Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as folks on Okinawa continue to ask if three regular-season dual meets is enough preparation for defending champion Kubasaki for next month’s Far East Tournament at Yokota: -- It will be difficult to gauge the significance of Osan’s first DODDS Korea tournament title in any format this season until next month’s Far East tournament at Yokota. But it’s a huge step for a Cougars program seeking its first Division II title since winning the division’s inaugural individual freestyle tournament in 2009 at Kubasaki. The only school besides Seoul American with a full lineup, the Cougars captured five of 13 weight classes: Cory Harding at 108, Gerard Chopin (141), Steven Halik (158), Kade Leonard (168) and Justin Mancha (215), along with four seconds and two thirds. In the team points, Osan finished with 134, Seoul American 108, Daegu 65 and host Humphreys 55. It could be argued that the results of Saturday’s meet, the first ever held at Humphreys since its new campus opened in January, were skewed by the fact that it was an SAT day and several prominent DODDS Korea names, including Seoul American 215-pounder Jack Barnes, were not present. But the results showed that Robert D. Edgren of Japan could possibly get a good run for the D-II championship from the Cougars, sight unseen and on paper only. Again, no scientific way to gauge, since the two won’t see each other until Far East, although historically, wrestling in Japan has far outstripped that of Korea.
*** Speaking of Japan, Nile C. Kinnick, DODDS Japan’s top dog, rebounded from its dual-meet loss to St. Mary’s International a week earlier with a vengeance, taking no fewer than 10 titles out of 13 weight classes to win a an individual freestyle tournament at Zama. The Red Devils outpointed Edgren 114-57, with the Eagles capturing the 129 weight class (Hunter Matthews) and 141 (Kaleb Atchison). The only other non-Kinnick wrestler to take first was Zama's Jacob Scott, seeing his first significant action of the season following a knee injury. The roll call of winners for Kinnick: 101, Vincent Soiles; 108, Matthew Abrenilla; 115, Jianni Labato; 122, Nathan Abrenilla; 135, Brady Yoder; 158, Charlie Gann (who showed no ill effect from a knee injury suffered vs. St. Mary’s); 168, Dustin Wilson; 180, Keigo Mull, Kinnick; 215, Ian O’Brien; Heavyweight, Alaka’i Warford.
*** While Kubasaki remains the reigning Far East D-I champion in both the individual and dual tournaments, the numbers this season reveal one major weak spot for the Dragons: Preparation. Their regular season amounted to just three dual meets, sandwiched by a pair of scrimmages (the second one Wednesday at Kubasaki) and a three-way practice session at Urasoe High last Saturday. Much debate has taken place in a Facebook group entitled “DODDS Pacific Cuts to Extracurricular Activities” about the disparity between the schools in Japan and Korea, which got far more mat time this season, and Okinawa, which got comparatively little. By the new definitions published by DODDS Pacific in November, wrestlers are permitted a total of eight regular-season competitions, limited to one per week, plus the Far East meet, this year scheduled for Feb. 13-15 at Yokota. What defines a competition can vary. DODDS Korea teams gather weekly at one location for a four-way individual or dual-meet tournament; that by DODDS’ definition constitutes one competition against the limit. Same when DODDS Japan schools or Kanto Plain teams gather at any one location, such as the Kinnick Individual Tournament on Jan. 11, when 10 schools came together; again, that counted as one competition against the limit. It’s rather difficult for Kubasaki and Kadena to do likewise, since they’re the only two DODDS entities on the island. They could, as Kubasaki has done in the past, enter Marine Corps Community Services tournaments (they’d have to do that as clubs not affiliated with the schools), but the coaches at each school have vetoed that as a safety risk. Same with wrestling against Japanese schools; high school programs in Japan operate year-round, and the wrestlers are vastly farther along in their development. In-season invitationals, such as the “Beast of the East” and “Rumble on the Rock,” were taken off the board this year. “Beast” organizers were directed by the DODDS Japan district not to honor requests from teams from out of area other than the outlying DODDS Japan schools. Even if Okinawa schools were permitted, they’d have to travel as clubs not affiliated with their schools, provide their own ground and air transportation and find a place to stay, such as Navy Lodge, and pay the entire bill out of parents’ pockets and fund raisers, etc. So, is throwing your teammates around the wrestling room and only occasionally wrestling against one school enough preparation for Far East? From 141 pounds up, observers suggest that the Dragons may be fielding their strongest lineup ever. And Kubasaki used to regularly win Far East titles in the 1990s with just four regular-season dual meets against Kadena (plus the occasional MCCS tournament), about the same as what they had this season. The questions will be answered next month.