Duenas’ Micah Lopez at 158 at Far East. Lopez drew the biggest oohs and ahs from an appreciative crowd at Kubasaki High when he hoisted Kadena’s James Alexander into the air and sent him thundering down for a five-point throw (he was told to cool it after that).

Had he and FDMS been invited back to Far East, he would have put an entire weight class on notice with that one throw.

To Alexander’s credit, the mark of an experienced freestyle wrestler is knowing how to both win AND lose safely. He resisted the instinct to “post” his arm onto the mat to steady his fall but also risk a devastating elbow dislocation, as happened in December to Kadena’s Jacob Cote.

4) They’d stood unbeaten and atop the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Five-Cities Division boys basketball standings from the start of the season. Daegu High is still first, but unbeaten no longer, thanks to a Saturday visit to Osan American, where the Warriors took the first blotch on their ledger when the Cougars beat them 53-47.

“Osan played a phenomenal game,” Warriors  coach Phillip Loyd said.

That’s three wins in four games for the Cougars, who began the season with six straight losses. And those two guys, Manasseh Nartey and Derrick Merriwether, were the guys who lit the torch that lit the way.

Osan wasn’t the only team in the business of doling out shocking results over the weekend.

Remember that Robert D. Edgren boys team that Nile C. Kinnick crushed 70-47 in last month’s New Year Classic? Well, imagine this: the Eagles beat the Red Devils 50-46 at Kinnick’s Devil Dome on Friday.

Then, there was Zama American’s girls traveling to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and riding a six-game winning streak, before losing 38-32 to E.J. King.

Interesting weekend.

5) What a howdy-doo we had, and still have, as a result of the developments Saturday at Yongsan International School-Seoul, where a scheduled KAIAC Five-Cities Division  boys basketball game pitting Seoul American at YIS-Seoul began and ended with total drama, which continues even now.

The game had originally been scheduled in December, but was snowed out and rescheduled to Feb. 2. Geographically, the two schools may be the closest among any KAIAC 5CD members, just five miles separation, SAHS on Yongsan Garrison, YIS-Seoul on Itaewon’s eastern edges.

Anyway, the United Services for Korea Officials Association referees slated to work Saturday’s game did not arrive. Daniel Hale, YIS-Seoul’s coach and athletics director who also is KAIAC’s president, telephoned and sought other officials, but to no avail.

According to Hale, two persons certified as basketball officials, not affiliated with either team, volunteered to referee the contest. Hale also said that both he and Falcons coach Steve Boyd agreed that the game would count as a conference game and in the 5CD standings. YIS-Seoul won 67-62 in overtime and Hale says the game has already been entered and counted as an official conference game.

Boyd says pretty much the opposite. He says he agreed that since the Falcons were there, and Saturday was the Guardians’ senior day, that Seoul American would stay and give YIS-Seoul a game, but that it would count only as a friendly and not in the league standings.

When he found out that the game had been entered into the league standings, Boyd pretty much blew a gasket, insisting just as adamantly as Hale has been about the game counting, that he would never agree to such an arrangement, and that the game should either be rescheduled, or that their scheduled rematch on Wednesday at Yongsan count twice (assuming the USFKOA officials show this time) and that Saturday’s game be treated as a friendly.

A look at the standings and one might understand why Hale is adamant about the game counting. Daegu High has pretty much sealed first place at 10-1, while Seoul American is second at 7-3, two games ahead of its nearest chaser, Seoul Foreign (5-5), with Wednesday’s game the only one remaining in the regular season. The KAIAC tournament is scheduled Feb. 15-16 at Taejon Christian International School.

But behind SFS, you have International Christian-Uijongbu at 4-4, YIS-Seoul at 4-5, Osan American at 3-7 and TCIS at 2-8. YIS-Seoul needs victories if it hopes to catch SFS for the No. 3 seed and, presumably, a better first-round matchup.

League bylaws say that any protest of a league game should be brought to the game officials or the league president before the game ends. Boyd did not do so. On the other side of the coin, Boyd said the game couldn’t possibly count as a league game if there were no USFKOA officials to certify the result.

Hale and Seoul American’s co-athletics director Don Hedgpath spoke by phone earlier Monday, with Hedgpath requesting that Hale and he look into possible alternative solutions.

Here is what the game summary would look like:

Yongsan International-Seoul 67, Seoul American 62, OT
Saturday at Seoul

SAHS 9 20 15 10 8—62
YIS-S 15 17 14 8 13—67

Scoring—YIS-S: Sam Kang 17, Chris Yoo 12, Ben Linssen 10; SAHS: Patrick Anderson 13, Sean Horne 10, Tariel Stewart 10. Rebounding—YIS-S: Kang 8, Linssen 6, Yoo 5; SAHS: Anderson 5.

What does Sports Blog Nation think?
Top performers
-- Manasseh Nartey (17 points) and Derrick Merriwether (15) in Osan’s boys basketball’s upset victory over Daegu.
-- Kubasaki’s Tyshon Butler being the only wrestler at Rumble needing to win two finals bouts in the double-elimination format to upend Kadena’s Kyle Milburn for the 168-pound gold.
-- Andre Encarnacion’s buzzer-beating shot that lifted Zama’s boys basketball team past M.C. Perry 62-61 in a see-saw battle.
-- Kareem Key’s 25-point, 11-rebound double-double in a losing cause as Kubasaki lost 69-66 Saturday at Futenma.
-- Courtney Beall’s averaging 14.3 points and 17.7 rebounds for M.C. Perry’s girls in a losing cause as they dropped three games.
-- Vanessa Black’s four third-quarter three-point goals and 18 total points in a losing effort as Kinnick’s girls beat Edgren 49-30 on Friday.
-- Jasmine Thomas’ averaging 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in just under 12 total minutes as Seoul American won at Osan and Yongsan International-Seoul.
-- Quin White’s 19 points that helped Edgren’s boys drop Kinnick 50-46 on Friday at Yokosuka Naval Base.

Who’s hot
-- Osan’s boys have won two of their last three, while Zama boys and girls are a combined 25-8 entering the DODDS Japan tournament.

Who’s not
-- Turnover plagued Perry’s girls fell from above .500 to 9-12 on the season with four weekend losses.

The $64,000 question

Which teams stand the best chance of stopping Zama’s boys and Kinnick’s girls from winning the DODDS Japan basketball tournaments?

Join the conversation and share your voice.

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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.