Things learned, observed on Day 2 of Far East wrestling tournament
Published: February 14, 2012
If this was the World Cup futbol tournament, the upper bracket of the heavyweight division of the Far East High School Wrestling Tournament would be the celebrated “Group of Death.”
And what a road defending champion Chidi Agbo of St. Mary’s International School had to hoe this week. Just to get a chance at a gold-medal repeat, Agbo first had to survive a three-period decision against Yokota’s Jesse Hogan – which many tabbed Tuesday’s “bout of the day” – and on Wednesday faced an opponent as hungry to beat him as anybody else, Kadena’s Gabe Ahner, who lost to Agbo in both the freestyle and dual-meet finals, clinching each team title for the Titans.
“It’s like I’m wrestling the finals today,” Agbo said before taking the mat against Hogan, whom he survived 3-0, 3-3 big point, 1-1 last point. It took a very late lift and takedown by Agbo, before teammates and spectator surrounding the mat and screaming with all the urgency of a gold-medal bout, which is what it resembled.
“It’s an interesting top side of the bracket, fun to watch,” Titans coach Ian Harlow said. “It could be the difference in total (team) points for the tournament.”
How did Hogan, one of the favorites to reach the final against Agbo, get into that situation? Losing by first-period pin to unheralded David Costello of host Nile C. Kinnick.
“When people lose matches they should win, that’s what happens,” Hogan’s coach, Brian Kitts, said. “Anything can happen at Far East.”
“It’s sad that it had to happen that way, but that’s the way things go,” Harlow said.
While Agbo survived to reach Wednesday’s semifinal, 2011 Far East tournament champion Thomas Cioppa of Kadena wasn’t as fortunate, losing a two-period decision to Callan Murphy of American School In Japan. The two had met at last month’s “Beast of the Far East” tournament, with Murphy winning in three periods.
Murphy’s reward was a semifinal date Wednesday with Guam island champion Bryan Taijeron of Guam High. “Whatever happens, happens,” Murphy said. “I’m going out to win.”
Other results I didn’t see coming involved Shaira Espino of Simon Sanchez, pinning Guam High’s Victoria Davis at 101 pounds. Should Espino win her semifinal bout, she would become the first girl to reach a Far East gold-medal final.
At 108, reigning Far East champion Steven Walter of Kubasaki got a good scare from Kinnick’s Brandon Yoder before prevailing in two periods.
At 180, Darnell Vinson of E.J. King pinning Zama American’s Mitchell Harrison. Wow!
How about 148-pounder Xavian Washburn’s chances at bringing home Daegu High’s first gold medal in school history?
I can’t make up my mind which is the tougher weight-class final four:
-- 129, with reigning Far East champion Soma Yoshida of St. Mary’s, Christian Academy Japan’s Yuma Fuseya, Robert D. Edgren’s Cody Scherrer and Seoul American’s Robert Rhea?
-- 122, with Murphy, Taijeron and Osan American’s Brett Hammontree?
-- 141, with Zama’s Chad Wilder, Kubasaki’s Zach Standridge and St. Mary’s JP Kwak?
-- 168, with St. Mary’s Jeff Koo, Yokota’s Stanley Speed and Seoul American’s Jonny Porter?
While much of the talk at the officials’ table revolved around 141, I’m leaning toward 129. The winner of that weight class should be named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.
Almost sneaking past us under the radar was the Far East tournament’s individual freestyle meet reverting back to the single-elimination format that had been used on and off since the 1996 Far East at Kinnick, the first one to employ something other than a true international freestyle format.
For the last four years, starting with the 2008 tournament at Kubasaki, Far East had employed a double-elimination format that gave wrestlers a second chance if they lose an early-round bout. In fact, DODDS Pacific officials had expressed their intent to make the double-elimination format permanent.
Whether a case of miscommunication or lack of passdown from the Osan American High School organizers of the 2011 Far East meet at Camp Humphreys, South Korea (all of whom are gone now), and despite the lack of an outcry from anybody, the issue should be raised at the next Far East athletics council meeting in April on Okinawa, and the format should be standardized forever, one way or the other.
… and believe it or not, DODDS Pacific’s athletics coordinator Don Hobbs sat there, going page-by-page through the Far East wrestling tournament program and COUNTED the number of countries, states and U.S. territories represented.
“I don’t know if you’ll find a more international tournament like this, except for the Olympics,” Hobbs said after counting 11 countries, 33 states and two territories.
What are they, you ask?
Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, England, South Korea, Philippines, Peru, Nigeria, Canada, Ireland and the United States.
New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Mississippi, Colorado, Michigan, Idaho, Iowa, Hawai’i, Illinois, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Washington, Missouri, New York, Nevada, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Alabama, New Mexico, Maryland, Delaware, North Dakota and Minnesota.
Puerto Rico and Guam.
Perhaps the most taken for granted and thankless jobs there are at a Far East tournament are those reserved for student volunteers who spent much of the week as timers and scoreboard keepers. They probably get yelled at more than anybody else – “HOW MUCH TIME LEFT?” and “THE POINTS ARE WRONG!” – just as the many involved with athletics who do jobs in which they please 46 percent of the people 50 percent of the time.
Nile C. Kinnick High School juniors Sheila Rojo and Khaimook Grosshuesch raised their hands to volunteer to work the table at Mat 4, “because we wanted to help the school out,” Grosshuesch said.
Clearly, the tasty carrot is the getting out of class aspect, which is why most volunteers are the upper crust of students who can handle the books as well as the stopwatches. “We get out of class, but we have to make up the assignments later,” Grosshuesch said.
What are the biggest challenges of keeping time and the flip-down scoreboard?
“Being precise about the timing,” Rojo said.
“Keeping up with the referee” as he signals points, sometimes in bang-bang fashion as wrestlers turn each other over, Grosshuesch said.
Thank you, and the so many others, for what you do.