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High school wrestlers in Japan and South Korea began getting an education in the new international freestyle rules during their season openers Saturday.

The Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils captured four gold medals and the team title in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Japan invitational at Misawa Air Base. At Osan Air Base, Seoul American defeated Osan American 40-22 in DODDS-Korea’s opener.

Most of the attention was focused on the rule changes, how they were called and how coaches and wrestlers adjusted.

“It was interesting,” said coach Brian Kitts of Yokota, which finished second in the DODDS-Japan meet. “We all learned something about how it will affect the wrestlers.”

The International Federation of Associated Wrestling rules govern DODDS-Pacific wrestling. Among its rules changes this season are scoring decisions by periods won instead of most points.

Tiebreakers also decide periods and can vary depending on whether scores are tied 0-0, 1-1 or 3-3 or higher. Wrestlers now are penalized points and/or have points given opponents for “fleeing the mat” or shoving an opponent out of bounds.

Many of those situations cropped up Saturday at Robert D. Edgren High School’s Eagles Nest, Kitts said, giving wrestlers from the five teams taking part a crash course that will be invaluable over the 10-week season.

“Now the wrestlers are more familiar with these rules,” he said, giving Yokota, Kinnick and Zama American a bit of a jump heading into the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools season, which begins Wednesday.

Officials on Saturday mostly “did a great job,” Kitts said.

But Seoul American coach Julian Harden said “some things weren’t quite clear,” particularly referees’ interpretations of out-of-bounds rules.

“Did the wrestler push him out? Did he step out of bounds? Did he get forced out? That was throwing us. That’s going to create problems,” Harden said, adding that he hopes taking part in the Kinnick Invitational “Beast of the Far East” Tournament on Jan. 28 will help.

That would benefit his team heading into the Feb. 16-18 DODDS-Pacific Far East tournament, he said. “We can’t go into Far East without a clear understanding of the rules.”

Kinnick got gold medals Saturday from Bobby Antonio (108 pounds), Chris Sanders (180) and defending Far East champions Kenji Doughty (148) and Yamato Cibulka (158) to finish with 73 points. Yokota was next with 67 and host Edgren had 60.

Kinnick is going to be “better than we thought,” Kitts said. Defending Far East champion Jason Rodriguez scored gold at 122 pounds, along with Niel Lapurga (115), Tom Gorman (129) and Jim Scott (215).

Matt Blankenship (135), Vincent Doinoff (141), Kevin McDonald (168) and David Leh (heavyweight) each captured golds for the Eagles.

Edgren has “definitely improved,” Kitts said, adding that Leh, who transferred from Osan, “is a huge addition. … They’re much tougher than last year.”

Only eight of 13 bouts were contested between Seoul and Osan, whose first-year wrestlers Carlos Albaladejo (158) and Jesse Crockett (215) won their decisions in two periods.

“Not bad for our first match,” Osan coach Charles Tadlock said.


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