St. Mary's, former runners-up score big
Stars and Stripes February 16, 2011
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea – Call it the “Redemption Tournament.”
Six of eight prior silver medalists took the final step to Far East High School Wrestling Tournament gold in Wednesday’s individual freestyle finals at Camp Humphreys’ Super Gym.
“It feels amazing,” Kubasaki 180-pounder Matt Payne said after his two-period decision over E.J. King’s Darnell Vinson. “My hard work and dedication has paid off. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Coach Ian Harlow felt pretty much the same way after his St. Mary’s International Titans of Tokyo captured the freestyle team title in their first trip back to Far East since 2004. DODDS Pacific policy kept international schools out of Far East from 2005-10.
“It makes you speechless. I just can’t believe it,” Harlow said. The Titans got three gold medals and outdistanced three-time team runner-up Kadena, 67-52. Kubasaki (44) took third and Yokota (42) got fourth.
Joining Payne on “Redemption Trail” were teammates Steven Walter (101) and Jon Goddard (141), Kadena’s Jacob Bishop (148) and Aaron Ahner (215) and Devin Day of Yokota (135) as runners-up-turned-champions.
Goddard finished second two years ago and third last season; Day won gold at 129 pounds in 2009 before finishing second at 135 in 2010; Bishop took second at 129 in 2008 while at Zama American and followed that with fourth- and third-place finishes.
“Finally. I’ve been waiting for this all four of my years,” said Goddard, who dispatched Father Duenas Memorial’s Bruce Julian in two periods. “I’m so happy that it’s a reality now.”
Bishop decisioned St. Mary’s Brendon Hymas in three periods on Wednesday. The senior was coached by Harlow while attending middle school at Zama.
“Now that I’ve won, I’m pretty happy, and to come back and beat my old coach is pretty cool, too,” Bishop said.
Walter appeared emotional departing the mat after downing St. Mary’s International’s Kaimi Miyazawa in two periods. He’d lost in last year’s final to Seoul American’s Kortney Martin. “I just feel so good right now,” Walter said.
Day, who fell in two periods a year ago to Nile C. Kinnick’s Elijah Gamble, used a head-in-arm hold to pin Seoul American’s Eric Bush in 3 minutes, 18 seconds on Wednesday.
Ahner, pinned in last year’s final by Guam High’s Theatrice Eaton, wasted little time Wednesday dispatching Daegu American’s Daniel Saintil in 26 seconds.
Both returning champions made three-peats. Kinnick junior 122-pounder Marcus Boehler made it three wins in four tries against St. Mary’s Kelly Langley this season and Zama senior Michael Spencer won by decision in two periods over St. Mary’s Jeffrey Koo.
“I wanted to achieve something big,” said Boehler, who will next season attempt to become the third four-time champion in Far East history.
At Spencer’s final practice last week, he said he told his teammates to “‘make it the best and go to Far East and give it a run.’ And I did.”
St. Mary’s for the first time boasted a heavyweight gold medalist in Chidi Agbo. Soma Yoshida also won gold at 115 pounds. All 11 Titans scored team points; four won silver medals.
“These guys just stepped it up, to have that many guys in the semifinals and reach the finals,” Harlow said, adding that the Titans only lose three seniors. “It’s an exciting time at St. Mary’s.”
For Kadena, Cory Peckins also won at 158 pounds, in his third season with his third different school, and freshman Thomas Cioppa won at 108. Fourth-place Yokota got a title from 129-pounder Yuki Sorci.
Zama American won the Division II championship - its first since sharing the 1982 team championship with St. Mary’s.