Zama’s Burnett leads brigade of 10 first-time champions
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Two weeks ago, David Burnett discovered his Zama American Trojans had gone 15 years without having a freestyle gold medalist in the Far East wrestling tournament.
He decided to do something about it.
“Everybody predicted me to win this tournament, so I went out and did it,” the sophomore said after winning gold in the heavyweight devision, rallying for a 5-4 decision Thursday over American School In Japan’s Tim Jacobsson.
St. Mary’s International of Tokyo captured its fifth Far East championship, but 10 new faces claimed individual crowns.
Burnett, who won the last of 248 bouts contested Thursday, predicted this was a rejuvenation of Zama wrestling.
“We’re going to rebuild the team and come back and do it again next year,” said Burnett, who lost just once this season.
Other Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific first-time gold medalists were:
• Christian Segarra of Okinawa’s Kubasaki Dragons (101).
• Dustin Haney of the host Yokota Panthers (135).
• Joey Wood of Japan’s Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils (158).
• Devon Copeland (168) and Cole Maxey (215) of Okinawa’s Kadena Panthers.
• Scott Tunis of Seoul American (180).
Haney, a senior who has battled shoulder injuries, came into Far East with the flu.
“I can’t find the words,” he said after defeating Brad Candland of ASIJ 5-1. “It’s been harder with the injuries, but they didn’t hold me back. I just tried harder.”
“The kid’s got more heart than anybody I’ve seen in my life,” said Yokota assistant coach Brian Kitts. “He’s battled back from so much. He had every excuse to lay down and he didn’t. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Copeland’s title bout with Kinnick’s Tairiku Tejada went to overtime tied 8-8. Copeland used a counter move with a half-nelson to bring Tejada down, pinning him 31 seconds into the extra session.
Tunis also had his hands full, escaping with a 13-8 decision over Kadena’s Cliff Johnson.
“It was all heart, all inside of you. That’s what counts,” Tunis said.
Defending champions, meanwhile, earned a split decision, with three repeating and two being dethroned.
Zolboo Enkhbayar, the junior 141-pounder from Brent International of Subic Bay, Philippines, earned his third straight gold medal and was selected the tournament’s outstanding wrestler for the second straight year, a Far East first.
St. Mary’s Shu Yabui (129) joined Enkhbayar as a three-time champion, while teammate Mark Striegl (122) won his second straight. David Zielinski of ASIJ took third at 158, while Yokota’s Jerry Moore earned runner-up honors at 115.
Seoul American matched its best Far East finish and came within three points of capturing the school’s first team championship.
“Aw, man!” said Falcons coach Julian Harden. “If only we had one more guy in the finals, we’d have caught them. I want to be one of the big dogs. But I’m grateful. The kids really worked hard.”