Kinnick has clear targets: St. Mary's titles
December 8, 2016
Call it a three-year exercise in frustration for coach Gary Wilson and his Nile C. Kinnick wrestling team.
The Red Devils have been chasing their first Far East Division I individual freestyle tournament title, only to watch their Kanto Plain arch-rival St. Mary’s come away with it every time.
A season ago, the Titans made it doubly frustrating for the Devils by capturing not only the Far East D-I individual and dual-meet titles; St. Mary’s won everything there was to be won.
The Titans captured five major titles, including the Far East sweep, the Kanto Plain regular-season and tournament titles and the “Beast of the East” at Kinnick. And 148-pound senior captain Kazuho Kawashima was named Far East tournament Outstanding Wrestler.
“They’re the champs,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to find a way to knock them off. What we did last year didn’t work for us. We have to get a lot better (because St. Mary’s is) planning on continuing to win.”
Coach Shu Yabui, himself a former three-time Far East champion, and the Titans will ride the strength of returning three-time winner Chang Young Lee, along with returning champions Rio Lemkuil and Ryo Osawa and returning runners-up Eshan Singhi and Tatsuhito Matsumoto.
Kinnick returns two Far East champions of its own, junior two-time winner Lucas Wirth and 180-pound titlist Dwayne Lyon. But it won’t just be St. Mary’s the Red Devils are hunting.
There’s reigning Division II dual-meet champion Yokota, which for the second straight season fields a full roster, plus others in the room fighting for those spots, coach Ty Gaume said.
“There’s strength in numbers and when you have backups at a lot of the positions, that strength happens in the wrestling room where you have people competing for a job,” Gaume said.
American School In Japan and Christian Academy Japan had only a handful of seniors last season, so Wilson said he sees big things from them as well. “I expect a big resurgence out of ASIJ and CAJ,” he said.
“If they have 11 weight classes, they’ll be tough to beat. Kanto Plain is going to be brutal; with the D-I schools, there’ll be some crazy battles.”
One coach hoping to go out with a bang is Steve Schrock, in his 15th year at Kadena’s helm. He’s said this is to be his last year of coaching overseas.
Though the Panthers lost quite a few seniors and other transfers, they do return defending 101-pound Far East champion Demetrio De La Rosa and heavyweight runner-up Siulagisipai Fuimaono. Kadena, too, has a full lineup and Schrock expects wrestle-offs throughout the season.
All leagues are in action starting this week with a quad meet at Seoul American, which returns defending 215-pound Far East champion Brandon Rothe.
Saturday sees the first of the in-season Kanto Plain invitationals, this one at CAJ. “It will give us a good benchmark with our competition and see where we are and what we need to work on,” Yabui said.
Only one inter-district in-season invitational is scheduled this season. The “Beast of the East” tournament, held at Kinnick since its inception in 1994, moves to Yokota for the first time Jan. 21.
“That allows us to see the Okinawa teams,” Yabui said of a tournament that historically has welcomed Kadena, Seoul American and 25-time Far East team champion Kubasaki.
“I’m excited to see what other teams will bring. Our wrestlers are motivated and focused to continue the success from last season.”
Division II squads are generally pretty thin this season, and six of the eight D-II teams have new coaches at the helm, including Al Grade, the principal at Daegu.
One D-II team to watch for, Gaume said, is Matthew C. Perry, with a handful of the players who helped win the school’s first D-II football banner now in the practice room.
“Perry has a stack of tremendous athletes,” Gaume said. “Their success in football translated into bigger numbers in the wrestling room. They definitely are somebody that nobody wants to take lightly.”