YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — By the thinnest of margins, Kubasaki has regained its foothold atop the Far East wrestling Division I world.
Steven Walter (115 pounds) became a three-time champ and Fred Suniga (215) repeated his title, leading a parade of four champions for the Dragons, who extended their Pacific record in any sport to 22 Far East team titles by edging host Kinnick 78-77 in the individual tournament.
“All the hard work has paid off, the blood, sweat and tears the coaches and wrestlers have put in these last three years,” coach Ron Geist said, sounding a cautionary note that well-begun is half done; the dual-meet tournament is scheduled for Thursday.
“We’ve accomplished one of our missions (but) we’re only halfway there. We’d like to make it a double, but you never know. Kadena and Kinnick are tough. We just have to wrestle.”
Meanwhile, Zama American continued its sports renaissance, capturing its fourth Division II title of the school year behind gold-medal performances by reigning Outstanding Wrestler Chad Wilder (158) and Mitchell Harrison (180). Zama has also won D-II boys basketball, girls tennis and football titles.
Walter’s victory over Kentaro Hayashi of St. Mary’s didn’t come easily; Hayashi dominated the first period before Walter rallied, scoring a three-point throw before nailing Hayashi with a chest press.
“Just to get one (gold medal) feels good, but to go and get three, that’s unbelievable,” Walter said.
“Not to mention we won the team title and get to bring home another banner,” said Suniga, who scored a two-period decision over Kinnick’s Daniel Costello.
Kinnick had its chances to win its eighth Far East team title, but of seven finalists, just one netted gold.
The Red Devils weren’t helped by the outcome at 108 pounds, when Kubasaki’s Daniel Mora and defending champion Justin Duenas of Kadena went three periods, then to a video review and a 13-minute debate before Mora was declared the winner. Had Mora lost, Kinnick would have won the team title.
“That was scored differently than it could have been,” Kinnick coach Gary Wilson said. “I’m disappointed in the outcome, but not in my kids. I’m happy for Ron and his group. That’s a classy group. I hope we can put it all together for duals tomorrow.”
Eddie Sheridan got Kinnick’s lone gold at 101. Among the other weight-class outcomes:
-- Ryan Vasconcellos, a St. Mary’s freshman, capped an unbeaten season with the 122-pound gold, a birthday present for his father Robert, a 1982 gold medalist who was in the crowd. Ryan decisioned Kadena’s Zach Fenton.
¬¬-- Eric Overton netted Christian Academy Japan’s only weight-class gold at 129, a decision over Kubasaki’s Michael Brown.
¬¬-- Kalik Battle, a stateside transfer, survived a tight two-period decision at 135 over his main Kanto Plain rival, Kinnick’s Marvin Newbins.
-- Alex Rojas, a 2012 Alaska state champion, won Kadena’s lone title, rallying from a first-period deficit past Kinnick’s Zach Yoder at 141.
¬¬-- Austin Cyr continued Kubasaki’s gold parade by pinning Kinnick’s Charlie Gann at 148.
¬¬-- Jeff Koo of St. Mary’s became the fourth of five reigning champions to repeat, decisioning Kubasaki’s Tyshon Butler.
-- Mitchell Harrison of Zama virtually assured Kubasaki of the D-I gold and Zama of the D-II title, dominating Kinnick’s Ian O’Brien at 180.
-- Jesse Hogan, after years of frustration, capped his Yokota wrestling career with a heavyweight gold via pin over Kubasaki’s Josiah Allen.