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Even as dual meet, invitational has 10 participants ‘excited’

After a year’s hiatus, the “Beast of the Far East” wrestling tournament is back on the map.

The invitational hosted by Nile C. Kinnick was canceled last year when no facility on Yokosuka Naval Base was available in January for the event.

This year, it’s back, with 10 teams and a return to the dual-meet format used in 2002; it was an individual event for the four years after that.

“We’re definitely excited,” Kinnick coach Nico Hindie said. “Last year, we were kind of disappointed that circumstances didn’t allow us to host it. We’ve moved to a dual-meet format this year, and it’s looking good.”

Fourteen teams competed in 2006, but given last year’s cancellation, Hindie isn’t surprised by the dropoff to 10 teams.

“That’s to be expected,” he said. “But 10 teams is still a nice turnout. Once this is back on the map, people will see what they missed; a couple of more teams might want to come.”

The shift to the dual-meet format was made, Hindie said, after some coaches said the 2006 individual tournament dragged on too long, causing injuries.

Yet some coaches, eager to retain the freestyle format, questioned the change, Hindie said.

“Some coaches have asked us, wondered if the dual-meet format was the right way to go,” Hindie said. “But everybody’s excited.”

No matter the format, most coaches said they were just happy the tournament was back.

“Even with the grumblings about the dual-meet format, any time we can wrestle the other schools, it’s great,” Kadena coach Steve Schrock said. “It beats the alternative, which is nothing. We get mat time, experience for the new guys in the lineup, real match wrestling with referees instead of throwing each other around the room.”

Yokota coach Brian Kitts said the tournament is most valuable for teams such as Kadena that are seeing the other teams for the first time, because the Japan-based teams are familiar with one another.

“We already get a lot of wrestling,” Kitts said, noting that Kadena wrestles only Kubasaki during the regular season. “Wrestling is wrestling, but this tournament is more important for Kadena.”

On the other side of the coin, Kadena’s depth from top to bottom in its lineup makes it the “team to beat,” Kitts said.

“They have a great program, it’s a huge school, they have continuity, a lot of returnees, Schrock is a smart coach,” Kitts said. “On paper, they’re the best team” in the tournament.

Kinnick Invitational Wrestling Tournament

When-Saturday, matches begin at 9:30 a.m. Championship match about 7 p.m.Where-Yokosuka Middle School, Yokosuka Naval Base, JapanParticipating schools-Robert D. Edgren, E.J. King, Yokota, Zama American, Kinnick, St. Mary’s, American School In Japan, Christian Academy In Japan; Kadena, Okinawa.Returning Far East tournament champions-Chris Hoshaw (122 pounds), Jacob Bloom (148), Kadena; David Heitstuman (135), E.J. King.

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