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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — In completing a sweep of the DODDS-Pacific Far East High School Wrestling Tournament titles, Seoul American’s grapplers followed a simple formula for success:

1. Wrap arm around opponent’s head.

2. Toss him, back first, onto the mat.

3. Squeeze tightly, push back into opponent and gaze up at the heavens (or at least at the ceiling of Old Thew Gym).

Just call the Falcons the “Head-In-Arm Gang.”

On their way to dethroning defending champion Kadena 38-24 in Saturday’s dual-meet tournament final, six of their seven victories, by Andrew So (101 pounds), Gene Victa (108), James Nutter (115), Clark Campbell (168), Justin Stokes (180) and Charles Jones (215) came by way of the move.

It’s a tactic coach Julian Harden admits he doesn’t like. Still, he wasn’t quarreling with the results.

“Some moves, you see every year. One you see over and over again is the head-in-arm,” Harden said. “I’m not a fan of it. I think it’s a cheap move. But it works and it worked tonight. If an opponent is going to keep his head out there, I’ll tell my guys to go for it.”

The victory gave the Falcons a Far East title sweep 24 hours after they edged Kubasaki and Kadena of Okinawa for the freestyle team crown. It was the Falcons’ third team title since 2004.

Saturday’s dual meet took on the dizzying ambience of a seesaw, with the Falcons opening strongly, followed by a Panthers rally and a strong finish by Seoul American. Harden complimented Kadena for pushing his Falcons to the limit.

“I admire (coach) Steve (Schrock) and this team,” Harden said of Kadena. “They set the example and tone for all of us to follow. I like their leadership, how they wrestle, how they compete. You want to know how to measure success, you have to beat a team like that.”

Schrock was equally effusive in his praise of the Falcons.

“They were solid all the way through the lineup and Julian is a great coach,” Schrock said. “I love competing against him, win or lose. I’m happy for his school and his program. We’re used to head-in-arm battles. Turnabout is fair play.”

Victa and Nutter helped the Falcons break out of the gate quickly, using the head-in-arm to pin their respective foes to give Seoul American a 15-0 lead.

Then the script changed. Chris Hoshaw (122), Dean Harkum (129) and Brandon McCullough (141) each recorded decisions, then Jacob Bloom (148) and Cody Cash (158) took a page out of the Falcons’ head-in-arm playbook with pins that put Kadena up 24-18.

The lead was short-lived, as Campbell restored order and cut the gap to one point.

Then Stokes, who sealed the Falcons’ individual freestyle team title on Friday, made it two straight clinchers, pinning Angelo Smith in 1:46. Jones ensured the victory by nailing Karsten Hendricksen in 1:00.

Despite the loss, Schrock expressed pride in his squad, which loses just one senior, McCullough.

“Nobody saw us being in this final,” he said. “Most people saw us as being a good individual freestyle team. I think we proved we were well rounded. We’ve been in the top three for three straight years. … That’s confirmation for our returnees that this program isn’t going away.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He served 10½ years in the Air Force, the last 4½ assigned to Stripes in Tokyo, and was then hired by Stripes on Oct. 25, 1985. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages Pacific Storm Tracker.
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