Paylor wins in finals debut, but Kinnick comes up short
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – Dre Paylor lost the first match of his high school career to Ricky Salinas. On Friday, Paylor got the best kind of payback – a Far East High School Wrestling Tournament gold medal at Salinas’ expense.
The Nile C. Kinnick junior and first-year wrestler scored a 15-4 technical fall over Salinas, a Kadena senior, to win the 168-pound title on a Friday filled with Far East tournament redemption and repeats in the individual freestyle finals.
“I worked hard for it all year,” said Paylor, who got pinned by Salinas, then of E.J. King, on Dec. 13 at the season-opening Edgren Invitational. Then, Paylor said, he tried to outmuscle his more experienced opponent. “I’ve been working on my technique more since I lost to him.”
Paylor’s positive approach to the sport and to team also helped, Red Devils coach Gary Wilson said. “He brings such a nice dynamic to the team (and) the practice room,” he said. “His positiveness is infectious. He’s a great kid. I love him to death.”
Asked how good he felt Paylor would be had he begun wrestling as a freshman, Wilson said: “How much better can you get than Far East champion?”
Among others earning redemption was Kadena’s Gabe Duplon. He lost to St. Mary’s Ryo Osawa by pin in last year’s Far East and avenged that defeat Friday by blanking Osawa 6-0 for the 122-pound title.
“Gabe worked really, really hard for this championship,” Panthers coach Steve Schrock said. “He’s come a long way. He put it all together this year. I’m very proud of him. He rose to the challenge.”
“I just stayed composed, had good defense, took good shots and just lucked out in the end,” Duplon said.
St. Mary’s junior Ryan Vasconcellos (135) won at 122 in 2013 but lost in the 135-pound final last year to Christian Academy Japan’s Sam Johnson. He said he had a “refuse to lose” attitude this season after beating Seoul American’s Hunter Lane by technical fall 11-1.
“He was determined,” Titans assistant coach Ian Harlow said. “Instead of waiting, he went after the kid. That made a difference in the mentality … wrestling to win instead of wrestling not to lose.”
Senior Jonathan Miller of American School In Japan had to sit out two seasons when he suffered a lumbar fracture as an eighth-grader. He wrote a happy ending to his wrestling narrative by edging Seoul American’s Brandon Rothe at 180 pounds.
“This has been my dream since I started wrestling,” Miller said, adding that when he was convalescing, “I never thought this would happen, that I would get this far.”
Then, there was the parade of repeat champions. St. Mary’s repeated its Division I individual team title, giving the Titans 12 total championships, second-most behind Kubasaki. And Robert D. Edgren won its third straight Division II title and Pacific-best seventh overall.
“We’re happy about it,” Eagles coach Justin Edmonds said. “We worked hard. We’re a young team, but they kept their composure and did what they had to do.”
Three defending champions won their second straight championship: St. Mary’s Chang Young Lee at 108 by tech fall over Kinnick’s Matt Abrenilla; Jack Barnes of Seoul American at 215 by pin over Kubasaki’s Josiah Allen; and Kubasaki’s Christian Fernandez at heavyweight by pin over Kinnick’s Chris Deibel.
Among other first-time winners:
Kinnick freshman Lucas Wirth pinned Seoul American’s Ryan Frederick at 101 pounds.
St. Mary’s Lucas Shiraki scored a 5-0 decision at 115 pounds over Kinnick’s Chon Dareing.
Alberto Orsara of St. Mary’s pinned Seoul American’s Danny Berdine to win at 129 pounds.
Kadena’s Jason Bland won by tech fall 10-0 over St. Mary’s Itsuki Shibahara at 141 pounds.
Kazuho Kawashima of St. Mary’s outlasted Kinnick’s Brady Yoder 10-4 at 148 pounds.
In the day’s tightest final, St. Mary’s Riku Osawa outpointed Daegu’s Morgan Baek at 158. It was the closest any D-II wrestler would come to a title.