(featured image: 168lb Sophomore Roman Leyko, Finishing his Single Leg Takedown)
January 21, 2023
The Beast of the East tournament consists of all teams in the Far East plus a local Japanese team, so it is essentially larger than the Far East tournament. Many view this tournament as a test to see how their teams will do in the Far East. It was also a rare occasion when no team (except the Japanese school) had no more than two champions. In other years, the “Big 3” teams, Kubasaki, Kinnick, and St. Mary’s would produce multiple champions to compete for the team title. But, this year, the playing field has been leveled with champions coming out from 7 different teams with the majority coming out of the Japanese team. Due to COVID, many teams are rebuilding with many rookie or second year wrestlers on the team. Although from second place and below were the Big 3, Kinnick with 50 points, St. Mary’s with 45 points, and Kubasaki with 43 points, their dominance like other years was not present on Saturday. “It’s going to be a close race among the Big 3, but also others like Kadena and ASIJ could be joining the race as well,” predicts Coach Yabui seeing the outcome of the Beast. He continued, “but, really, this tournament is about the individual wrestlers to win and get their ‘Beast’ of the Far East champion title as it’s a big and important tournament. Every wrestler should aspire to become a Far East champion, Kanto Champion and a Beast of the East champion, so I’m very very happy for Masaya today.”
Titan’s captain and only champion, Masaya Toyokawa at 129lb, went savage on Saturday, annihilating all four of his opponents with his superior technique and conditioning. There was simply no one that could keep up with his wrestling. Although he could not get enough votes as the Outstanding Wrestler that day, his performance was outstanding. His signature fireman’s carry would send opponent’s sky high, his sweep singles were so slick his opponent’s couldn’t even sprawl, his leg lace and arm bars simply couldn’t be stopped, and his positioning and chain wrestling were unparalleled at the tournament. Although his opponents tried to keep up with Masaya for the first few minutes, after a while, they simply couldn’t keep up and from there it was a spectacle of techniques and superior conditioning. This marked Masaya’s first major tournament win, qualifying him for the Wall of Fame. “He (Masaya) is one of those wrestlers who you don’t ever want to wrestle against; it’s just mentally and physically highly demanding and most would just quit wrestling; he is at the peak of his performance,” commented Coach Yabui. Masaya is projected to win Far East as well, but ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
101lb Hugo Miyamoto and 108lb Jong In Lee finally got matches where they actually wrestled! These two have been getting a lot of forfeits due to other teams not having wrestlers at the weight class, but that was no longer at the Beast. Hugo was in a 6 man bracket, and the only loss was against the Japanese team wrestler to place second. As a freshmen rookie, Hugo has been showing he can become a champion class wrestler. He has good mat sense and understands what his best moves are and executes them to the best of his ability. His best shot is his fireman’s carry but with a twist. “You cannot shoot a fireman’s with an outside control, it just won’t work, but it doesn’t see to be the case with Hugo,” commented Coach Yabui at Hugo’s fireman’s which is sometimes executed with an outside elbow tie which whether intentionally or accidentally folds the opponent’s elbow tight to be used as a fireman’s arm to finish the move. Hugo hit this (along with his regular fireman’s carry with an inside tie) many times on Saturday to stick his opponents to their back for pins. He defeated MC Perry, Kubasaki, and Kadena on Saturday. He has defeated ASIJ at this weight before as well. The only wrestlers he has not faced are Kinnick and the Korean teams. Hugo is definitely in a position to place top 6 if not, top 3 at the Far East, but ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST. Jong In Lee, went 2-1 on Saturday, defeating Kubasaki and Kinnick easily to take a bronze medal. His only loss came from Kadena which he did not match up well. The Kadena wrestler was very defensive, waiting for Jong In to take bad shots, and that’s what Jong In did. His shots were too far without set ups. Jong In is more than capable of defeating this opponent but he simply needs to take his time and take better shots. “Jong In is one of the best wrestlers we have on the team together with captains Masaya Toyokawa and Isaac Shane, our plan to have him win Far East has not changed,” confidently spoke Coach Yabui despite Jong In’s first loss of the season. A win or loss now doesn’t mean anything at Far East: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
Rookie, Jed Schmitz, was tasked with a mission of high pressure, filling in for captain, Isaac Shane who was out for injury. “It’s a lot of pressure for a rookie to be in such a big, varsity only tournament, but Jed handled it really well,” complimented Coach Yabui. Jed stuck to what he was taught and wrestled hard all day. After defeating the EJ King opponent, lost his matches against Kadena and a Japanese wrestler to be eliminated from the tournament. Jed loves wrestling and his teammates. Though his experience on Saturday may have been bitter, it will become a huge asset for his future seasons. On the note of Isaac Shane, Coach Yabui commented “it was a tough call. He says his injury is fine, his doctor says it’s fine, but anything could happen in a tournament and we simply couldn’t risk another injury just a week before Far East. I know he wanted to wrestle badly on Saturday and half of me is saying I should have let him wrestle, but the other half is saying it was the right call. There’s simply no right or wrong answers, but Isaac’s been in the program since elementary school and our goal has always been to make him a Far East champion. It was simply unfair that COVID took two seasons from him which, had we had a proper season, I’m certain he would have won one or two of them. But, now he is faced with a last chance at Far East and we are going to do everything it takes for him to have the best shot to win.” As of now, Isaac stands favored to win Far East, but with his injury and some unknown opponents and the unpredictability of the nature of the sport, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
122lb Luke Shane, has been going through a steep learning curve. Just like any other rookie, at the beginning of the season, Luke had no confidence and was very passive in his wrestling. Now, with more confidence, he contests to win. He has a winning mentality and is much more aggressive with his offense, which many times it works. On Saturday, he was consistent, initiating his attacks and wrestling hard. He hit a nice fireman’s carry against his first opponent from Edgren which led straight to a pin, but he struggled against the next two familiar opponents from Kinnick and ASIJ. The main issue was Luke putting his head down after a failed shot and staying in a bad position for a long time without recovering or improving the position. His opponents from Kinnick and ASIJ are better on defense and short offense (front head lock situations) which Luke gets sucked into with his attacks.This eliminated Luke out of the tournament. At this point, it seems that these two opponents are better than Luke, but if Luke can catch one mistake they make, that can turn into a pin or a technical fall with a leg lace. The more tired Luke can make his opponents, the more chances he will have to win. Luke is improving fast every week and certainly someone to watch out for at Far East next week. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
Nathaniel Twohig at 135lb is certainly the rookie that is improving at an exponential rate. Many coaches are surprised to hear that this is Nathaniel’s first year wrestling. He continues to show improvement with his tactics and positions each week. He had a bad draw in his first match, going against the Japanese wrestler who has way more experience than any wrestler that day. It was a good learning experience for Nathaniel on good technique. But, after that, Nathaniel confidently beat his ASIJ opponent for their 4th meeting of the season. He continues to widen the gap against this ASIJ opponent. Then, he faced Yokota, who he defeated at a home dual 3 days earlier. Nathaniel shot a nice counter double leg attack and good par terre technique on top. He did not allow his opponent to get to his leg once (which is a big improvement as sprawling is his weakness) and safely defeated his opponent with a pin in the end. He also showed huge improvement against his Kinnick rival who he lost to previously. This time, Nathaniel completely controlled the match and was leading 8-0. However, his opponent shot his favorite boot scoot, catching Nathaniel two times and leading into an inside cradle as Nathaniel made the mistake of balling up and staying in a vulnerable position. In the end, Nathaniel was upset with a pin to take 4th place. The less mistakes Nathaniel makes at Far East, he will climb the place ladder higher. But, he is still a rookie and mistakes are expected. He could be eliminated in Day 1 of Far East or He could become a Far East champion. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
At 141lb, Jiei Izukune, and 148lb, Taiyo Mitsuoka, had similar experiences: when they shot, they won, and when they didn’t, they lost. Jiei went 3-2 on Saturday. He faced the Kubasaki wrestler who he was defeated by at the Rumble on the Rock first match. This time, Jiei wrestled a much better match, being patient and hand fighting and keeping up with his opponent. But, he simply could not shoot enough and was overwhelmed by his opponent’s strength. After this, however, he destroyed his opponents from Zama, Kinnick, and Kadena with his movement and shots. But, in his third place match against a Japanese wrestler, he did not shoot once, and lost. The Japanese wrestler was a much better wrestler than Jiei with a ton of more experience, but that shouldn’t stop him from shooting or trying. Jiei is best when he is on offense. Taiyo has a nemesis, and his name is Taiyo Mitsuoka. As expected for an inexperienced wrestler, Taiyo gets the stage fright. He dominates his teammates during practice, but at a tournament, he freezes and goes blank. He and his coaches have been working on this mentality fix and it resulted well for his first 3 matches. On Saturday, he initiated without freezing. He shot his double legs and fireman’s and they all worked. He worked his arm bars and leg laces and they all worked. He outperformed all his opponents up to the finals. But, perhaps, the finals of the Beast of the East was too much for Taiyo and he completely froze again and couldn’t do anything. “I consider Jiei and Taiyo as rookies as last season wasn’t much of a real season; so to see them be on varsity and do as well as they are doing, I’m very impressed. I just wish they had another year,” said Coach Yabui of the two. Jiei took fourth and Taiyo took second. Can these two be the dark horses at Far East? ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
Kabilan Baskaran is the new varsity face at 158lb. He has been showing great improvement over the last several weeks. In his first match against Zama, Kabilan was getting beaten badly. The opponent was physically stronger and was constantly stopping Kabilan’s attacks and scoring on him. Just when people thought the match would be over when the Zama wrestler tried to flip Kabilan over with a cow catcher, the Zama wrestler forced the move too much and got out of position for a split second which Kabilan did not miss. He took advantage and upset his opponent with a come back pin to proceed to the next round. However, he faced the eventual champion and eventual Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament in the next round and simply could not do anything. In his last match against ASIJ, he took shots, got into bad positions and stayed there. By then, he was too tired to even defend a simple half nelson to be pinned and eliminated from the tournament. For a rookie, he wrestled well and competitively. He is still a sophomore and the future is bright for him. Can he pull of some upsets at Far East like his first match? ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
168lb, Roman Leyko, went 1-2 to place fourth. Roman has been making big improvements with his near-arm-far-leg take down and much better with his penetration of his shots. However, he had trouble finishing his moves against his Kubasaki opponent who simply was waiting for the shot and taking full advantage of it. His two meetings with Kubasaki were pretty much a duplicate; Roman shot, Kubasaki scored. Roman needs to make some adjustments with his strategy when he is stopped in the same way multiple times along with being able to finish his single legs. In his consolation semi-finals, he defeated a wrestler from EJ King, but this was no fun match. While dominating his opponent with his take downs and almost having the opponent pinned, Roman kept getting flipped over to almost get pinned. He did power out of the situations to secure his win, but he can win his matches much easier if he can learn to keep his head up and look up when pinning opponents. Roman is another wrestler who many be eliminated on Day 1 of Far East by pinning himself or can place top 6 if he stays on the legs and finishes his moves. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
180lb Matthew Araya, promised vengeance against his Kadena opponent who he lost to at the Rumble on the Rock. As promised, Matthew climbed up to the finals to get his wish. However, the Kadena wrestler was able to stop all of Matthew’s moves and Matthew settled for second. Matthew showed good offense and defense against Kinnick his first match, winning by technical fall. His best match was against ASIJ. Although struggling to score at first, Matthew relentlessly snapped the head, faked, and moved and eventually his opponent gassed out. Then, everything started to work, eventually finishing the opponent with an outside cradle for a pin. The conditioning paid off. 180lb is an unpredictable weight class and at this point, Kadena is in the lead to win this, but ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
Freshmen rookie at 215lb, Jotaro Yamaoka is experiencing what any normal rookie would: not winning. Jotaro, everyday, aspires to be better and stronger. He works hard in the room and struggles everyday enduring being beaten by stronger wrestlers in the room. “That’s just how you get better in this sport; I remember I was beaten up everyday when I was a freshman. You just have to keep coming back and learn. Getting beaten up is a good thing; quitting because it’s too hard is a bad thing,” reflects Coach Yabui on his high school days of wrestling and overlapping the experience with Jotaro. Jotaro started the season weighing close to 200lb but from the rigorous workouts of the season, he is now weighing around 185lb. He has to be careful not to lose too much weight as he will not be eligible to wrestle at the 215lb weight class. Jotaro will always step on the mat ready to fight regardless of the opponent. He believes in his training and does his absolute best. Of course, he lacks experience and it has been a struggle to win. But, he is still a freshman and along with the other freshmen on the team, he will be an integral part of the team for the next 3 years. He is gaining valuable experience wrestling at the varsity level. Can he get a win at Far East? ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST.
Coach Yabui explains that Far East will come down to a few factors. First is the draw. Other than the seeded wrestlers, the wrestlers are drawn randomly in the tournament brackets. Because the playing field is leveled this season, which wrestler competes where in the bracket could heavily influence the tournament outcome. This is simply luck. The second factor is how minimal every rookie’s mistakes will be. Many wrestlers in the league have little experience. Rookies are bound to make mistakes; the fewer mistakes St. Mary’s rookies make and more the other team’s make, the better chance it will give for the Titans. On a more controllable factor, wrestlers need to contest for every single point, rather than stay in bad positions and give up points or worse, a pin. “Our rookies are still treating wrestling like a game of chess, taking turns in offense and defense; but wrestling is not done in turns. We need to attack, attack, attack, and if we get defended, we go to the next move and chain wrestle. We need to keep moving and scrambling for better positions at all times. Our boys have the stamina to move for 6 full minutes; most other teams don’t. We need to use that to our advantage,” explained Coach Yabui. He emphasized that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT FAR EAST. The team title that has been suspended for 2 seasons now is up in the air for anyone’s taking in this unprecedented post-pandemic season.
- Japanese Combined Team 79 points
- Kinnick 50 points
- St. Mary’s 45 points
- Kubasaki 43 points
101lb Hugo Miyamoto – Second Place
108lb Jong In Lee – Third Place
129lb Masaya Toyokawa – Champion
135lb Nathaniel Twohig – Fourth Place
141lb Jiei Izukune – Fourth Place
148lb Taiyo Mitsuoka – Second Place
168 Roman Leyko – Fourth Place
180lb Matthew Araya – Second place