Red Devils' mat success continues
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Nile C. Kinnick wrestling has claimed yet another tournament title, giving the Red Devils a clean sweep of everything in the regular season as they take aim for next month’s Kanto and Far East tournaments.
Kinnick captured the team title in Saturday’s 2015 DODDS Japan finals at Yokota High School in convincing fashion, racking up weight titles and finishing nearly 50 points ahead of second-place Robert D. Edgren. E.J. King finished third.
“We wrestled really well as a team,” Kinnick coach Gary Wilson said. “It’s hard to point out one guy in particular who stood out when so many wrestlers did well, but I thought (115-pounder) Vincent Soiles looked especially strong in his weight class today. I am really proud of his performance.”
While he says he will let his wrestlers enjoy this weekend’s success, Wilson acknowledges there’s a lot of work ahead before Far East.
“There were a couple of matches that I’d like to get back and the energy level seemed lower than usual,” Wilson said. “A few of our guys were getting tired toward the end, so we need to work on conditioning. While a few others need to work on their ground game to close out matches. We still need to refine our technique.”
Kinnick won the Kanto Plain regular-season title with a 12-0 dual-meet record and has earned titles in the DODDS Japan event last month at Edgren and in its invitational “Beast of the Far East” Tournament on Jan. 10. The Kanto finals are Feb. 7 at St. Mary’s and the Far East is Feb. 12-14 at Osan Air Base, South Korea.
While Kinnick came into Saturday’s event a heavy favorite, much interest seemed to point toward second place. Strong showings Saturday may raise expectations for Edgren and King in the Division II portion of the looming Far East Tournament.
Led by Patrick Sledge, the 180-pound champion, Edgren dominated their fellow D-II rivals finishing with 66 points, 45 points behind Kinnick but 21 ahead of third-place King.
Eagles coach Justin Edmonds said his team wanted to make a statement to the rest of D-II, but he urged them to focus on doing their best, have fun and only think about the opponent standing in front of them.
“Even though we won Far East last year, the guys still felt like they needed this tournament to remind everyone that we’re the D-II champs,” said Edmonds. “That’s putting a lot of pressure on yourself, though. I needed them to trust their technique and take it one opponent at a time.”
Like Wilson, Edmonds said there are always skills to refine.
“We need to learn to adjust to the officials,” Edmonds said, not offering any specifics. “We have ways to tweak our strategy to conform to each official’s tendency, but we need to make those adjustments or it starts to feel like you’re fighting two people at the same time.”
One of Edgren’s pleasant surprises was Sky Phillips. The 135-pounder placed first in his weight class after pinning Kinnick’s George Calbert 1:17 in the first round. It was the first time Phillips defeated Calbert.
“Sky really stepped up for us and made a real statement to the entire Far East, regardless of division,” Edmonds said. “He was our MVP this tournament. That win was huge for us.”
Another standout was junior Joy Gomez in the 108-pound class. The first year wrestler finished second in the weight class before being pinned at 2:06 in the first by Kinnick’s Matthew Abrenilla in the championship match.
“When she crosses that white line, her mindset isn’t about being a girl who wrestles, she becomes a wrestler,” Edmonds said. “And I can’t tell you how important that quality is to our team. She could make some real noise next year.”
Dave Ornauer of Stars and Stripes contributed to this report.