Despite having only two outright weight class winners, Nile C. Kinnick repeated as champions of the 2015 ‘Beast of the East’ Annual Invitational Tournament, at Kinnick gym, Jan. 10.Along with the host Red Devils, the freestyle wrestling competition featured athletes from St. Mary’s International School, Yokosuka Shonan Military Academy, Kubasaki, Christian Academy of Japan (CAJ), Yokota, Zama American, Robert D. Edgren, American School in Japan (ASIJ), E. J. King, Seoul American and Matthew C. Perry.
“I was extremely happy with our performance as a team on Saturday,” said Kinnick head coach Gary Wilson. “This is a very difficult tournament to compete in, especially right after Christmas break. I thought our kids were focused and gave great effort from beginning to end.” Dre Paylor won the 168-pound class over Brenden Miracle of Kubasaki, and Lucas Wirth took the 101- pound title by defeating Zane Frilles, also of Kubasaki.
Wirth’s development comes as no surprise, due to his strong wrestling background dating back to competing in middle school tournaments in Tennessee and Alabama. Wirth also wrestles off-base against Japanese club wrestlers.
“He’s been wrestling since he was 2, it seems,” said Wilson. “He’s a great kid; he practices hard and his parents are such dedicated supporters.”For Paylor, the two-time Pacific football rushing champion, this is his first time ever suiting up for mat “Dre is such a natural at wrestling,” said Wilson. “I wish we he had been a part of our team for the past three years. Because he is such a high-caliber athlete, his learning curve is much higher than most first- year wrestlers. He is wrestling now like a second or even third year wrestler and he has a legitimate shot at bringing home a Far East gold medal at the 168 class. He is also one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch in the Pacific right now. You never really know what he will do to beat his opponent.”
Tournament competitors were placed in 13 different weight classes, which ranged from the 101-pound weight class to the 275-pound weight class. Even though St. Mary had six champions to Kinnick’s two, the Red Devils outpointed them 76-68 due to having placed wrestlers in the top four in 12 of the 13 classes. Seoul came in third with 41 points, despite fielding only six wrestlers.
“The Beast tournament exposed a lot of areas of concern for our team going forward, but it also showed that Kinnick is still relevant in any discussion about who will win the Far East tournament in Osan, Korea,” said Wilson.
‘The Red Devils’ women’s champion’
One of the tournament highlights featured junior Keisha Hadorn, the only female team member on the Red Devils squad. Winning both of her matches for the day, this is her fourth year of competitive wrestling, after beginning her career in the 8th grade.
“I don’t really take it as being the only girl on the team,” said Hadorn. “We are one big family, a brotherhood, well, with one woman,” she added with a chuckle. To say she has impressed those around her is an understatement.
“Keisha has been working hard at practice for several years,” said Wilson. “She is a tough competitor and always brings her best efforts to the mats. She has a lot more technique and strength than most girls.” Hadorn grew up in a wrestling family; her grandfather wrestled and her mother was a part of the Kinnick wrestling management team her entire time in high school. Keisha’s father, Doug, wrestled competitively for Kinnick for three years at 115 and the 122 lb. class. Ironically, Keisha is wrestling at 122.
“I don’t have any problem with her wrestling,” said Doug. “If she can excel, I encourage her to do it.” He also said that he plans to help his daughter more in the future with the development of her overall skills.For Keisha’s mother Mali to see her daughter wrestle brings back both good and bitter-sweet memories of helping support the school’s team when Kinnick practiced in the now-demolished Thew Gym. Despite having a desire to compete, female wrestling was not allowed at that time.
“I’m proud of her, to go out there and do what she does,” said Mali. “When Keisha said she wanted to wrestle, there really was no issue. I actually had other parents ask me if I was worried that she’ll be on the mat with other male wrestlers. If you know Keisha, there’s nothing to worry about. She will put any male in their place by speaking her mind! She is her own person; she knows who she is, what she wants and knows right from wrong…for the most part. I have no worries when she’s on the mat. I’m happy for her and all the other ladies that are now able to wrestle in high school.”
Keisha sees her future in wrestling at the next level as being promising.
“I would really like to pursue wrestling after high school,” said Hadorn. “As a matter of fact, I have been looking into schools that have a wrestling program for women. But if I cannot get onto a college team, then there are always club teams that I could choose. I also would like to come back and just help out any way I can to keep girls wrestling alive at Kinnick.”