Far East wrestling
Kubasaki, Zama go to mat for team victories
By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 21, 2013
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – Tyshon Butler, Aaron Stravers, Fred Suniga and Josiah Allen put a decidedly Kubasaki spin on the term “Last Men Standing” in Thursday’s Far East High School Wrestling Tournament dual-meet final.
Trailing host Nile C. Kinnick 23-18 with four bouts left, the Dragons foursome put on a virtuoso performance, getting three decisions and a pin to rally Kubasaki past the Red Devils 32-26 for a sweep of the Division I titles. They extended their Pacific record for Far East titles in any sport to 23.
“That’s what the sport is,” Suniga said after working a two-period decision over Kinnick’s Daniel Costello in the 215-pound bout.
Allen followed that with a pin at heavyweight that clinched the dual meet. Butler and Stravers set the table with tough, three-period decisions over Alex Banks at 168 and Stravers’ former Kinnick teammate Ian O’Brien at 180.
“We’re exhausted. It’s fun, though,” said Dragons coach Ron Geist, for whom the title was a huge triumph during his recovery from a stroke last June.
“I don’t see how this can get any bigger, coming down to the last match, when that one match decides it,” Geist said. “We were able to outwrestle some kids. Aaron taking down a Far East champion, huge. Younger wrestlers who didn’t get pinned, huge. Today’s a great day for us.”
At the start, it looked as if the home team might triumph as Eddie Sheridan pinned Hank Williamson at 101. Kubasaki’s Daniel Mora and Steven Walter followed that with decisions, but controversy followed in the 122-pound bout.
Initially, Brady Yoder of Kinnick was credited with a two-period decision at 122 over Josh Gabri which would have given Kinnick a 10-7 lead. But Kinnick coaches protested that Yoder should be credited with a pin, as signaled by two of the three mat officials. By rule, all three must confirm the pin.
After a 27-minute debate among the officials and both teams’ coaching staffs, the call was reversed, a pin credited and Kinnick led 12-6, angering Kubasaki’s coaches. “I thought that was wrong,” Geist said, suggesting there should have been a video review to seek evidence “one way or the other.”
The reversal seemed to spark the Red Devils, who rode decisions by Marvin Newbins (135) and Zach Yoder (141) and Dustin Wilson’s pin at 158 to offset pins by Kubasaki’s Michael Brown (129) and Austin Cyr (148), setting the stage for Kubasaki’s late heroics and disappointment for the Red Devils.
“That happens sometimes,” Kinnick coach Gary Wilson said. “Kubasaki’s kids wrestled better than us, they got some key wins along the way. We were in it all the way to the end, fought to the last man. My deepest congratulations to Kubasaki for an outstanding season.”
Earlier, in the Division II final, in which drama was hardly a factor, Zama American made it a second sweep of the team titles in three years, and the first with Steve Scott as head coach.
Robert Corneliussen (101), Sam Bishop (135), Josh Elliot (141), Chad Wilder (158) and Mitchell Harrison (180) each pinned their foes as the Trojans routed Osan American 40-20 in the gold-medal dual. With many weights unfilled by both teams, only six bouts were actually contested.
Scott credited the work of eight wrestlers Zama’s had for three seasons. “They performed. They worked very hard. They’re a big part of the reason why we’re here,” Scott said.
Too much training during the 2011-12 Christmas break left the Trojans “burned out” in the second part of last season, Scott said, so he scaled back on it this season. “This year, by the second half, a lot of the guys improved.”
Zama picked up its fifth Far East D-II team championship of the school year, including the individual-freestyle team title on Wednesday, plus football, girls tennis and boys basketball.
Zama’s reign on the mat may not last as the Trojans lose eight from their starting lineup next season. “We’ll be starting over,” Scott said.
Mitchell Harrison of Zama American works a pin on Osan American's Preston Blakley in the 180-pound bout during Thursday's Far East High School Wrestling Tournament dual-meet bouts at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Harrison won in 14 seconds and the Trojans captured their fourth Far East Division II team title in three years.
DAVE ORNAUER/STARS AND STRIPES