Knights Invitational at CAJ – January 31, 2015
Champions: Chang Young Lee, Lucas Shiraki, Ryo Osawa, Alberto Orsara, Itsuki Shibahara
Runner-ups: Rio Lemkuil, Riku Tabata
Third Place: Tatsuhito Matsumoto
Fourth Place: Dai Matsumoto
“When you have your #2 and #3 backups beat varsity wrestlers (from other teams), that shows quality,” commented Coach Yabui; referring to the absolute dominance at the 115lb weight class result on Saturday where all four Titan wrestlers placed from champion through fourth place. Senior, Lucas Shiraki swept through the tournament at the 115lb weight class with his second title this season after the Beast of the East in early January. His finals opponent was rising freshmen star and #1 backup at 115lb, Rio Lemkuil, who defeated Kinnick’s varsity wrestler to step up to the finals against his teammate; Rio successfully avenged his defeat against this wrestler from 2 weeks ago at the dual meet. Wrestling for third place in this weight class was the #2 backup, Tatsuhito Matsumoto, whose only loss was against a close match against Rio in the first round. Tatsu wrestled back to the third place match by also defeating Kinnick’s varsity wrestler, and his opponent was Dai Matsumoto, #3 backup, who won through the repechage by defeating the varsity wrestler from ASIJ. At the 129lb, the team’s #2 backup, Riku Tabata, for the first time in his career made it to the finals to wrestle against senior, Alberto Orsara, and gave a good fight against his teammate.
108lb Chang Young Lee and 122lb Ryo Osawa, both yet undefeated this season, captured their second titles for this season as well. Although there were situations for both wrestlers to be taken down a couple of times, their concentration and good mat sense eventually showed who the superior wrestler was. In the end, both wrestlers won by technical fall in their finals. Wrestling is a physical, technical, and mental sport; which all are as important. Both Chang Young and Ryo showed they were better conditioned, better technically, and mentally tough to not panic even after being scored on.
What the Titans lacked that day was “quantity” as the league’s top class varsity wrestlers, Ryan Vasconcellos, Kazuho Kawashima, Riku Osawa, and several other varsity and JV wrestlers did not compete in the tournament due to sickness and injuries. The Titan squad has never had its best line up in a tournament or dual meet (except the tri-dual against CAJ and ASIJ in which the Titans completely crushed its opponents). The Kanto Plain Championships next week and the Far East tournament in less than 2 weeks have always been the team’s finish line. If all wrestlers can recover from illnesses, stay healthy, and injury-free for the next several days, the Titans should have a good chance at winning these major prizes.
Also, another history was made on Saturday as varsity 141lb, Itsuki Shibahara, won his first title of his career and qualified for the Wall of Fame of Wrestling. This makes 8 wrestlers on the current team who has qualified for the Wall. “We have a lot of champions on the team; maybe it’s time I change the qualification criteria for the Wall,” jokes Coach Yabui as he happily reflected on Itsuki’s victory.
108lb Weight Class
Chang Young Lee continued his dominance as he won his weight class with 3 wins. However, he was not at his best on Saturday. In his finals, his shots were too far away, he got sloppy with the front headlock by not putting enough weight on his opponent or not clearing the opponent’s hand on his leg correctly, not being able to finish the inside cradle despite it being locked, and not being ready after standing up from a break. He should have been head snapping his opponents more and faking more. On the front headlock, he should have put more weight on the opponent and cleared the hand on his thigh. He was caught by surprise in his finals by the opponent’s single legs and double legs. But, all champions have their ups and downs, and the true champion can win despite his condition. That’s what Chang Young did. Although he let his opponent score a couple of times, Chang Young, as usual, never was in a panic or rush. He knew he had plenty of time. In the end, after taking his opponent down, he was able to finish the match with a technical fall with multiple ankle laces; a move that many teams are beginning to defend.
115lb Weight Class
Lucas Shiraki‘s intensive upper body workout he did all last season when he was out for a major knee injury is paying off this season. He probably has one of the toughest upper body strength in this weight class which he uses to his advantage with his tight front headlock, ankle anchors, cradle series, and tight waist rolls. He has quick feet and good reaction. Although he has a very nice high crotch shot, most of the time he does not use it and relies on defensive techniques to score. Although it is not the typical St. Mary’s style, this is what works for him and as long as he can tech-fall his opponents, there’s no problem with it. The only trouble might be when he wrestles another defensive wrestler, such as the Kinnick’s varsity wrestler, who Lucas did not wrestle on the day because his underclassman teammates eliminated this wrestler from the tournament. Lucas still has a bad habit of letting go of the opponent’s arm on the front headlock which does not allow him to put much pressure before he reaches for the ankles to anchor and go around behind. He has been working on ankle picks, which turns out to be more of a knee pick because he does not change levels enough. Although this moves has been working, there have been a few times which he could have been put in a dangerous position because he is too high on this move. If he can influence the opponent’s head more on these pick series, he will be much safer. But, overall, Lucas continues to wrestle smart and have good reactions to risky positions. As he won his second title of the season, he looks good to go out for the ultimate prizes: Kanto champion and Far East champion.
The most technical and entertaining matches of the day were the matches against three St. Mary’s wrestlers: Rio Lemkuil against Tatsu Matsumoto and Tatsu against Dai Matsumoto. Rio and Tatsu had a bad draw in wrestling against each other in the first round. Tatsu and Dai wrestled for third place. Rio made it to the finals and lost against his senior, Lucas. Tatsu defeated Dai for third place. It’s never fun to wrestle against your own teammate, but these three wrestlers showed outstanding technical and strategic performance on the mat. In Rio’s second round, he defeated Kinnick’s varsity wrestler who he lost to 2 weeks ago in a dual meet with a 10-8 decision. Rio was aggressive and took many shots. His first double leg attempt was countered by the opponent’s reverse gut wrench and gave up 4 points. The mistake here was that Rio did not turn the corner on his double leg and took the opponent to his butt. While he was being turned, Rio let go of the opponent’s legs and launched off the mat. In this situation, all Rio needed to do was to hang on to the legs or lock his hands around the legs and as he was being thrown, land on his feet (while bringing the opponent’s legs with him). This will keep the opponent on his back with the throw; increasing the chance for the move to look like Rio’s move and also create opportunities to pin or get around behind. But, in the second period, Rio fixed this mistake upon the coach’s instructions and was able to take his opponent down for 4 points this time with his double leg. Rio wrestled well both on top and bottom of the front headlock position. When the match was tied 8-8 in the second period, Rio patiently waited for the opponent’s ankles to show on top of the front headlock position. Rio finally caught the opponent’s ankle to drive over for the takedown to lead the match 10-8. By this time, his opponent was too tired to do anything as Rio continued to maintain his stance to win this match. He fought hard in the finals against Lucas too and probably gave him the hardest match of the day.
Tatsuhito Matsumoto has a unique gift he has had since middle school that many wrestles do not have: the ability to comprehend moves in his brain and execute it. While most wrestlers learn moves and reactions through experience and repetition, Tatsu learns in his head. Since middle school, Tatsu has had the best understanding of the reasonings behind moves and was able to think about it to execute it in his matches. This is no different in high school and now it is even better as Tatsu is slowly growing in his physical abilities and well conditioned. He is strategic in his matches as he looks for his opportunities through faking and misdirections. He can execute counter shots in the perfect timing and you can see that he is looking for it and is timing it in his head. He showed perfect examples of whipovers and knee taps from the front headlock position on Saturday as well. Especially with the knee tap, this is a move that the team has not worked on very much except for 1 practice when the team hosted a Japanese team for practice and the Japanese coach taught it to our wrestlers. When a wrestler can execute a move which he only learned once without much practice, this is a good sign the wrestler understands the move in his head. He understands the “little things” that many wrestlers forget. He is a smart wrestler. The only thing that is keeping him from becoming a champion, is his physical ability. He he can develop the muscles for speed and strength, there’s no doubt that he can become a champion. He wrestled very smart matches against Rio and Dai to place third in the tournament, which is still a great accomplishment as a freshmen.
Dai Matsumoto was either born to be a gymnast or a wrestler with his almost-scary flexibility. He has extremely flexible shoulders, back, hip, and knees. It’s very hard to to simply turn him over with a half nelson or ankle lace. However, better yet, he has a strong heart. Dai will never give up in a match. On Saturday, after being sent to the repechage from losing to Lucas in his first match, he wrestled against against CAJ. He was being taken down multiple times and was behind by 6 points. But, Dai took one opportunity when he was behind his opponent to lock up an outside cradle with his flexible and long arms and trumped the match with a pin. Also in the match, Dai was able to do what his coach has been trying to teach the team this season: initiating a movement on bottom position to make the opponent on top react to you moves. Dai did this very well and his opponent could not do anything on top because he always had to react to Dai’s defense and by the time the opponent tried to go for another move, Dai already has “closed off” that area. Dai did a very nice job with this. In his third match, he pulled off an upset against the ASIJ’s varsity wrestler with a 7-6 decision. The match was not all beautiful but Dai kept moving and moving to score. In the end, Dai was much better conditioned than his opponent and was able to keep the 1 point lead to win. As much as he doesn’t seem like it, Dai is an aggressive and pretty mean wrestler on the mat.
Rio, Tatsu, and Dai, all freshmen, have different unique abilities and are very good team members. They don’t say a word in practice, they work very hard, and listens to the coach. When they are placing in tournaments in their freshmen season and have so much abilities and tools for this sport, their future for the next 3 years look very bright.
122lb Weight Class
Ryo Osawa had a good day in terms of experience, as he won his second title of the season. There were lots to learn about his weaknesses and strength. In terms of his offense, he has a beautiful fireman’s carry and Kelly. When set up right with the right timing, Ryo can launch his opponents to their backs for a big point and even a pin. That’s what he did in his first match and also multiple times in his matches after. He made one mistake in his match against CAJ by shooting a high crotch (or it could have been a fireman’s carry; but this confusion is exactly the mistake) with his inside control hand around the middle of the elbow and shoulder and did not “peel” the elbow to create space. Ideally, when shooting a fireman’s carry, the hand should be placed higher; if a high crotch, the hand should be placed lower; and either way, the arm must be peeled off to create space for the head to penetrate inside. Ryo did not do this and his head was down when he shot; and his opponent countered with a cross face pancake and almost pinned Ryo. But, Ryo got out of it and as if it was an awakening, he destroyed his opponent after this incident and pinned him with his favorite move, the arm bar. This brings the second point. He is showing very fast improvement and effectiveness with his arm bar and the arm bar set up. Not just Ryo, but the whole team is beginning to score and pin everyone with it that other teams are trying to use the arm bar and/or trying to defend it. But, other teams are merely trying. They do not possess the correct technique and ample experience for the move to be useful. There was a situation when the opponent came up to his knees to defend the arm bar. The mistake Ryo made was continuing to run the bar the regular direction. When the opponent gets up to his knees, you must either roll with a tight waist or stack him to bring him down to his belly or his back. In Ryo’s finals against his regular, Kinnick’s varsity wrestler, Ryo again showed dominance with his takedowns and his front headlock head shucks which he scored twice with. The Kinnick wrestler showed that he studied our set up to the arm bar by hitting a low level switch, which baffled Ryo for the first time. But, Ryo, in his second attempt, remembered the correct counter to such defense by going to a cheap tilt to end the match with a technical fall. Along with his habit to look down on his shots sometimes, he must fix his habit of leaving his right arm up and arm pit wide open. On the two occasions Ryo was penetrated by the Kinnick wrestler with a high crotch, they were when the opponent had inside control of Ryo’s right arm and Ryo kept his arm high up and open. Ryo should keep his elbow in to close his space and quickly fight for inside control where he can take anybody down. Ryo has many tools. He has a good headlock counter, powerful doubles, slick single legs (which he can be using more often), beautiful fireman’s, reverse lock dump, dragouts, and he even showed his new move he learned: the neck wrench in his finals.
Also wrestling in this weight class was rookie, Jonathan Goff. Despite the huge victory at home several days ago at the tri-dual, things did not go his way on Saturday; which is perfectly normal. Rookies are not expected to win. All rookies deserves to be commended for just making it through a season, and Jonathan was one of the few rookies this season to do so out of the so many others that quit. Jonathan, firstly needs to develop a good stance. Too often he is being taken down because he cannot react to the opponent’s moves. This comes from lack of experience but also poor stance. He needs to practice harder in the room; doing moves over and over and over again. But, for now, all he needs to do is to stay with the program.
129lb Weight Class
When it comes to counter shots and looking for open spaces for a takedown, Alberto Orsara has talent. Alberto is a tricky wrestler. He seldom sets up a shot and initiates a shot. He likes to get underneath his opponents when they shoot or move. On Saturday, majority of his shots were set up by the opponent. When the opponent shot and came up, Alberto would be in on a high crotch or a single leg. When the opponent was out of position such as wrong positioning on the front headlock or opening up their arm, Alberto would slickly duck his head in that open space for a double leg with a hint of a peek-out. He also likes the barrel roll which the team has been working on during the season. Alberto has to be careful when hitting a barrel roll that he has the reverse lock high and deep. There was an instance when his was too loose with the arm and failed with the move. He also needs to switch quickly to a double leg after penetrating with a high crotch instead of hanging on to the high crotch leg only to lose the leg. Also, he gets a little sloppy in dealing with the failed high crotch position. If the barrel roll arm is not present, then he must quickly switch to scooping the leg or jumping over. But, overall, Alberto can score almost anytime. If he can clean up his little mistakes and become more aggressive, he can finish his last season of his career strong.
Also wrestling at this weight class was third year wrestler, Riku Tabata, who has missed the spotlight in the last two years because of so many stars on the team, but on Saturday he proved what 2 years of wrestling could do and finished runner-up. Riku has been working diligently in the room for the last couple of years and also has matured in his physical ability. He still lacks speed, but he has very good things going for him. As much as Riku has a gentle look on his face, he is mean and hurts wrestlers on the mat. His match against Yokota’s varsity wrestler, he shot a quick double leg, picked his opponent off the mat and took him forcefully to his back for a big 4 point move; something that Riku likes to do recently as he did the same move at the ASIJ/CAJ tri-dual at home. Right after that, he set up his arm bar and easily pinned his opponent. In his match against Kinnick, he whipped his opponent over to his back punishing his opponent for his mistake. As the opponent thought he got out of a pin, Riku quickly went for an arm bar and pinned him. With outstanding performance, he faced Alberto in the finals. Riku wrestled hard and was able to score several points off the senior with a crotch lift. Wrestlers like Riku is always a pleasure to watch develop and perform. He is not gifted physically. But, through hard work, he can now beat wrestlers that are much more talented than he is. Hard work will always prevail against mere talent. Riku’s presence and continuation in the wrestling program shows that everyone can wrestle: if they have the strong heart and will to do it. This is at the heart of St. Mary’s wrestling.
Rookie, Ryo Sawa, also competed in this weight class. Just like any rookie, Ryo is battling with the sophisticated nature and the hardship of the sport. He is quite talented for a rookie but just lacks experience; which defines what rookies are. He is experiencing some success with his double leg, front headlock position, and ankle laces. He has had a good start so far. He simply needs to continue wrestling hard in the program.
141lb Weight Class
The hero of the day probably goes to Itsuki Shibahara. Who won 3 matches to be crowned champion of the tournament. This was Itsuki’s first title, thus he qualified for the Wall of Fame of Wrestling. Itsuki is powerful, slick, technical, and fast. It took him a little longer than expected to becoming a champion because he would often make a few mistakes in a match or get over-powered by his opponents. But, as he is beginning to make less and less mistakes, he is experiencing more success on the mat. In his first two matches, Itsuki scored beautiful counter attacks. He scored a 4 point takedown with a counter fireman’s off his opponent’s mis-shot. He also scored an arm drag single off his opponents failed attempt. He easily won by technical fall and a pin to make it to the finals; where he faced Kinnick’s varsity wrestler who almost pinned Itsuki’s teammate, Ryan Vasconcellos 2 weeks ago. Perhaps this fact bothered Itsuki as he was not wrestling his style in the first period. Itsuki’s strength is in his relentless hand fighting, head snaps, fakes, and misdirections. He will win when he can completely exhaust his opponents with his hand fights and set ups before he takes shots. But, in the finals, he struggled to wrestle his game. He let his opponent take shots on him. When he took shots, it was not set up or it was too far. He was looking for a counter shot, which is not a bad idea, but after several failed attempts, he should have realized that his opponent has quick reactions; therefore he should have faked to go for a counter shot, make the opponent react and sprawl, and then snap the head down to a front headlock where he can score with a head shuck or simply anchoring back to get around behind. Itsuki spent a lot of energy trying to finish his failed attempts. His fireman’s carry was not successful at first because he did not clamp down hard on the fireman arm and he let his opponent underhook hard. He also made the mistake of opening up his arm pit during a takedown to let his opponent put an underhook. Itsuki was behind at first by 5 points. He came back with 4 big points with his sigature drive-through-double-leg takedown. In the second period, he gradually began wrestling like he should have with lots of head snaps and fakes. His opponent was moving his head up and down to keep up with Itsuki’s set ups; which uses up a lot of energy. Itsuki’s takedowns began to work and he was ahead 12-9 with a minute left in the match. Itsuki was tired (this is probably due to him not having any experience wrestling a full 6 minute match this season and the fact that he had missed some practices due to injury), but his opponent was completely gassed. Litterally, his opponent stood on the mat unable to even move his feet. Itsuki did not have to do anything besides simply get in a stance. Superior (though not excellent) conditioning prevailed in the end and Itsuki captured his first title.
148lb Weight Class
Kazuki Takami is another rookie with a good prospect for the future. He has been working very hard in the room. He is still in the process of his body adapting to wrestling. Currently, his body is “heavy” to execute wrestling moves effectively. But, he is flexible and, as Coach Harlow puts it, “built like a tank”. He needs to work on his stance. In his stance, he points his knees inside and his feet are too narrow. And, to balance his heavy body, he puts his penetration foot too close to the center and too far forward. If you were to look at his stance from the front, his two feet would almost be on one line. This leads to his front leg being easily exposed for his opponents, which is exactly what happened. He got his front leg picked so many times in one match. He needs to fix his stance. He was able to get in on a high crotch, which was very good, but did not lock his hands nor switch off to a double leg and just hung on to the leg; which of course eventually ends up being sprawled on. But, Kazuki is just another rookie and he’s just going through what all rookies go through. With continuous effort and work, he can become a solid wrestler.
158lb Weight Class
Jihoon Seo has missed too many practices this season. It’s unfortunate because he is not a bad rookie. He seems to understand the sport and tries to do the correct things. He simply lacks – and lacks by far – experience. He should be wrestling 135lb, 141lb, and at most 148lb, but he is stuck in this weight class because he missed the weight certification date. He went out on Saturday to wrestle two matches but was simply overpowered. His opponents are about 8 to 9 pounds heavier in muscle than him. But, with proper technique, a wrestler should be able to overcome the difference in strength as been proven by many St. Mary’s wrestlers.
168lb Weight Class
Mitchell Krcelic looks better and looks more like a wrestler every match. On Saturday, he went out and wrestled hard. First thing you notice with Mitchell is his improvement in his stance. He is able to keep a low stance most of the time. It’s very clear with his matches that when he works on what he does best – which are his arm throw, throw-by, and 2on1 – he can score; and when he tries to do things that requires power – such as the headlock, whip-over, TKG – he fails and often gets scored on. He attempted his arm throw once and was able to score. He attempted his throw-by once and was able to score. He attempted his 2on1 once and was able to score. Now, he must imagine, had he attempted his arm throw, throw-by, and 2on1 each twice, he could have scored 12 points. If he attempted them three times, he could have scored 18 points. That is more than he will ever need to win a championship. When he attempted to whip over once, he got scored on. When he attempted to do a headlock, he got scored on. When he made the mistake of not clearing the opponent’s hand on his thigh in a front headlock position, he got scored on. It seems very clear what he needs to do; now he has to get that through his head and do it. Mitchell’s matches are all so close. Although he lost all his matches, with a couple of changes, it could turn into winning all of them.
180lb Weight Class
Nilay Hingarh has been showing a lot of improvement in the practice room recently. He is starting to understand the sport. He has been working on the underhook and 2on1. His moves off the underhook and 2on1 are all rather low in risk such as the single leg or the outside knee pick. This is what he has to be working on during a match too. But, on Saturday, he attempted a fireman’s carry and got tossed to his back for a pin. Although, it is good that he is attempting something he learned, he must execute it with much more care. His arms were pretty much useless because they are busy trying to keep his body up. This is how you get whipped over. He should have grabbed the fireman arm, put his foot and head up. But, it is difficult to do for a wrestler like him when he is wrestling opponents who are 180lb. He made the same mistake in his second match too. But, this is all a part of the learning experience. He must understand, even if he gets his butt kicked, he is getting better every day and every match. Next time, he should do what he has been working on.