KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Time was when Rumble on the Rock was uttered in the same breath as Nile C. Kinnick’s “Beast of the Far East” as one of the Pacific’s marquee high school wrestling tournaments.
As many as six teams would populate the event at its peak, two years ago, and the event would welcome international and public schools from Tokyo and Guam and DODDS schools from Korea seeking that all-important Far East meet tune-up.
Now? The sixth Rumble features what organizer and event founder Fred Bales, Kubasaki’s athletics director, says are 3.1 teams — charter members Kubasaki and Kadena from Okinawa, Father Duenas of Guam and one member of Okkodo High School’s team from Guam.
Is Rumble on life support? Has its time come and gone?
Bales characterized those questions as “harsh,” but did allow that “it is that way.”
The obvious solution to the event’s difficulties is to find more participating teams, Bales said.
Currently, the gaps left by teams that no longer participate, such as Daegu, Osan and Seoul American in Korea and Tokyo’s Christian Academy Japan, American School In Japan and St. Mary’s International are being filled by Kubasaki’s and Kadena’s futures wrestlers.
“That’s been standard operating procedure the last couple of years,” Bales said, adding that he’s invited the Kanto Plain’s DODDS schools as well as standing invitations to past participants.
“We want to put out a clarion call to other schools to put us on their calendars next year,” Bales said.
Whether the numbers are large or thin, the tournament still serves its purpose, Kubasaki assistant coach Justin Cook said.
“It’s tournament experience. It’s match experience,” Cook said. “It helps teams get set up for Far East and it gives Father Duenas a chance to wrestle freestyle” to prepare for Far East Feb. 19-21 at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.
“It gets the kids more experience, it gets the JVs more experience. We don’t get to wrestle as much as the Kanto schools do.”
That’s not to say all coaches are on board with that line of thinking.
“Unless you can get more schools here, no, it’s not worth it,” first-year Kadena coach Justin Armstrong said.
Armstrong says he’d prefer the Okinawa Activities Council approach the Japanese high school system, in an effort to revive the Okinawa-American Friendship Tournament that died off two years ago, or participate more in Marine Corps Community Services on-island open tournaments against GIs.
“You’d see somebody different,” Armstrong said. “If you learn something from a mistake, you can get something from it.”
The three-plus schools and Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s futures wrestlers will engage in dual-meet action starting at 5 p.m. Friday, then an individual freestyle tournament at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Among events elsewhere in the Pacific this weekend:
-- Zama American and E.J. King’s boys and girls basketball teams travel to Matthew C. Perry for a critical showdown to see which DODDS-Japan Division II teams have a shot at Far East tournament glory.
-- Robert D. Edgren’s boys play a weekend tri-dual against St. Mary’s International and Kinnick at Yokosuka. The host Red Devils are coming off a 64-61 overtime shocker over American School In Japan.
-- DODDS-Japan’s wrestling season ends with a tri-dual featuring King and Edgren at Perry on Saturday. Kanto’s penultimate day of action, Saturday, sees ASIJ at Yokota, CAJ at Kinnick at St. Mary’s at Zama. DODDS-Korea’s next-to-last tri-dual of the season pits Osan and Daegu at Seoul American.