Zama's Spencer heads Stripes' wrestling all-stars
When it comes to taking care of business on the wrestling mat, 168-pounder Michael Spencer wasted little time, and his Zama American Trojans benefitted greatly for it.
Of his 27 bout wins, 26 came via pin, most of them in the first period. His quickest pin? All of 12 seconds. Average amount of time spent on the mat? Try 40 seconds. The non-pin victory? By superior decision.
He won gold medals in all four tournaments in which he wrestled: the Japan preseason, “Beast of the Far East,” Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools and the Far East (his third gold medal in as many tries).
“Michael strives for perfection and he has really increased his skills on the mat,” said Spencer’s coach of three years, Chris Iredale. “He has quite a tool bag now.”
All that helped the Trojans earn a piece of the Kanto Plain regular-season title for the first time since 1990. And they swept the Division II individual-freestyle and dual-meet team titles at Far East for the first time in school history last month at Camp Humphreys, South Korea.
Zama hadn’t earned a Far East mat title of any kind since sharing the crown in 1982.
For all that, Spencer has been named Stars and Stripes Pacific high school Wrestler of the Year, and he headlines Stripes’ first Far East wrestling All-Star team for the 2010-11 season.
As businesslike as he is on the mat, Spencer can be a high-spirited jokester among his teammates, but is also humble and is never slow to credit teammates and coaches for his success, Iredale said.
“He’s the perfect representative of the school and to others,” Iredale said. “Michael is an example of what can happen when you do not quit and work hard.”
As the team’s captain, Spencer “led by example,” Iredale said. He was always quick to address wrestlers who “were not holding their own or were letting the team down.”
“It was an honor and a pleasure to have coached him these past three years,” Iredale said.
The All-Stars ...Steven Walter, So., 101 pounds, Kubasaki Dragons, Okinawa: 16-1 this season, first at “Beast of the Far East,” first at “Rumble on the Rock,” first at Far East. “Steven is a tenacious wrestler, he is feisty and I have nicknamed him the ‘Ferret,’ one of the meanest little animals I have seen back in the midwest,” coach Ron Geist said. “He is a great takedown artist and is always on the offense and is relentless. He also is technically sound and will continue to be a contender at any weight class he may wrestle.”
Thomas Cioppa, Fr., 108 pounds, Kadena Panthers, Okinawa: 19-3, fourth at “Beast,” first at “Rumble,” first at Far East. “We lacked experience in our lighter weights this year, but Thomas overcame that with his hard work and willingness to work with the older, bigger guys,” coach Jeff Elliott said. “I am very interested to see how his future turns out; he will be one to keep an eye on.”
Soma Yoshida, 115 pounds, St. Mary’s International Titans, Tokyo: 17-1, second at “Beast,” first in Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools tournament, first at Far East. “Never misses practice and practices nearly every Sunday at a local gym,” coach Ian Harlow said. “By far, the most explosive and quickest wrestler I have ever coached. No one is hungrier for the gold medal than Soma. Never complains unless practice is over, he doesn’t want it to end. Never stops moving during practice and leads by example at all times and is a great motivator his teammates.”
Marcus Boehler, Jr., 122 pounds, Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, Japan: 17-1, first at Kanto, first at Far East; three-time Far East gold medalist. “The thing that I love about him is his unbelievable desire to win,” coach Richard Huffer said. “It is this desire that makes him a fierce competitor. In addition, not only is his technique superior, but he is also brilliant kinesthetically. These three things combined make him an extraordinary wrestler who will likely be a four-time time Far East Champion.”
Yuki Sorci, Sr., 129 pounds, Yokota Panthers, Japan: 16-2, first at Kanto, first at Far East. Is home schooled and had to commute from a two-hour distance to practice three times a week, giving him half the practice time of his teammates, coach Brian Kitts said. “His commitment to work hard and condition on his own, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kitts said.
Devin Day, Sr., 135 pounds, Yokota Panthers, Japan: 19-0, first at Kanto, first at Far East; two-time Far East gold medalist. Was the only four-year wrestler that Yokota had this season. “He was the best wrestler we had in the room and everybody knew it,” Kitts said. “He spurred us to the Kanto Plain (regular-season) co-championship and the tournament title.”
Jon Goddard, Sr., 141 pounds, Kubasaki Dragons, Okinawa: 15-0, first at “Beast,” first at “Rumble,” first at Far East. “Jon has been a solid leader for the team from day one, and that is the reason I named him as one of the tri-captains His work ethics have paid off. He is a very skilled technical wrestler and is a master of many takedowns and pinning combos. He and the other seniors will be hard to replace both as wrestlers and as leaders of the team.”
Jacob Bishop, Sr., 148 pounds, Kadena Panthers, Okinawa: 20-2, first at “Beast,” first at “Rumble,” first at Far East. “Though he is our team jester, he is all business out on the mat,” Elliott said. “He has surprised me on numerous occasions with his ability to turn what appears to be a bad situation into a scoring opportunity. He made those around him better every day. He will definitely be missed.”
Cory Peckins, Sr., 158 pounds, Kadena Panthers, Okinawa: 20-2, second at “Beast,” first at “Rumble,” first at Far East. “Cory is the consummate student of his craft,” Elliott said. “From Day 1, he was always questioning why we would do certain moves or how to counter certain offensive techniques that I would show. He was always hungry for more knowledge on how to be a better wrestler, whether it involved better strategy, or just watching film.”
Michael Spencer, Sr., 168 pounds, Zama American Trojans, Japan: 27-0, first at “Beast,” first at Kanto, first at Far East, named Far East Tournament Outstanding Wrestler; three-time Far East gold medalist. “He meant a lot to the team and we could depend on him to turn around a losing streak,” coach Chris Iredale said.
Matt Payne., 180 pounds, Kubasaki Dragons, Okinawa. 17-0: first at “Beast,” first at “Rumble,” first at Far East. “Matt is a formidable wrestler, who I think has one of the best grips I have seen for a long time, giving him control from initial contact until the end of the match,” Geist said. “He is also a very skilled technical wrestler and is also extremely strong and agile.”
Aaron Ahner, Sr., 215 pounds, Kadena Panthers, Okinawa: 19-1, first at “Beast,” first at “Rumble,” first at Far East. “I wish we would have had him as a freshman. The sport just came naturally to him. Luckily he had a few great practice partners to battle with throughout the past two years. I was amazed at some of the beautiful throws he had this season (some of them should have been five-pointers). He was not the typical “big-guy,” either. He had strength as well as speed to go along with his technique.”
Chidi Agbo, heavyweight, St. Mary’s International Titans, Tokyo: 18-0, first at “Beast,” first at Kanto, first at Far East. “A quiet leader who is at practice every day with no complaints and does everything asked of him,” Harlow said. “Sometimes having to work by himself because of lack of depth on the team and no one his size. Likes the pressure of having to anchor the team. Competes like a true wrestler. Doesn’t wrestle like most heavyweights, uses moves that are more technical.”