December 2, 2023 at CAJ—Knights Invitational
The St. Mary’s Middle School Wrestling team demonstrated dominant performance at the Knights Invitational producing 3 champions out of the 7 weight divisions competed. St. Mary’s was the only team to win multiple divisions while MC Perry, K International, Zama, and Yokosuka each shared the rest. Individual champions were: Isaac Dennis (G8), Ryusei Kobayashi (G7), and Noah Mitsumoto (G8). Ponnappa Karthachira (G8), Raizo Yasuoka (G8), and Jiei Kawamatsu (G7) earned their silver medals.
Isaac Dennis, returnee from last season, proved he is more experienced. While not being successful on the mats last year, this year, with better technique and more physical strength, Isaac was able to defeat two tough opponents from K International and Yokosuka.
Unexpected high performance came from two rookies, Noah Mitsumoto and Ryusei Kobayashi. Both rookies joined the team late but despite the lack of practice, they put on the mat everything they have learned. Noah demonstrated the St. Mary’s signature leg lace beautifully. Ryusei stayed in good wrestling position constantly to gain advantage over every opponent. Noah defeated 3 opponents and Ryusei defeated 4 opponents to be crowned champions of their weight divisions. They have a lot of potential for the future.
Ponnappa showed grit and persistence throughout the day to pin all 3 opponents but the only obstacle was his own teammate, Noah. In his first year, Raizo, also showed that he has a lot of potential for this sport, pinning two opponents and the only loss coming from the eventual champion of the division from K International.
One of the most exciting additions to the program this year is Jiei Kawamatsu. Only as a 7th grader, he weights over 190lb. St. Mary’s has traditionally been weak and light at the heavier weights in high school; often times forfeiting the heavier weight classes. Jiei certainly has potential to fill that gap. He has been showing up to practices and extra practice sessions which paid off as he claimed second place in a tough bracket with other “big” competitors. Though he lost 2 of the 3 matches, he won by classification points over the other two competitors who also had 2 loss in the round-robin bracket.
Kaito Harada and Ikkyu Watanabe are certainly the hardest workers on the team, consistently showing up for optional practice dates for middle school. They are still in 6th grade and physically still not as strong. But, they did their best to try to hit moves they work on in practice.
“Kids like this [Kaito and Ikkyu] may not win now, but certainly once they physically grow later, will start winning because the technique will be there,” commented Coach Yabui.
Toshimitsu Hiraki, who came up from the elementary school program, had a tough day, wrestling 4 matches and hurting his shoulder in his second match. But, Toshimitsu has the heart of a champion. He did not give any excuses for his injury, and continued to wrestle 2 more matches without any trouble. Toshimitsu is another wrestler with a bright potential for the future.
Rafael Nagata had a difficult day as his main opponent was his own mind. Rafael, a returnee from last season, has pretty good technique and skills. He just needs to get it out on the mat during competition. The tournament was the largest tournament ever in the Kanto Plain, with 10 teams and over 150 wrestlers competing. Perhaps that played a mental trick on Rafael as he wasn’t able to perform like in practice. Once he can get over the stage fright, he can be very competitive.
Although the middle school team this year is the largest it has been since pre-COVID times with 17 wrestlers, 7 of them were unable to make it to the tournament due to illnesses and other reasons. Once, the team can get their full line up entered, the day should look different. The next middle school action is at Zama on Dec. 9.