Far East preview
Edgren wrestlers have shot at Far East title
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Experience and veteran leadership have served as common denominators whenever Robert D. Edgren’s wrestling team has won or been in the thick of contention for Far East tournament titles.
This year, coach Justin Edmonds and the Eagles have a shot at winning their third and fourth Division II team titles in a three-year span, something no other Division II team has done since DODDS-Pacific began awarding titles for small and large schools.
On Edmonds’ senior-laden roster, Matt Bernal (215 pounds) has been wrestling for four years and Cody Scherrer (129) and James Bowman (135) three each, much the same as past Edgren contenders and champions Kevin McDonald, Andrew Blankenship and Kevin and Kenneth Radford.
“Those are pretty hard to replace,” Edmonds said of those predecessors. “They were part of the foundation … the footprint they left behind is hard to fill. But they don’t have to fill it, just follow it. Write their own ending.”
This year’s Far East tournament returns to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, after a six-year hiatus and for the first time will be held at the new George I. Purdy Memorial Fitness & Sports Center.
Whether Edgren succeeds is “hard to predict,” Edmonds said, knowing he’ll face tough competition at the D-II level in Xavian Washburn and Daegu, Tim Cuthbertson and Brett Hammontree and Osan American and Chad Wilder and Mitchell Harrison for defending champion Zama American.
“We’ve been hanging around the top,” Edmonds said, for the last several years, losing by five or fewer points in the team standings to Zama last year and Osan in 2009. “People will know our presence is there.”
The Division I title chase is expected to be a three-horse race, at least, between Kanto Plain powers Nile C. Kinnick, Yokota and defending team champion St. Mary’s International, Yokota coach Brian Kitts said.
“It goes in cycles,” Kitts said of domination some years by Okinawa, then by Seoul American, then by Kanto schools. “We’re in a good run right now. We’re in a good cycle of wrestling right now.”
Kinnick won the individual freestyle title in 2010, St. Mary’s both team titles last year, and four years ago, Kanto won nine of 13 weight-class championships on Okinawa.
Kitts credits consistency in coaching for part of Kanto’s success. “The coaches understand the freestyle wrestling concept and are able to impart that on their wrestlers,” he said.
Divisions I and II wrestlers will compete as one in 13 weight classes starting with Monday’s pool-play bouts, then on Tuesday and Wednesday in the individual freestyle elimination bouts. Banners will be given to Divisions I and II team champions, but only the weight-class winners receive gold medals regardless of division.
Thursday’s dual-meet portion of the tournament will see Divisions I and II teams separated into two tournaments, with the champion teams in each category receiving a banner.