Youth is served at season's first big meet
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – To paraphrase the title of a 1979 soundtrack album by “The Who:” The wrestling kids are all right.
Of the 26 weight-class finalists Saturday, 12 were underclassmen, six freshmen and six sophomores, lending a young touch to the revival of the Nile C. Kinnick Invitational “Beast of the Far East” Wrestling Tournament after a year’s hiatus.
“They’re more hungry,” said coach Ben Pak of Seoul Wrestling Club, whose sophomore Jarek Bartel, a transfer from Patch, Germany, won at 158 pounds by technical fall 18-7 over E.J. King’s Kajuan Garrett.
Sometimes, Pak said, veterans “can become overconfident” heading into bouts against their novice counterparts, “who can come in and swipe them away.”
Other winners from the young set were:
-- Host Kinnick’s Lucas Wirth by technical fall 10-0 over Kubasaki sophomore Zane Frilles at 101 pounds.
“I was kind of expecting it,” said Wirth, who may be new to Kinnick but is hardly new to wrestling, having competed in middle school in tournaments in Tennessee and Alabama.
“He’s been wrestling since he was 2, it seems,” Red Devils coach Gary Wilson said of Wirth, who works out in town against Japanese club wrestlers. “He’s a great kid, he practices hard, his parents are such dedicated supporters.”
-- Reigning Far East champ Chang Young Lee, a St. Mary’s International sophomore, pinned Kinnick freshman Calvin Mull at 108.
-- St. Mary’s sophomore Ryo Osawa rallied from 7-0 down to beat Kinnick junior Jianni Labato by technical fall 18-7 at 122.
-- Patrick Sledge, a Robert D. Edgren 180-pound sophomore, pinned Seoul sophomore Brandon Rothe in 1 minute, 18 seconds.
“Not too bad,” Eagles coach Justin Edmonds said of Sledge, who has lived at Misawa for 15 years and has spent winters working out with Edgren wrestling since 2009. “I’ve been dealing with him since the fifth grade. He may be the real deal.”
Other underclassmen who took second included Edgren’s Liam Knowles at 101 (he beat Frilles in a wrestleback), E.J. King’s Ahmeer Dinkins at 129, Seoul’s Hunter Lane at 135 and Kinnick’s Darius Swenson at 141.
“He’s a good wrestler,” said Lane’s conqueror, St. Mary’s Ryan Vasconcellos, the Far East 122-pound champion in 2013.
Vasconcellos, a second-generation Titans wrestler, beat Lane by technical fall 13-3.
Vasconcellos suffered an upset loss to Christian Academy Japan’s Sam Johnson in last February’s 135-pound Far East championship bout, a defeat that he says stays with him constantly and always provides him incentive to do better.
“Every day,” he says he thinks about the loss, adding that while he at times puts on a nonchalant public face, “some days it’s all I think about. It bothers me. It motivates me.”
Vasconcellos, Osawa and Lee were joined on the podium by fellow Titans Lucas Shiraki via a 2-0 decision over Kinnick’s Vincent Soiles at 115, Alberto Orsara by technical fall over Dinkins and Kazuho Kawashima by tech fall over Kinnick’s Brady Yoder at 148.
Other champions were Kinnick’s Dre Paylor, a first-year wrestler and two-time Pacific football rushing leader, at 168; Shinosuke Suwama of Shonan Military Academy at 141; and Kubasaki’s Josiah Allen and Christian Fernandez at 215 and heavyweight.
Paylor, in particular, put on a big-throw clinic, scoring three four-point feet-to-danger back throws. “He wasn’t a great tackler” in football, said Wilson, who serves as Kinnick’s defensive coordinator, “but he’s learning.”
Fernandez said after last season, when the Dragons had just three dual meets to prepare for Far East, the trip to “Beast” was a welcome act. “We’ll get more experience and more time wrestling than we had last year,” he said. “With the tournament, we get more experience so we can do work at Far East.”
While St. Mary’s had six champions, the Titans finished second behind Kinnick, which had only two winners but six seconds and placed wrestlers in the top four in 12 of 13 weights. Despite having just six wrestlers in tow, Seoul placed third with 41 points.
“We just came hoping to get some matches and improve, and that’s what we got,” Pak said.