St. Mary’s closes Rhodes era with Kanto wrestling title
An up-and-down season for one of Tokyo’s international-school wrestling powers closed on a high note Saturday as the St. Mary’s International Titans gave retiring coach Jon Rhodes a victorious sendoff, capturing the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Tournament’s team title.
Two weeks after finishing dead last in the Nile C. Kinnick Invitational “Beast of the Far East” tournament at Yokosuka Naval Base, the Titans grabbed four individual weight-class gold medals and outdistanced second-place American School In Japan 70-61.
Third-place Kinnick scored 58 points and Yokota took fourth with 55, each earning two gold medals.
“It’s the end of an era,” Yokota coach Brian Kitts said of Rhodes, who has coached wrestling for 39 years, the last 15 with St. Mary’s, where he won five Far East tournament titles.
“He’s a great coach,” Kitts said. “I respect him a lot. He sets the standard. His kids wanted him to go out on top. Give them credit. They stepped up when they had to.”
Perhaps stepping up the most was senior Mark Striegl, a former two-time Far East tournament champion who sat out much of the season with an eye infection.
Back in the lineup at 141 pounds, Striegl dominated defending Far East tournament champion Kenji Doughty of Kinnick, winning a 2-0 decision and avenging the first defeat in his seven years in the Titans program, suffered in December’s Christian Academy In Japan tournament.
“He wrestled his heart out,” Kinnick assistant coach Go Yamada said of Striegl, believed to be the first to be voted the tournament’s outstanding wrestler for two straight years. “It’s Rhodes’ last tournament, his last year here, the home crowd, revenge. Kenji could have done better but he’s had some rough days lately.”
Bobby Antonio (115 pounds) and defending Far East champion Yamato Cibulka (158) each garnered golds for Kinnick, while Jim Scott (215) and defending Far East champion Zach Dopslaf (180) won their respective weights for Yokota. Adam Godfrey (135) of Zama American was the only other DODDS-Japan wrestler to win a gold medal.
Former Far East champion Jordan Foxwell of Christian Academy In Japan won for the third time in five bouts against current Far East champion Jason Rodriguez of Yokota, pinning his rival.
Yamada and Kitts said that for Kinnick and Yokota, expected to contend for individual and team honors in the Far East tournament later this week at Yokosuka, Saturday’s results served as the smack in the mouth each needed.
“This just shows us that anybody can win Far East,” Yamada said. “Nobody’s a sure thing.”
Added Kitts: “It’s a good wakeup for us going into this week.”