Escape from the Devil Dome – Titans win the Kinnick Invitational

The morning began nice enough as coach Gary Wilson recognized seniors from all the Kanto League schools prior to their last match at the Devil Dome.  “St. Mary’s has 6 wrestlers that will be graduating…and we’re all happy about that!” said Coach Wilson to laughs and applause from both wrestlers and parents.  Once the tournament began, however, Coach Yabui was far from smiling as his Titans competed in the early rounds as if they wanted to be anywhere except on the wrestling mats.  A quick team meeting in the Kinnick locker room and what were obviously “inspirational” words from Coach Yabui seemed to do the trick and Titan Grapplers picked up the pace through the subsequent matches.

“We’re not ready to wrestle; we’re like a dead monkey before our matches not warming up and we step on the mat and we’re still like dead monkeys doing nothing,” said Coach Yabui.  Adding, “We practice takedowns every day so that’s what we have to be doing; not being dummies for other guys to takedown.”  After this, the Titans pulled themselves back into wrestling moods and went to work ending with 117 team points and besting their Kinnick rivals yet again.  The Titans have only lost the team competition once this season – The CAJ Knights Invitational back in December – since then they’ve been perfect in duals and open tournaments.

What ended up being most impressive in today’s win was the fact that the Titans did it without their Far East silver medalist and defending Far East champion at 101lb and 122lb, respectively.  But the boys still managed to top the Devils once again with 4 gold, 5 silver, and 3 bronze; taking home medals at every weight class entered!  Tournament Champions at 108lb – Jong Pyeong Lee and at 148lb – Jihoon Seo also qualified for the Titan Wrestling Wall of Fame with their wins!  Congratulations to both wrestlers.  Here are the details by weight class:

101 lb – With Senior Eshan Singhi watching from the stands,  Freshmen Batra Aaryan was the sole hope for Titan gold in this weight class.  Batra came out a bit too tentative in his first match and fell into the third place bracket after losing to his ASIJ opponent.  Showing a lot of heart, the Freshman battled back through the bottom bracket and brought home Bronze.  Eshan is expected back in the line-up for Kanto and Far East where the Titans are expecting counting on strong finishes by him in both tournaments.

108 lb – Sophomore Jong Pyeong was our sole wrestler in this weight class as his classmate, Harold, was unable to attend this tournament.  Turns out, we only needed one bullet in our 108 caliber gun as Jong Pyeong wrestled consistently throughout the rounds to get himself into the finals where he faced off against his Kinnick rival (one he will see again at both Kanto and Far East).  The conditioning of Coach Yabui’s wrestlers really pays off in a pinch and Jong Pyeong’s championship bout was evidence of that.  His Kinnick opponent was ahead through the first period and into the first minute of the second period – needing only 1 point for a tech fall but our scrappy 108 sucked it up, found an opening and took his opponent straight down for a pin to bring home the Gold!  The Titans are hoping Jong Pyeong will bring home wins at Kanto and Far East – if he continues to be smart and exploit the weaknesses he finds, he’ll do just that!

115 lb – Tatsu and William have managed to repeat a pattern in this weight class all season, both fight their way into the semi’s and then Tatsu’s experience carries him into the finals while William’s lack of experience drops him into the 3rd place bracket.  Well, to be fair, William has ended up facing Kinnick’s varsity wrestler in every semi-final match this season so expecting the freshmen to pull off an upset may be a bit much.  That aside, William fell to 4th once again falling to his CAJ opponent for the second straight week.  Tatsu, on the other hand, fell his Kinnick rival after beating him the week before.  The beat goes on in this weight class and rivalry now kicks into full gear as the Titans need Tatsu to pull out the big wins for Kanto and Far East in the next two weeks – he just needs to start racking-up points that he is fully capable of getting.

122 lb – With Rio Lemkuil nursing a sore knee, the workload fell to a group of St. Mary’s hopefuls – Freshman Kai and Sophomores Samin and Vithal.  Kai and Vithal made it through their first round matches while Samin dropped to the 3rd place bracket after losing his first match.  Kinnick’s defending Far East Champion was the wall that Vithal ran into in his second round match that dropped him to the 3rd place bracket with his classmate.  Samin faltered and failed to reach the 3rd place finals but Vithal powered through and then dropped a heartbreaker where he battled back from a 14-6 deficit to lose by pin to his EJ King opponent.  After a scratch and then a bye, Kai wrestled his first match of the day in the semifinal round against a Kinnick opponent and won to make the finals.  In his quest for gold there was only a Kinnick Far East Champion left to beat.  Kai fought with heart against his much more seasoned opponent but experience won out in the end as he lost by pin.  Look for Rio to return for the Kanto and Far East Championships with a laser focus on winning both!

129 lb – With three wrestlers in this weight class expectations are always high for Titan gold.  Unfortunately, our 129 Trio hasn’t solved the Red Devil puzzle just yet and continue to struggle in the later rounds.   Senior Tatsuo’s mat woes continued as he dropped his first match to a much weaker Kinnick opponent in the first round.  “It’s really about keeping their heads on straight and doing what we practice,” commented Coach Yabui.  Teammates Nishant and Dai both made it through their first matches. Nishant dropped his second match to join Tatsuo in the 3rd place bracket and then Dai went down by tech fall in the semi-finals placing the 3 amigos in the hunt for 3rd.  As is too often the case, it was a “Clash of the Titans” for 3rd place where Tatsuo defeated Nishant.  Again, two weeks left for Tatsuo to do what he knows how to do.  With a gut wrench that can take the breath out of wrestlers 20 lbs heavier, Tatsuo needs to reground himself and come out like a beast to help the Titans repeat at Kanto and 4-peat at Far East.

135 lb – Also a pretty full weight class for the Titans but where we have a 6 shooter (six wrestlers), Chang Young continues to be the Silver Bullet.  The Senior Co-Captain continued his undefeated season in typical Chang Young fashion – good, controlled technical wrestling.  Chang Young gets closer and closer to becoming St. Mary’s first 4 Time Far East Champion as each week of the season rolls by.  His four teammates in this bracket were Konstintin, Lev, Micheal and Cole (Jonathan did not complete).  Cole had the unfortunate benefit of a scratch win in the first round which put him on the mat with Chang Young having no warm-up and then landed another St. Mary’s teammate in the 3rd place bracket – Konstantin.  Cole went on to defeat his fellow sophomore before falling to his CAJ opponent in the next round.  Lev won his first round match, then dropped his second match to Kinnick and dropped into the 3rd place bracket where he was able to beat a Kinnick wrestler and the fell to his Yokota opponent just missing the third place finals.  The team is looking for their captain to continue his winning streak through Kanto and the Far East!

141 lb – The Titans fielded 4 wrestlers in a weight class that continues to be dominated by Co-Captain Ryo.  Ryo rolls opponents from a gut wrench the way an alligator rolls its prey – by the time you realize he has you – it’s too late.  Ryo’s undefeated senior season continues to build momentum as he and Chang Young hope to lead their fellow Titans by example and win-out through the remainder of the season.  Andrew Patton won his first round match and then fell to the 3rd place bracket after dropping his second match.  Once in the 3rd place bracket he wrestled hard but came up short of the finals.  Likewise, teammates Nelson and Phelan are still learning the ropes and gaining the skills necessary for future seasons.  Like Chang Young, the team looks to Ryo to continue leading the winning charge through Kanto and Far East!

148 lb – The Titans fielded 3 wrestlers in this weight class as well.  Nikita and Si Nam faltered in their first matches setting the stage for Jihoon to be the lone Titan left to chase gold.  And that’s exactly what he did.  Jihoon wrestled harder in each match and then unleashed himself in the finals to bring hold the gold for the titans.  Jihoon wrestled smart and shot well hitting both single and double legs to take his opponents down.  as the Titans starter Jihoon is starting to peak at just the right time of the season and hopes are high that he’ll come out on top at both Kanto and Far East in the coming weeks.  He’s the Titan’s 148 lb monster that opponents should fear!

158 lb – Austin and Greg are the Titan’s one-two punch in the weight class, we just need them to be swinging in the championship rounds.  Austin played the waiting game having two byes before his first match of the day – against his Kinnick rival.  With no “warm-up” matches Austin came out looking good and fighting a very even match through the first period heading to the chair with a 4-0 lad over his Kinnick rival.  The second period turned into a brawl with the wrestlers trading the lead and Austin ultimately dropping the match by a 6-4 decision.  Austin is literally two shots away from taking silver or gold in this weight class.  Greg psyched himself out in his first match against an opponent from a Japanese school and then after two byes in the 3rd place bracket wrestled a good match against MC Perry to make it to the semi-finals where he faced the same Japanese opponent from round 1.  This time Greg wrestled better but came up short, missing the medal round.  Teammate Austin went on to bring home the Bronze.  Austin is actually in a great position as we wind-up the season since he has shown steady improvement against opponents that may now underestimate him.

168 lb – Mitchell and Jaewon are the Titans chances at gold in this weight class.  Jaewon dropped his first match and then battled hard in the 3rd place bracket but got beat by his Kinnick opponent.  Mitchell did what he has done all season, got through the preliminary rounds to make the finals where he faced-off against his rival from CAJ.  He then went on to do what he has done three other times this season and drop a close one to CAJ.  “Mitchell is on the mat too long with some of his opponents and needs to go back to what he is best at to beat his CAJ rival.” commented Coach Ian Harlow.  Mitchell came out confident and controlled in the gold medal match but gave up 6 “cheap” points on push-outs before scoring any points himself and ultimately lost by decision.  He’s getting in on his shots but not finishing moves which has cost him his only 4 losses of the season to the same opponent.  With Kanto and Far East around the corner, this is another senior that the Titans need to step up and start dominating through the final matches – we’ve seen Mitchell turn it on in the stretch before so “buckle-up!”

180 lb – Alex continued to do well through the early rounds and dominated opponents to get to the finals where he went head-to-head with his Kinnick rival yet again.  Before the match, Alex had a record of 2-2 against this opponent (2 wins by pin and 2 losses by decision).  After the match, Alex settled for a 2-3 record as he dropped the final by decision.  Alex continues to wrestle well and do the things that he’s best at.  It’s also clear that he’s gotten in the head of his opponent who spent the day loudly cheering for every one of Alex’s other opponents.  It’s clear Alex can be the top wrestler in this weight class and he now has two weeks and a couple very big tournaments to prove it.  If he sticks to the basics and wrestles “his” matches, there’s no reason he can’t bring home the gold at Kanto and Far East!

215 lb – Shane was the Titans only entry in this weight class.  Unfortunately, this weight class only had 4 wrestlers so the wait was a long one before he finally stepped on the mat.  He shook off the rust early in his first match with his Kinnick opponent and grabbed 4 quick points with a big double leg.  He slowed down and allowed his opponent to hang around longer than expected before winning by tech fall at the end of the first period.  In the finals he was up against his Edgren rival and the two scuffled to through the first period with Shane heading to the chair down 0-4.  The match ended by pin when Shane lost his grip around his opponent while on his back in the second period.  Shane has been having a good season and has the strength to launch anyone of his opponents over his shoulders in “Judoesque” fashion so now it’s just a matter of flipping that “mad dog” switch on to bring home the gold down the stretch!