Kinnick wraps up regular season with another win
TOKYO – Nile C. Kinnick continued its torrid run by capturing Saturday’s last regular-season wrestling tournament, the final tune-up for the Red Devils who next turn their attention to the postseason.
Kinnick placed first with 106 points at the Kanto Wrestling Invitational at Christian Academy Japan. St. Mary’s placed second with 72 points, including a sweep of the top four slots at 115 pounds. American School In Japan finished third with 33 points.
The Red Devils took seven individual titles to five for the Titans, reversing the outcome of the “Beast of the Far East” Tournament three weeks ago when St. Mary’s led the podium count.
“We scored a lot of points and did very well,” Kinnick coach Gary Wilson said. “I think we came out with much better energy and I thought we fought well in every match.”
Energy and enthusiasm were the keys Wilson said he had his team focus on after he called out his team for being “half-awake” in last week’s DODDS Japan finals at Yokota.
“It was a total team effort today,” Wilson said. “We came out strong from our first match and held that intensity all the way through the championship matches.”
Scoring titles for the Red Devils were Lucas Wirth (101 pounds), Max Nicely (135), Brady Yoder (148), Ian Olson (158), Dre Paylor (168), Nicolas Alvarez (215) and Chris Deibel (heavyweight).
The Red Devils completed a regular-season sweep. They won all four tournaments they entered and had a 12-0 dual-meet record.
Now come two postseason tournaments in back-to-back weeks. The Kanto finals are slated for Saturday at St. Mary’s and the Far East tournament Feb. 12-14 at Osan Air Base in South Korea.
While the Japan and Kanto Plain teams have four regular-season tournaments in hand, Kadena spent Saturday getting its first taste of tournament wrestling when it hosted the Okinawa Open on Saturday. Kubasaki, its opponent Saturday, also entered the “Beast” and was getting its second tournament of the season.
For the two teams, it was valuable preparation, coaches said, even though many of those competing had faced off before in dual meets.
“It lets us get a feel for how the tournament lifestyle is,” said Kadena’s Dominic Santanelli, who won at 180 pounds. “To experience multiple matches, go non-stop, get to know other wrestlers, meet some new styles and techniques. It’s very good.”
For Ricky Salinas of Kadena, such tournaments are old hat, having wrestled parts of two seasons for E.J. King in Japan, a regular participant in DODDS Japan and the “Beast” tournament. Salinas transferred to Kadena in December.
“This being my first tournament here, it brought back a lot of memories,” said Salinas, who won at 168 pounds – and entertained onlookers between bouts by juggling a Chinese yo-yo. “It’s good that these guys are getting experience for Far East.”
Regular-season wrestling hasn’t completely finished in the Pacific. DODDS Korea stages its last regular-season tri-dual on Saturday at Osan. Seoul American has won every dual meet thus far this season.
A Falcons team of a different sort, boys basketball, welcomed E.J. King to Falcon Gym for the first time in the regular season on Saturday. While Seoul American won 69-35 to remain unbeaten in 13 games, Falcons coach Jim Davis said the Cobras bring much to the table.
“They have some size. They’re going to present some matchup problems for a couple of teams” at the Far East Division II Tournament next month at Matthew C. Perry. “They have some guys who could play football if E.J. King had a program.”
It was the first meeting between the teams in 12½ years. On Friday, Seoul American’s girls routed E.J. King 51-8 in the first meeting ever between the two teams.
Staff writer Dave Ornauer in Okinawa contributed to this report.