Article Written By: Tatsu Matsumoto and Aditya Varma
Photography By: Mr. Krcelic, Tatsu Matsumoto
On February 2015, the varsity wrestling team broke the record of three Far East champions for St. Mary’s. With the coaches and a few parents, the team had returned from Korea with six Far East Champions. They were Chang Young Lee (108lb), Lucas Shiraki (115lb), Alberto Orsara (129lb), Ryan Vasconcellos (135lb), Kazuho Kawashima (148lb), and Riku Osawa (158lb).Coach Yabui commented,
“We had an outstanding performance; record wise, this was St Mary’s at its best.” “This record will not be broken easily.”
In the past, the most number of champions in a Far East tournament had been three, but the new record has doubled the number.
Out of the many sports offered at St.Mary’s, wrestling is one of the most intense sports offered. Wrestling has a long history here at St. Mary’s, starting from the days of its first coach Mr. Paradis in 1969, to the current Coach, Mr. Yabui. Having Mr. Yabui, a three times Far East Champion, as a coach this year, we clearly had an advantage over the other teams. The Titans won the individual title with more than 4.5 points over Kinnick (139.5 vs 135). As the coach said, “If any wrestler had placed one place lower, we would not have gotten the champion title.” Ryo Osawa (122lb) and Itsuki Shibahara (141lb) were the two runner-ups, Mitchell Krcelic (168lb) was fourth, and Eshan Singhi (101lb) placed fifth. Having won this year, we won the individual title two years in a row. The team had a injured wrestler and an open weight class, but was only three points behind Kinnick in the Finals (29-26) which we were very close to winning.
“It’s rare when you have all your seniors make varsity and win Far East,” said coach Yabui at the banquet. Indeed, Lucas is one example. He started wrestling from sophomore year and eventually made it to the varsity team, placing 4th at Far East. Disabled during his junior year with a knee injury, he still came to practice everyday and worked on his upper body. He did not quit, but waited patiently for his golden chance to come, and was awarded with the title of Far East Champion. Along with Lucas, Alberto started at the same time and showed outstanding improvement this year compared to his previous years. He has great skills and well- timed counter shots that we practiced a lot this year. This technique led him to achieve first place in the tournaments. Both Lucas & Alberto won the Beast of East, Kanto Plain, and Far East tournaments, the biggest in the region. Riku Osawa, captain since middle school was always focused during practice and knew what to do when the coaches weren’t there. The three really pulled the team and finished their high school wrestling career with amazing champion titles in their last year.
There were two senior champions. Ryan’s accomplishments include winning the tournaments during his freshman and junior years in highschool and being a runner-up in sophomore year. Ryan, who had started wrestling from 6th grade and once was a captain for the middle school team and knows the sport well. He attends a club along with Chang Young and a few freshman and is probably the most experienced wrestler on the team. He is now looking forward to winning again in senior year. The other champion was Kazuho, similar to Ryan, he started wrestling from his freshman year and is the most athletic person on the team. He was second place in his sophomore year like Ryan and won this year. At the banquet, Kazuho, who led the team with the seniors and was always on fire during practice, was appointed captain for next year.
Chang Young is unstoppable. Although he is still a sophomore, he has won the Far East tournament twice. If he keeps on winning, he will be the first wrestler in our school to win the Far East championship four times. During the season, he had cracked his ribs, but kept on practicing and came to winter practice everyday. He was always focused and pushed himself to the limits. Coach Yabui always talks about each wrestler at the banquet for more than three minutes. When it was Chang Young’s turn, he said “Chang Young is Chang Young, there aren’t words to describe him,” with a laugh.
“We have very good potential for the team considering the weights that we have. The weights above 168 are really tough as many of our wrestlers are inexperienced. We have good guys; Six Far -East Champions on the Team, runner ups, and and placers”
,said Mr. Yabui. His philosophy for the team is that Wrestling is not all about fun and games, but about a good work ethic, good team effort, and helping each other in a time of need. All of the twelve wrestlers had wrestled their best using the strategies that we learned. In the team, we had two rookies wrestling in the heavy weights. They were Joonseo Bae (180lb) and Nilay Hingarh (215lb). Joonseo will be a junior next year, but Nilay is still a freshman. He was bumped up a weight class and now knows how tough the tournament is. This will definitely help him in his later career.
As the season ended, Coach Yabui had already begun preparations for next season. While he was watching everyone wrestling in Korea, he studied the moves of other teams, and found ways to defend or use it for future attacks. He has suggested many opportunities to the wrestlers such as different gyms in Japan, wrestling camps outside of school and selective tournaments. In particular, the team also used Battle Ropes as a new addition to the team’s training this year. According to a Fitness expert “Battle Rope training is one of the most functional pieces of equipment for high intensity training and hardcore conditioning.” (http://primalfit.ca/) It gives a consistent work out of the abdominal area . It also provides the wrestlers better stamina while wrestling. The team also used weight bags that range from 10 – 20 pounds, for even more stamina training. Another way the coach prepared for future seasons was by opening the wrestling mats after school. In addition Coach Harlow and Coach Yabui are running an elementary school wrestling practice on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Nonetheless, wrestling is an exciting and rewarding sport that is still evolving at St. Marys. We have many new people, who contribute to the growing desire to win in the program. Such wrestlers also respond well to Mr.Yabui’s passion help them to reach their potentials. Everyone is pitching in to help the wrestlers, from the Titan alumni to classmates. The Wrestling community is continually growing, and we hope that everyone who can will help the team grow and prosper in future years.