On January 7th and 8th the Titans had the honor to be the first International School to be invited to compete in the Saito Cup Dual Meet Tournament. This annual tournament is a pre-season tune-up for the nation’s best high school wrestlers with teams from all over the country making up the field of 16 teams. See tournament results from this PDF: Saito Cup Results (in Japanese)
With 7 weight classes the team was only able to take a skeleton crew of the normal 13 wrestlers and had to stack them up in fairly broad weight classes. This coupled with the fact that the best high school wrestlers in the country were on the mats set expectations fairly low for our grapplers but Coach Yabui was looking to get them experience against top talent prior to Kanto League Dual meets getting underway. Most coaches wouldn’t risk putting their wrestlers on the mat just one week before league matches begin, especially against city, prefectural and potential national champion caliber talent, but Coach Yabui isn’t most coaches! “The boys have been practicing for 4 straight weeks and this is a pre-season tournament of the other wrestling teams which gives me confidence that my wrestlers will get through the next two days in one piece,” said Coach Yabui.
Day 1 ended up with the Titans going 0-3 in their 4 team bracket against some very strong teams including Tokyo A team (basically an all-star team of high school wrestlers from Tokyo area schools), Kanagawa B team and a Korean team that was stacked with talent. The boys wrestled hard and managed a number of individual wins but couldn’t string together enough wins in any single dual to bring home a win. As this was a round-robin tournament, the 0-3 Titans were put into the consolation bracket of 8 where they faced another round of 6 dual meets.
As the Titans started the afternoon dual meets, things began to “click” and our varsity captains, Ryo Osawa and Chang Young Lee led the way with wins. Freshmen William Krcelic recorded his first win of the tournament, Alex Patton exploded for some outstanding wrestling and senior heavyweight Shane Koslow closed out two wins for the Titans to help them finish the day at 2-1 in the consolation bracket and 2-3 overall for the day. The Titans two wins both came by the score of 4-3 against Tokyo B team and Kanagawa D team.
Day two started with the Titans giving up the heavy weight class as Shane was unable to make day 2 so the wrestlers in the remaining 6 weight classes had their work cut out for them. Our grapplers started off the morning by defeating Kanagawa C team 5-2. Dai Matsumoto wrestled well and won by pin, senior lettermen Mitchell Krcelic notched his first win of the tournament, Captain Ryo Osawa was at his best, Jihoon Seo recorded a win and Alex Patton continued to tighten up his mat skills as the Titans moved their record to 3-4. Unfortunately, the Titans would go on to lose their final dual and end the tournament with a 3-4 record in the consolation bracket and a 3-6 record overall that placed them 13th out of 16 teams.
“We came to get experience, and that’s exactly what we got” commented Coach Yabui. Coming in 13th out of 16 teams isn’t exactly a position the Titans are accustomed to but as Coach Yabui summed up the event, “I really did not expect us to win any of the matches so I’m proud of what the team was able to do considering the level of talent they were up against.”
Now it’s time of Kanto League matches to begin as the Titans will travel to AISJ on January 14th to face Kinnick, Yokota and Zama in a tri-dual. Our parents have been fantastic with supporting the team throughout the winter practices and, again, came out in force to stand in a very cold gym and cheer on the boys in this past weekend so please continue the support and come out to ASIJ on Saturday!