Kinnick has clear targets: St. Mary's titles

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Two-time defending Far East champion Lucas Wirth and his Nile C. Kinnick team hopes to finally catch St. Mary's for Division I individual freestyle bragging rights. (Photo courtesy of Ray Wirth)
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Two-time defending Far East champion Lucas Wirth and his Nile C. Kinnick team hopes to finally catch St. Mary's for Division I individual freestyle bragging rights. (Photo courtesy of Ray Wirth)

Kinnick has clear targets: St. Mary's titles

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: December 10, 2016

Call it a three-year exercise in frustration for coach Gary Wilson and his Nile C. Kinnick wrestling team.

The Red Devils have been chasing their first Far East Division I individual freestyle tournament title, only to watch their Kanto Plain arch-rival St. Mary’s come away with it every time.

A season ago, the Titans made it doubly frustrating for the Devils by capturing not only the Far East D-I individual and dual-meet titles; St. Mary’s won everything there was to be won.

The Titans captured five major titles, including the Far East sweep, the Kanto Plain regular-season and tournament titles and the “Beast of the East” at Kinnick. And 148-pound senior captain Kazuho Kawashima was named Far East tournament Outstanding Wrestler.

“They’re the champs,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to find a way to knock them off. What we did last year didn’t work for us. We have to get a lot better (because St. Mary’s is) planning on continuing to win.”

Coach Shu Yabui, himself a former three-time Far East champion, and the Titans will ride the strength of returning three-time winner Chang Young Lee, along with returning champions Rio Lemkuil and Ryo Osawa and returning runners-up Eshan Singhi and Tatsuhito Matsumoto.

Kinnick returns two Far East champions of its own, junior two-time winner Lucas Wirth and 180-pound titlist Dwayne Lyon. But it won’t just be St. Mary’s the Red Devils are hunting.

There’s reigning Division II dual-meet champion Yokota, which for the second straight season fields a full roster, plus others in the room fighting for those spots, coach Ty Gaume said.

“There’s strength in numbers and when you have backups at a lot of the positions, that strength happens in the wrestling room where you have people competing for a job,” Gaume said.

American School In Japan and Christian Academy Japan had only a handful of seniors last season, so Wilson said he sees big things from them as well. “I expect a big resurgence out of ASIJ and CAJ,” he said.

“If they have 11 weight classes, they’ll be tough to beat. Kanto Plain is going to be brutal; with the D-I schools, there’ll be some crazy battles.”

One coach hoping to go out with a bang is Steve Schrock, in his 15th year at Kadena’s helm. He’s said this is to be his last year of coaching overseas.

Though the Panthers lost quite a few seniors and other transfers, they do return defending 101-pound Far East champion Demetrio De La Rosa and heavyweight runner-up Siulagisipai Fuimaono. Kadena, too, has a full lineup and Schrock expects wrestle-offs throughout the season.