Picture Taken by Nishant Chanda
With the victory at the Far East Individual last year still fresh in their minds, the wrestling team has begun this season’s training in earnest in hope of winning both the Kanto Plain and Far East (Dual and Individual) tournaments. The head coach, Mr. Yabui, has done much in preparation to achieve these goals.
Practices are every school day and Saturday for at least two hours. While this time schedule has not changed from last year, there are many new additions in the practice regimen. Over the summer, Coach Yabui, along with a few wrestlers, attended a wrestling camp in Cornell. There he studied, analyzed, and incorporated useful methods utilized by the other coaches. Starting from this year, Coach Yabui will be displaying moves and techniques differently with a new teaching approach, “Hands On Drill”. This drill requires wrestlers to keep their hands on their partner. During a match, it’s important to chase after the opponent to score points. To do this, the Hands On drill helps wrestlers to become more aggressive.
In addition to the new training regimen, use of the High Intensity Rope Training System (HIRTS) will be incorporated; specially designed for wrestlers, it is used to strengthen both the legs and upper body. Other new equipment includes poles attached in the new Multi Purpose Hall (MPH). These poles are for the battle ropes (Equipment for hardcore conditioning, it gives a consistent work out of the abdominal area and stamina) which the team has been using since last year.
Coach Yabui also hosted a two day wrestling clinic led by the 2012 London Olympic bronze medalist, Shinichi Yumoto here at St. Mary’s. Over 100 wrestlers (both adults and students) attended and learned the moves and techniques that made Shinichi Yumoto world class.
The first week of practice consisted of outdoors conditioning due to the MPH still being under construction. The team did uphill sprints, jogged around the school area, and used the weightlifting room to do pull ups and push ups. From the second week, practices were held inside the cafeteria. After school, wrestlers would roll out the mats and begin with a new warm-up routine. Afterwards, the would separate into veterans and rookies. Coach Yabui led the veterans, which were a mix of high school and middle school wrestlers. Mr. Harlow, the middle school wrestling coach, led the rookies, including high schoolers. On the fourth week, the team moved the mats into the new MPH and started practicing there. Since there was more space compared to the cafeteria, practice became harder and involved a lot more conditioning.
Kazuho Kawashima, this year’s captain commented, “Our team was met with numerous challenges since the beginning of the season. The construction of the MPH prohibited us from using the space—practice was held outdoors or in the cafeteria for a few weeks. This meant that we had to roll out each mat one by one everyday, and with our time constraint, we were unable to practice for the full two hours. Though this may seem trivial to some people, this can really take its toll on a wrestler’s performance. Without the proper facility, wrestlers were unable to get into a daily routine: weighing in, warming up from 15:40, wrestling hard until 17:40, and so on. This routine not only cultivates focus during practice, but also creates rhythm within a wrestler. It helps us to constantly stay motivated in losing weight as well as conditioning properly.
“Not only was our routine disrupted, but many wrestlers missed practice due to other academic and fine-arts commitments. This resulted in a kind of “disease” within the team, with the symptoms being of a lack of motivation, discipline, energy and responsibility.
“Despite this initial set-back I am still very hopeful for this season. Utilizing the strong bond amongst the seniors and other veterans on the team, we will pull this group together and mould it into another Far East winning team. As this is the final wrestling season for us seniors, I am sure that none of us have any intention of losing; my hope is that this fire—our desire to pursue excellence—will catch onto the other wrestlers and serve as a cure to the disease.”
Every year, Coach Yabui sets a theme for the team. Last year it was 捲土重来 (Kendo-Chourai) meaning “After a loss, the team stands up again with more strength”. This year, Coach Yabui chose the word 一挙一動 (Ikkyo-Ichidou) which means ‘Every single action and every single move’. He comments, “This word is very applicable for us because over the first couple of weeks, I emphasized during the practices to focus on three things. First is to have a smoother transition from our setup and level change to the shot. Second is to score upon top when we take the opponent down. The final is we cannot give up at any point”. With these clear goals in mind, wrestlers are focused during practice.
Faced with the question, “How do you see this year’s team?” Coach Yabui answers, “I see the team in a good position to win the Far East Individual again. We still have a good chance to win because one, we may be able to get a full line up. As for now, we have a heavy weight for 215 and 275, which we did not have last year. Secondly, on the team we have three Far East Champions from last year, two silver medalists and two placers, which means that most of the guys on the line up are experienced. ”
Practicing for several weeks now, it only continues to get harder everyday. The wrestlers are adjusting their weight for their target weight classes, and everyone is pushing each other in hope of eventually winning the Kanto and Far East tournament. The first home dual match will be on December 8th (Tuesday) against Kinnick at St. Mary’s. If anyone is interested, please come to the gym and support our wrestlers.