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From left, Jack Abate (101 pounds), Steve Courtney (148) and Matt Maza (122) won Far East wrestling titles last season, and all three juniors return for individual freestyle and dual-meet team champion Kubasaki.
From left, Jack Abate (101 pounds), Steve Courtney (148) and Matt Maza (122) won Far East wrestling titles last season, and all three juniors return for individual freestyle and dual-meet team champion Kubasaki. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)
From left, Jack Abate (101 pounds), Steve Courtney (148) and Matt Maza (122) won Far East wrestling titles last season, and all three juniors return for individual freestyle and dual-meet team champion Kubasaki.
From left, Jack Abate (101 pounds), Steve Courtney (148) and Matt Maza (122) won Far East wrestling titles last season, and all three juniors return for individual freestyle and dual-meet team champion Kubasaki. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)
Seoul American High School wrestling coach Julian Harden works with varsity and junior varsity wrestlers Monday afternoon.
Seoul American High School wrestling coach Julian Harden works with varsity and junior varsity wrestlers Monday afternoon. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

A new Pacific high school wrestling season means a revamped way of doing business for defending Far East tournament champion Kubasaki of Okinawa and the nine returning individual gold medalists.

The International Wrestling Federation (FILA), governing body of freestyle wrestling used by DODDS-Pacific, enacted a slew of rules changes for the 2005-06 season. The rules now encourage aggressive, offensive wrestling and penalize passive, defensive tactics.

“It changes the face of wrestling,” Kubasaki coach Terry Chumley said.

Bouts now consist of three two-minute periods, not two three-minute periods. Decision scores are based on periods won, not total points, though a pin still will end a bout. A wrestler might lose even if he outscores his foe 7-3 but loses two of three periods.

“In some ways, points no longer matter. It’s winning the periods,” said coach Brian Kitts of Japan’s Yokota Panthers. “And they’re really coming down hard on fleeing the mat.”

Going out of bounds now will result in points lost or awarded to opponents, as will passive or non-aggressive wrestling. Conversely, wrestlers who push an opponent out of bounds will be penalized. Also, wrestlers now may score multiple points with one move; formerly, they could score just one two-point tilt with a hold, then had to switch grips.

“It definitely benefits the aggressive wrestler; the quicker they score, the quicker the match will be over,” Chumley said. “It makes the sport more viewer- and spectator-friendly. I think it’s going to be good for wrestling.”

Even overtime periods will change.

Previously, wrestlers would clinch each other around the torso, with the first to score a takedown winning. Now, the referee tosses a coin and the winner locks his arms in an “Indian Grip” around the foe’s leg, giving him a decided edge over the coin-toss loser.

That change concerned at least one coach. Said Richard Huffer of Nile C. Kinnick of Japan: “It seems like the match in sudden death is going to be determined by a coin toss.”

A concern, Kitts said, “is that there’s more interpretation left to the referees” — whether a wrestler is passive, for instance.

But coaches mostly favored the changes. “It will require a wrestler to really be thinking,” Huffer said. “For example, when a wrestler sprawls and goes around his opponent, he will have to be aware of where he is. If he goes out of bounds … his opponent gets a point, not him.”

Kitts said, “It should step up the tempo and make wrestling pretty exciting.”

Even without the changes, the season follows perhaps the tightest Far East tournament in the event’s 30-year history.

Kubasaki and Kinnick wrestled to a 26-26 draw in the 2005 dual-meet final at Yokota Air Base, with Kubasaki winning the title via tiebreaker. Kubasaki also won the individual freestyle team title by three points over island-rival Kadena, for its Pacific-record 20th Far East team title.

“I don’t feel any pressure” from being defending Far East champion, said Chumley, who welcomes seven returnees, including three defending champions — juniors Jack Abate (101), Matt Maza (122) and Steve Courtney (148).

She calls their presence “vital” in helping bring along a rookie-laden lineup. “It’s whoever gets the wrestlers elevated to the competitive level in a short amount of time. You have 13 weight classes. You have to bring them all up to speed. I consider this a rebuilding year but I have some very strong returnees to build around.”

Kitts and Yokota also sport three returning champions: senior Zach Dopslaf (180) and juniors Jason Rodriguez (115) and Patrick Pamintuan (108). Junior Brandon McCullough (129-pound champion) headlines a young Kadena lineup, while defending gold medalists Kenji Doughty (141) and Yamato Cibulka (158), both seniors, are at Kinnick.

“We’ll be a strong contender,” Huffer said.

“We are in contention, hopefully,” Kitts said.

Pacific competition began Saturday with the DODDS-Japan Invitational at Misawa Air Base, Japan, while Seoul American and Osan American squared off in the first DODDS-Korea dual meet.

DODDS teams say they plan to use Kinnick’s Jan.28 Invitational “Beast of the Far East” tournament as a Far East tournament tuneup; it will be the one major event featuring DODDS and international school powers such as St. Mary’s International of Tokyo.

“That's a ‘must-go,’ ” Chumley said. “That will show us where we stand and what we need to work on, plus we’ll see teams that we won’t see at Far East.”

DODDS-Pacific wrestling team capsulesKoreaSeoul American FalconsYongsan Garrison

Head coach: Julian Harden.

2005 Far East tournament results: Fifth place in individual freestyle, fourth in dual meet.

Key wrestlers: Marque Snow, Sr., 215 pounds, 180-pound Far East semifinalist; Chris Steuerwald, Sr., 122-135 pounds, 115-pound Far East quarterfinalist; Daniel O'Connor, Jr., 141 pounds; Charles Jones, Jr., 180-215 pounds; Marco Duarte, Jr., 122 pounds (transfer from States); Daniel Cain, Jr., 158 pounds.

Outlook: Rebuilding.

Osan American CougarsOsan Air Base

Head coach: Charles Tadlock.

2005 Far East tournament results: 10th place in individual freestyle.

Key wrestlers: Squad of 24 new wrestlers with no Far East tournament experience.

Outlook: Rebuilding.

OkinawaKubasaki DragonsCamp Foster

Head coach: Terry Chumley.

2005 Far East tournament results: Defending individual freestyle, dual meet champion.

Key wrestlers: Steve Courtney, Jr., 158 pounds, defending 148-pound Far East champion; Matt Maza, Jr., 135 pounds, defending 122-pound Far East champion; Jack Abate, Jr., 115 pounds, defending 101-pound Far East champion; C.J. Tapang, So., 129 pounds, 129-pound Far East semifinalist; David Miller, Sr., 215 pounds.

Outlook: Reloading/contending.

Kadena PanthersKadena Air Base

Head coach: Steve Schrock.

2005 Far East tournament results: Defending individual freestyle runner-up, fifth place in dual meet.

Key wrestlers: Brandon McCullough, Jr., 135 pounds, defending 129-pound Far East champion; Chris Hoshaw, So., 108 pounds, 101-pound Far East semifinalist; Jake Bloom, So., 129 pounds, defending 122-pound Far East runner-up; Austin Copeland, So., 148 pounds, defending 141-pound Far East runner-up; Ian Copeland, Sr., 158 pounds; Brandon Stout, Jr., 168 pounds; Drake Robertson, Fr., 101 pounds (transfer from Washington, wrestled since 3rd grade); Cody Cash, So., 135 pounds (transfer from States).

Outlook: Reloading/contending.

JapanYokota PanthersYokota Air Base

Head coach: Brian Kitts.

2005 Far East tournament results: Fourth place in individual freestyle, third place in dual meet.

Key wrestlers: Zach Dopslaf, Sr., 180-215, defending 180-pound Far East champion; Patrick Pamintuan, Jr., 115-122, defending 108-pound Far East champion; Jason Rodriguez, Jr., 122-129, defending 115-pound Far East champion; Garret McCaw, Sr., 168 pounds; Jim Scott, Sr., 215, 215-pound Far East semifinalist.

Outlook: Contending.

Nile C. Kinnick Red DevilsYokosuka Naval Base

Head coach: Richard Huffer.

2005 Far East tournament results: Third place in individual freestyle, second place in dual meet.

Key wrestlers: Yamato Cibulka, Sr., 158-168, defending 158-pound Far East champion; Kenji Doughty, Sr., 148-158, defending 141-pound Far East champion; Bobby Antonio, So., 108 pounds, 108-pound Far East runner-up; Reggie Barton, Jr., 122 pounds, 101-pound Far East runner-up; Chris Sanders, Jr., 180 pounds, 180-pound Far East quarterfinalist; Phil Ergus, Jr., heavyweight, heavyweight Far East semifinalist; Andrew Preson, Jr., 168 pounds (transfer from States).

Outlook: Contending.

Robert D. Edgren EaglesMisawa Air Base

Head coach: Justin Edmonds.

2005 Far East tournament results: Seventh in individual freestyle.

Key wrestlers: Vincent Doinoff, Jr., 141 pounds, 141-pound Far East semifinalist; Victor Lee, Sr., 148 pounds, 148-pound Far East semifinalist; Kevin McDonald, Sr., 168 pounds, 158-pound Far East quarterfinalist; David Leh, Jr., 215 pounds (transfer from Osan American).

Outlook: Rebuilding/reloading.

Zama American TrojansCamp Zama

Head coach: Ian Harlow.

2005 Far East tournament results: Sixth place in individual freestyle, sixth place in dual meet.

Key wrestlers: Adam Godfrey, So., 141 pounds, 115-pound Far East semifinalist; David O'Brien, Sr., 135 pounds, 141-pound Far East semifinalist; Josh Johnson, So., 122 pounds; Shota Tanaka, Sr., 129 pounds, 135-pound Far East quarterfinalist.

Outlook: Rebuilding.

E.J. King CobrasSasebo Naval Base

Head coach: Tom Wright.

2005 Far East tournament results: Eighth place in individual freestyle.

Key wrestlers: Luigi Deguzman, So., 101-108 pounds, 101-pound Far East semifinalist; David Heitstuman, So., 129-135 pounds, 129-pound Far East quarterfinalist; Byrrh Bryant, So., 158-168 pounds, 168-pound Far East quarterfinalist; Kevin Donahue, So., 101-108 pounds; Matt Heitstuman, Sr., 135-141 pounds.

Outlook: Rebuilding.

Pacific high school wrestling fact file

Key dates:

Jan. 28, 2006-Nile C. Kinnick Invitational "Beast of the Far East" tournament, Yokosuka Middle School, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

Feb. 4, 2006-DODDS-Japan championship tournament, Yokota Middle School, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Feb. 11, 2006-Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools championship tournament, St. Mary's International School, Tokyo.

Feb. 16-18, 2006-DODDS-Pacific Far East High School Wrestling Tournament, Nile C. Kinnick High School, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

Feb. 23-25, 2006-Asia-Pacific Invitational Wrestling Tournament, site TBD, Guam.

Summary of International Wrestling Federation (FILA) rule changes for 2005:

Bout time three periods of two minutes each; previously was two periods of three minutes each. 30-second break between periods, with no water allowed.

Wrestler who wins two out of three periods or scores a pin at any point wins the bout; previously, wrestler with best total score after two periods or a pin won the bout.

Wrestler scoring two three-point throws, one five-point throw or taking a six-point lead wins period. Wrestler gaining six-point leads in two periods wins bout by way of technical fall/superior decision. Wrestler gets option of continuing bout to try for pinfall victory and run risk of losing bout.

Wrestler going out of bounds of his own accord loses one point for passivity. Wrestling resumes from standing position. Wrestler going out of bounds from bottom position loses one point and receives a caution. Wrestler going out of bounds by bridge from near-pin position loses two points and receives a caution.

Wrestler pushing opponent out of bounds loses one point and receives caution. Wrestler may drive an opponent out of bounds while the two are locked up.

Wrestler may score two-point tilts with the same hold or move, such as a gut wrench or ankle lace; previously, wrestler could only score one tilt with one hold.

Wrestler competing passively in referee's judgment receives caution and opponent is awarded one point.

Wrestler receiving three cautions automatically loses bout, even if same wrestler holds the lead.

If a period ends in a tie, three tiebreaker criteria will be used to decide period: 1) wrestler who scored biggest point throw or tilt, e.g. wrestler who scored three-point throw beats wrestler who scored three takedowns; 2) fewer number of cautions, and 3) wrestler who scored final point of period.

If a period ends in a 0-0 tie, referee tosses coin and orders period to resume in clinch position. Coin-toss winner holds leg of coin-toss loser with two arms in “Indian Grip,” referee blows whistle to begin 30 seconds of extra time. First wrestler to score point wins.

Dual-meet team points are now scored as follows:

5-0 if wrestler wins by pin, injury default, withdrawal, disqualification or if his opponent is cautioned three times.

4-0 if wrestler wins by technical fall/superior decision (two periods won by scores of 6-0) and no technical points scored by loser.

4-1 if wrestler wins by technical fall/superior decision and loser scores at least one technical point.

3-0 if wrestler wins two periods by less than six points each and loser scores no technical points.

3-1 if wrestler wins two periods by less than six points each and loser scores technical points.

0-0 if both wrestlers are disqualified.

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