Wood has shot at rare feat
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — You want pressure? Try taking Advanced Placement courses in statistics, government and English literature, being a National Honor Society member and carrying a 3.9 non-weighted GPA.
Not enough? How about being an accomplished cross-country runner, an age-group swim champion, an ice hockey center since childhood … and a three-time Far East tournament gold medalist for DODDS-Pacific’s most storied high school wrestling program.
"I’m kind of used to pressure and success," said Kubasaki senior 115-pounder Scott Wood. "I try to take it slow, relax and not worry."
Whatever he’s doing is working. Last season, Wood went 17-0 and has not lost a match since he was a freshman.
In fact, only one wrestler has won more Far East titles than Wood. Justin L. Miller, who wrestled for Kubasaki in the late 90s, took home four Far East golds.
"It’s an honor to be able to have a chance to do that," said Wood, who has never met Miller, but has heard much about him from Kubasaki wrestling head coach Terry Chumley.
In her 11 years with the program, Chumley calls Wood one of the best wrestlers she’s coached, which is saying a lot considering the Dragons own a Pacific-record 20 Far East team titles and 80 Far East individual gold medals.
"He’s humble, he’s hard-working, he’s smart, he’s successful," Chumley said.
All that despite Wood having never wrestled before entering Kubasaki’s dank wrestling workout room in November 2005.
Yet even that freshman year he bulldozed his opponents, losing just twice.
"I’m thinking, ‘This is a pretty special guy who gives it 110 percent at practice,’ " Chumley said of her first impressions of Wood. "That’s something you can’t teach or coach. Something that comes from within."
Wood is a quiet sort who said he likes to listen more than he speaks.
"He’s like a sponge," Chumley said. "He picks up everything. He’s a smart wrestler. He can figure it out as he goes."
That will benefit him well should he make it to Annapolis, where he hopes to wrestle for the Naval Academy. Meanwhile, he’s being eyed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York for a possible ROTC scholarship.
Other Pacific coaches have taken note of Wood’s talent, one calling him "a guaranteed win" for Kubasaki the last three years.
"He’s really tough, calculating, methodical," said Brian Kitts of Yokota. "He doesn’t make mistakes."
Wood will begin his final campaign in Dragons’ green and white on Dec. 11 with a home match against defending Far East team champion Kadena.
Wood says he holds no illusions about the season to come, knowing there is always somebody out there who may be better.
"Everybody’s gunning for me," he said. "[I] take every opponent seriously. Even if they’re terrible, they can get something on you."
Chumley rates Wood’s chances of matching Miller’s feat as "excellent."
Should Wood cap his high school career by joining Miller in that exclusive pantheon, Chumley will have another story about a Kubasaki wrestling legend and the 81st gold medalist to pass through that musty sweat box.
"It’s great to be able to share stories with the young guys about them," Chumley said. "It fires the guys up. They said how that would be cool to try to do the same thing."