After a year on the sidelines, the “Beast” is back. And wrestling coaches throughout the Pacific say they couldn’t be happier.

Since its inception in 1994, the Nile C. Kinnick Invitational “Beast of the Far East” tournament has served as what one coach calls a “barometer” to see where wrestlers stand in an environment similar to what they’ll see at next month’s Far East tournament at Osan.

“It lets kids see where they are in relation to their peers,”

Yokota coach Ty Gaume said. “They have a month (before Far East), so they get to see what they have to do to get to that level, to take the next step toward Far East.”

The “Beast” as the event’s name was sidelined last year and was limited to DODDS Japan and Kanto Plain international schools by the DODDS Japan district after competition limits were imposed and seasons shortened by DODDS Pacific’s area office starting in November 2013.

But this year, the tournament’s name was restored and the DODDS Japan district gave the OK for teams to travel from other districts, as had been customary starting in the early 2000s when Kubasaki and Kadena of Okinawa and Seoul American traveled to “Beast.”

The Dragons will be in attendance, but the Panthers will not. And coach Ben Pak plans to bring six of his 13 Falcons wrestlers under the banner Seoul Wrestling Club, which isn’t affiliated with the high school.

Wrestling starts at 9 a.m. Saturday and organizers say with the larger field this year, action could continue until well into the evening.

Regardless of how deep into the day, “it’s going to be a great chance to see competition that we’re going to see at Far East,” Gaume said.

It will also be a chance for Yokota to showcase talents such as Jordan Goodman, a middleweight newcomer who’s 10-0 thus far this season, seven bouts won by pin.

Three returning Far East tournament champions will also be on display, Chang Young Lee and Ryan Vasconcellos of St. Mary’s and Christian Fernandez of Kubasaki.

While teams in Japan and Okinawa generally field full lineups, the same can’t be said for two of the four DODDS Korea schools, Pak said, making the trip to “Beast” much more meaningful for his small contingent.

During a DODDS Korea quad-meet Dec. 13 at Daegu, the Falcons and Osan fielded full or almost-full teams, while the host Warriors had but three wrestlers and Humphreys just one.

“You can’t go to Far East and compete when your wrestlers only get two bouts per season,” Pak said.

Thus, Seoul wrestlers such as heavyweight Sani Buckingham will finally get something other than an exhibition bout, when he takes to the mat against Fernandez and others with more experience.

Pak’s team is stocked with mostly youngsters, and he feels it would be a good test for sophomores Jarek Bartel (158) and Brandon Rothe (180). He’ll also have sophomore Danny Berdine, a 122-pounder who upset former Far East champion Daniel Mora during last year’s Far East dual-meet tournament.

“I’d prefer to take all 13, but … they’ll get more matches against better competition. That’s what I’m expecting and that’s what I’m hoping,” Pak said.

“Beast” marks the end of the holiday break and the start of the second half of the winter season.

Basketball also resumes, with high-profile competitions featuring Taipei American’s boys and girls teams squaring off with Kubasaki and Kadena on Okinawa. Yokota’s unbeaten teams travel to Robert D. Edgren, while Seoul American visits Daegu on Friday for a rematch of last year’s Korea postseason tournament final games.

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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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