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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Of the three Korea high school teams wrestling Saturday at Falcon Gym, only defending Far East tournament dual-meet champion Seoul American dressed a full squad.

Three of their four returnees with Far East tournament experience didn’t even get to take the mat, as Osan American and Taegu American fielded just a handful of wrestlers.

Yet there they were, competing in a tri-meet of sorts that featured mostly exhibition bouts, for the first time since the 2002-03 season. That small feat gratified Seoul American coach Julian Harden, who says he’s been jumping through hoops to keep high school wrestling alive in Korea.

“We keep bumping our head against the wall, trying to keep this program going,” Harden said after his Falcons downed Osan American 41-15.

Though the Cougars fielded only seven wrestlers in that loss, and the Taegu American Warriors had just two, “they were there,” Harden said. Taegu didn’t have a wrestling program at all last year.

“The fact that the program is still alive is a big help. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do anything, other than practice against ourselves,” he said.

For the Falcons, Peter Matson (129 pounds) and Mark Snow (215) scored pins, while Woong Lee (158) and Chris Steuerwald (122) won by technical fall. Seoul’s other six victories came by walkover.

Steuerwald was the Falcons’ only regular with Far East experience who wrestled. Josh Dowers (148) wrestled an exhibition bout, while John Crabtree (148) won by walkover and defending Far East 180-pound weight-class champion Scott Tunis stepped aside to let Ji-wahn Kim wrestle.

“Three of my top guys, I need to get them some mat time,” Harden said.

Kim lost by pin to Osan’s Aaron Clifton, and the Cougars also got a pinfall victory from heavyweight David Leh and a superior decision from James Reid at 115.

Harden said he hopes Osan’s and Taegu’s programs can add numbers for three more tri-meets scheduled in January.

“That’s the plan,” Harden said, adding that he’s also hoping to get school and DODDS-Korea district approval to travel to the Nile C. Kinnick Invitational “Beast of the Far East” Tournament, scheduled for Feb. 5 at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

“The importance of us getting over to Kinnick, it would be an excellent lead-in to Far East,” Harden said.


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