CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — High on the pale green walls of the Dragons Den hangs proof positive, in the form of 21 banners, attesting to Kubasaki’s dominance as the most decorated wrestling team in Pacific high school sports history.

Enter the wrestling room, possessing the ambience of a sauna, with the air conditioning off, and offering a stark contrast to the chill of the rest of the building.

Adorning the walls in green and white paint are the 81 gold medalists that furnace has produced, including the only four-time Far East champions, Justin L. Miller (1999) and Scott Wood (2009).

Just five coaches have presided over that program, like proud executives overseeing a billion-dollar business. Now, a sixth coach is among them. Kenneth Gibson takes over for Terry Chumley, who won three Far East team titles in seven seasons.

Gibson, the school’s Junior ROTC commander, says he’s well aware that the job comes with size 24EEE shoes and matching bull’s-eyes for the chest and back. "The best and worst of both worlds," he says.

"It’s an awesome opportunity," said Gibson, who has seven years of coaching experience at high schools in Florida and Kansas City. "And yes, I have a big pair of shoes to fill. If I do half as well as coach Chumley has done, I’ll have a successful season."

Kubasaki, and its Okinawa Activities Council archrival Kadena with five Far East team titles to its credit, hit the mat on Wednesday for the first of two preseason scrimmages.

On Saturday, Japan’s season opens with a DODEA Japan tournament at Robert D. Edgren, while DODEA Korea’s slate opens with a tri-meet at Seoul American. Guam High won its fourth island regular-season title in five years and hosts the all-island meet on Dec. 19.

Much star power remains on the shelf from last season. Five Far East gold medalists (Marcus Boehler, Nile C. Kinnick, 101; Devin Day, Yokota, 129; Harry Bloom, Kadena, 148; Michael Spencer, Zama American, 158 and Michael Gilliam, Osan American, heavyweight) return along with five runners-up.

New coaches have popped up at three locations. Besides Gibson, Marcos Bolanos is taking over for Tom Wright at E.J. King, while Chris Dickinson takes over for Julian Harden, he of 17 seasons and three Far East team titles at Seoul American.

Despite the many returning luminaries, each team appears to be in various forms of rebuilding, save for Kadena, which possesses perhaps its deepest lineup ever with nine returners who placed in the Far East tournament.

While Kadena looks to be Team Today, Gibson hopes his young charges can at least give Kadena a run as Team Tomorrow. "We’re a young team, but that’s a positive," Gibson said. "If we can keep them, we’ll be OK."

Assuming Kubasaki’s legacy is at times overwhelming, Gibson said. "It’s an honor for anybody to be in this position," he said. "It’s a major challenge, but an awesome opportunity."

Key dates, team capsulesJan. 9 — Nile C. Kinnick Invitational "Beast of the Far East" individual freestyle tournament, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.Jan. 23 — 3rd Okinawa-American Friendship Meet, Kadena High School, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.Jan. 28-30 — 3rd Okinawa "Rumble On The Rock" Tournament, Kubasaki High School, Camp Foster, Okinawa.Feb. 6 — Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools championship tournament, St. Mary’s International School, Tokyo.Feb. 10-13 — DODEA Pacific Far East High School Tournament, individual freestyle and dual-meet, site to be determined, Okinawa.Class AASouth KoreaSeoul American FalconsYongsan Garrison2009 Far East tournament finish—Fifth in individual freestyle (30 points), fifth in dual-meet.Coach—Chris Dickinson, first season.Wrestlers to watch—Geoff Furner, Jr., 108, second in Far East; Alex Suh, Sr., 115, fourth last year; Erik Kingsley, Sr., 158, fourth at 141 in Far East; Kortney Martin, So., 108, fourth at 101 last year.Outlook—Rebuilding-reloading. Fresh start with new Coach, replacing Julian Harden after 17 seasons. Much rests on quick team development.OkinawaKadena PanthersKadena Air Base2009 Far East tournament finish—Second in individual freestyle (58 points), two-time dual-meet champion.Coach—Steve Schrock, 12th season.Wrestlers to watch—Nick Breier, So., 101, third in Far East; Jeff Mizell, Jr., 108, fourth in Far East; Aaron Avila, Sr., 115, third in Far East; Jordan Castillo-Henderson, Sr., 122, second in Far East; Taehon Paschal, Sr., 129, fifth in Far East; Jacob Bishop, Jr., 135, fourth at 129 in Far East; Harry Bloom, Jr., 148, two-time Far East gold medalist; Cody Reyes, Sr., 158; Tyler Broome, Jr., 180, fourth at 215 in Far East; Gabe Ahner, So., 275, fourth in Far East.Outlook—Contending, contending, contending. One of the deepest teams Schrock has ever fielded, top to bottom; he gives up no weight classes, which has plagued the Panthers in the past. Returners not resting on dual-meet triumph, but using individual runner-up finish as motivation.Kubasaki DragonsCamp Foster2009 Far East tournament finish—Defending individual freestyle champion (74 points), third in dual meet.Coach—Kenneth Gibson, first season.Wrestlers to watch—Jon Goddard, Jr., 129, second at 135 in Far East; Zach Standridge, So., 122, second at 101 in Far East; Jack Miller, Sr., heavyweight, fifth in Far East.Outlook—Reloading. Four-time champion Scott Wood and seven-year Coach Terry Chumley will be tough to replace, but new Coach Gibson and a young Dragons lineup faced up well vs. Kadena in their first preseason dual. Good signs for the years ahead, maybe this year as well.GuamGuam High PanthersNimitz Hill2009 Far East tournament finish—Seventh in individual freestyle (21 points).Coach—Ed Paz, fifth season.Wrestlers to watch—Devin Newbold, 130, third at 135 in Far East; Darren Perez, 145, fifth at 122 in Far East; Lambert Patis, 171, sixth at 168 in Far East.Outlook—Contending on island, reloading for Far East. Panthers went 9-1 in the just-concluded regular-season, capturing their fourth regular-season title in five years. The issues, as always, are that Guam High wrestles folkstyle on island and must convert to freestyle for Far East, typically held two months after the season ends.JapanYokota PanthersYokota Air Base2009 Far East tournament finish—Third in individual freestyle (54 points), fourth in dual meet.Coach—Brian Kitts, sixth season.Wrestlers to watch—Devin Day, Jr., 135, 129-pound champion in Far East; Ed Peterson, Fr., 108, fifth at 101 in Far East.Outlook—Rebuilding. Graduation and transfers claimed eight starters, three of them two-time Far East champions. "Hurts big time," Kitts says. But Kitts gives away no weight classes for the first time in three years, fields a "great corps" of assistant Coaches and a young lineup with bright future promise.

Nile C. Kinnick Red DevilsYokosuka Naval Base2009 Far East tournament finish—Third in individual freestyle (47 points), second in dual meet.Coach—Gary Wilson, first season.Wrestlers to watch—Marcus Boehler, So., 108, 101-pound Far East champion; Marlowe Gonzales, Sr., 129, sixth at 122 in Far East; Dereck Youngblood, Sr., 148, third in Far East; Nick Gibbons, So., 168, fourth in Far East; David de los Santos, Jr., heavyweight, fifth at 215 in Far East.Outlook—Reloading. Losing champions Cameron Butts and Philip Bayani leave the Red Devils "competitive but not dominant," Wilson said. Still, there’s enough potential and depth for Kinnick to make a deep Kanto and Far East title run.Zama American TrojansCamp Zama/Atsugi Naval Air Facility2009 Far East tournament finish—Fifth in individual freestyle (30 points).Coach—Chris Iredale, second season.Wrestlers to watch—Michael Spencer, Jr., 158, Far East champion; John Iredale, Sr., 141, fifth in Far East; Corey Peckins, Jr., 135, sixth in Far East (transfer from Osan American).Outlook—Rebuilding. Good core of experienced wrestlers returns, but most of the Trojans are in their first year on the mat.Class ASouth KoreaOsan American CougarsOsan Air Base2009 Far East tournament finish—Individual freestyle champion (23 points), sixth in dual meet.Coach—David Hemmer, second season.Wrestlers to watch—Michael Gilliam, Sr., heavyweight, Far East champion; YeJeen Nam, Sr., 108, sixth at 101 last year.Outlook—Rebuilding. Just two returnees from last year’s historic Cougars Class A champion team. Other promising prospects loom, but the learning curve is pretty steep.Daegu American WarriorsCamp George2009 Far East tournament finish—Third in individual freestyle (9 points).Coach—Bill Riggs, fourth season.Wrestler to watch—A.J. De Los Santos, 141, sixth in Far East.Outlook—Rebuilding. The ranks are holding steady, Riggs has 28 wrestlers out, and several move up from the junior varsity to the varsity, but still precious little firepower in Warrior country.JapanRobert D. Edgren EaglesMisawa Air Base2009 Far East tournament finish—Second in individual freestyle (16 points).Coach—Justin Edmonds, sixth season.Wrestlers to watch—Keith Johnson, 129, fourth at 122 in Far East; Tim Pounds, 141, third at 129 in Far East.Outlook—Rebuilding. Enough firepower in the lineup, bolstered by senior 168-pounder Cheston Nurial-Dacalio, to steal some points and medals, but the ranks are thin and the road to a Class A title is a bit steep.E.J. King CobrasSasebo Naval Base2009 Far East tournament finish—Fourth in individual freestyle (3 points).Coach—Marcos Bolanos, first season.Wrestlers to watch-Andrew Hoffman, Jr., 158; William Smith, 115.Outlook—Still another year in the Cobras’ eternal building process. Just two grapplers with Far East experience and four weights unfilled, with a new Coach and a new system.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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