YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The term “cowcatcher” normally is associated with 19th-century locomotives. To the Yokota Panthers, it’s a wrestling move that helped them achieve a landmark victory Wednesday.
Heavyweight Blake Reinhold employed the move — underhooking one arm and overhooking the other to tilt his opponent to the mat — and scored a pin in 1 minute, 51 seconds over Robert Loker. It lifted Yokota past Nile C. Kinnick 23-21 in a Japan Wrestling League tri-meet.
It was the Panthers’ first head-to-head victory over the Red Devils in 12 seasons — and left Yokota coach Mark Hanssen elated.
“This is the team we’ve worked to wrestle,” said Hanssen, in his fifth season at Yokota. “The kids came through. It was close, good, hard. I’m kind of speechless.”
Yokota’s triumph came in its third dual meet with the Red Devils this season. But it wasn’t easy.
The showdown was tied twice. The lead changed hands two more times before Reinhold and Loker locked up with Kinnick ahead 21-19, thanks to Ryan Hopp’s 10-7 decision over Jeremiah Pearcey in a 180-pound bout.
“I just waited for an opening, waited until I saw something and took it,” Reinhold said, referring to the moment he utilized the “cowcatcher.” Seconds later, the referee signaled the pin, sending the Yokota bench into a wild celebration.
Reinhold credited conditioning and his appearance in seven dual meets and three tournaments this season for keeping him in shape for such a confrontation.
“I can last. I don’t get tired easily. I can take my time,” he said.
Zama American, the third component of Wednesday’s encounter, fell 29-20 to Yokota and 29-15 to the Red Devils.
Kinnick has been dominant on area mats the past two winters, capturing back-to-back Japan Wrestling League and Kanto Plain titles and winning a pair of Far East individual freestyle team championships. In 2001, the Red Devils also claimed the Far East dual-meet team title.
Yokota hasn’t collected a Far East crown since 1977-78.
Yokota and Kinnick meet again Saturday at Yokota.
“It’ll go back and forth between us,” Hanssen said. “This is just one of a bunch we’ve wrestled against Kinnick. They’ve gotten us twice. We did well today but we still have a lot of work to do before Far East.”
Kinnick coach Scott Smith said Wednesday his team had “been lucky to this point, until tonight.”
He called Wednesday’s result “a huge boost” for Yokota. “On paper, it doesn’t count, but psychologically, it does.”