In its first chance to get acquainted with its DODDS-Japan Wrestling League opposition, Nile C. Kinnick scored big in the Robert D. Edgren High School invitational tournament Saturday at Misawa Air Base.
Elijah Gamble (135), Demetrius Perry (141), Dereck Youngblood (148) and David de los Santos (heavyweight) won their weight classes to lead the Red Devils to the team championship with 55 points. Yokota, also with four champions, was second with 45 points and Edgren third with 40.
Despite the impressive performance, Red Devils assistant Go Yamada said it’s "too early" to gauge Kinnick’s or anybody else’s chances.
"(But) I have a solid team," said Yamada, who as a former Far East Tournament champion would have an idea. "We have lots of rookies but they’re athletes who could become good wrestlers."
He spoke of newcomers such as Gamble, who won standing in for reigning Far East Tournament Outstanding Wrestler Cameron Butts; and Perry, who took gold in place of Philip Bayani.
Butts and Bayani were among many who missed the tournament because they were taking Scholastic Aptitude Tests.
"You never know what to expect from a first-year wrestler," said Yamada, adding that those performances show Kinnick has the depth to fill spots if needed due to injury, illness or tests. "They (Gamble and Perry) surprised me as fill-ins."
Kinnick’s performance might mean the end of what Yokota coach Brian Kitts termed "a couple of years of taking their lumps."
"They’re back on the map," Kitts said of Kinnick. "They have a full lineup, a solid team. They’re going to be good."
Yokota was also missing some key elements, such as reigning 158-pound Far East champion Tony Presnell, who’s been nursing a shoulder injury. But Kitts’ two other reigning Far East champions, Mark Meade and Chris Cournoyer, won their weight classes, and Nick Guzman also won his division in his return after a year in Hawaii.
"We did better than I’d hoped with our young guys and our veterans did as expected," Kitts said. "It’s great to have Nick back in the lineup."
Kitts said he was impressed with the work of newcomers Jacob Iredale (180) and Michael Spencer (158) of Zama American, who each won golds.
"They’re turning heads," Kitts said. "You’ll have to bring your ‘A’ game to beat those guys."
All five teams in the Edgren tournament were thin in the ranks due to SATs, as were the three teams that got together at Camp George for the season-opening DODDS-Korea tri-meet at Daegu American School.
Most notably missing were junior Michael Gilliam (heavyweight) and senior Jesse Crockett (215) of Osan American and former 180-pound Far East champ Justin Stokes of Seoul American.
"A lot of seniors weren’t there," Osan coach David Hemmer said.
Still, Seoul showed that it has "a solid squad again, which is normal," Daegu coach Bill Riggs said. "Osan has a full team, a lot of new boys, first-year wrestlers who are doing well."
One pleasant surprise for Riggs came at 122 pounds, where newcomer Chris Miller won two bouts. "I expected him to do well, but I didn’t expect him to pull off two pins," Riggs said.
The three Korea teams meet again in the league’s second tri-meet Saturday at Osan American. That same day, the five DODDS-Japan teams and three international schools get together at Yokota for the All-Japan Invitational Tournament. "Next week, we’ll have a good idea who’ll be who at the zoo," Hemmer said.