Edgren, King, Osan make opening statements on mats
Wrestling season got under way in earnest on Saturday with DODDS Japan’s traditional dual-meet tournament at Robert D. Edgren and a DODDS Korea round-robin tournament at Osan.
And though it’s early in the season, the meet hosts appear to be the teams to beat for the D-II crown in the Far East tournament two months from now.
“They’re the cream of the D-II crop” in Japan, coach Gary Wilson of Nile C. Kinnick said of Edgren, which won its four dual meets against D-II opponents Yokota, Zama, E.J. King and Matthew C. Perry.
“His team looked solid,” Wilson said of a group including middleweights J.P. Krussick, Sky Phillips and Jackson Edmonds, each of whom has seen Far East tournament action.
Kinnick, the lone remaining Division I school in DODDS Japan after Yokota was moved to D-II last month, participated as an exhibition, non-scoring entity in the Edgren tournament.
E.J. King, which fielded just four wrestlers a season ago but filled 10 weight classes on Saturday and won three of four dual meets.
“E.J. King looked strong,” Wilson said. “They’re a really tough team. I was surprised. They looked pretty good.”
Whoever comes to wrestle the Cobras “better bring it,” Edgren coach Justin Edmonds said of a group including Far East veterans David Jackson, Thomas McGrath and Ricky Salinas. “Don’t underestimate Sasebo. They come to wrestle.”
As for Wilson’s Red Devils, they wrestled some exhibition bouts against wrestlers from all teams, and they “dropped a couple of bouts we thought we wouldn’t and we won a couple we thought we wouldn’t,” Wilson said. “We have a lot to work on. We worked this week on fundamentals.”
One wrestler of note setting foot on the mat for the first time was Kinnick 168-pounder Dre Paylor, more known for his abilities as a football running back; he’s been the Pacific’s leading rusher the last two years. At 168 pounds, he went 2-2 on Saturday.
At Osan, Seoul American wrestlers grabbed 11 of a possible 13 firsts in the three-way tournament. But Cougars Brenden Becker and Cory Harding won at 148 and 122 pounds, while others got their first exposure to high school wrestling, Osan coach Duke Allen said.
“We used this tournament to gain experience; a lot of our kids have never wrestled before,” he said, adding that the Cougars weren’t able to fill three weight classes but should cut that to one in next week’s four-way at Daegu.
Allen said he was particularly impressed with reigning Far East 215-pound champion Jack Barnes of Seoul American – “incredible, as always,” he said – and also new heavyweight Sani Buckingham, who wrestled some exhibition bouts.
“He’s an absolute monster,” Allen said of Buckingham. “I don’t see him losing at all this season.”
Seoul Americcan, King, Perry playing well
With a 60-23 home romp over Yongsan International-Seoul, coach James Davis improved to 2-0 in his first season at the helm of defending Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Blue Division regular-season champion Seoul American.
New guard Jez Harper has been an early revelation for the Falcons, averaging 15.5 points in two games. He went 4-for-4 from three-point range in Saturday’s contest.
It’s a combination of team defense and an inside presence that permits guards to do work along the perimeter that have spelled success for the Falcons, Davis said. “We’re still trying to figure each other out (but) it’s nice to get some wins under our belt,” he said.
The Western Japan Athletic Association boys tournament at Senri Osaka International proved a victory bounty for E.J. King, which won all four of its games in the two-day event, matching its DODDS Japan rival Matthew C. Perry.
A difference maker for the Cobras early on has been new sophomore guard Seth Hudson, a perimeter specialist who hit six threes for all of his 18 points in a 44-26 win over Canadian Academy.
A lack of an outside presence “has been our downfall” the last three seasons, coach Scott Jarrard said. “Now, we have a good little shooter. We’re still kind of figuring out what his role is. (But) I like what I see so far.”