Japanese national wrestlers stop by Terrace on first leg of Washington tour

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Japanese national wrestlers stop by Terrace on first leg of Washington tour

By AnhViet Nguyen

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Wrestling meets usually don’t draw a whole lot of spectators but when a team of talented wrestlers from a different country visits it’s sure to turn a lot of heads and spark intrigue in the community.

Through a cultural exchange wrestling program, the Japanese junior national wrestling team went on a 10-day tour of Washington state throughout January. On Jan. 6, MTHS hosted the All-Star wrestling meet between the Japanese team and selected wrestlers from WesCo, KingCo, and the Cascade conference.

Mountlake Terrace wrestling coach Kanoe Vierra said he got a phone call from the cultural exchange director saying the Japanese squad needed a host. “I think this is the fourth time we’ve hosted the Japanese national team,” he said. “I thought it’d be a great experience for our students, as well as the staff here.”

The Japanese team, comprised of the top high school wrestlers as determined by national competitions, was hosted by the students, staff, and families at both MTHS and Edmonds-Woodway H.S. The Japanese wrestlers spent time attending classes, experiencing American life through homestays and interacting with the Terrace wrestlers. Despite the language barrier, it was still an enjoyable experience for those who were involved.

“They’re like regular high school kids. They chattered a lot and actually bonded with our team and just had a lot of fun,” Vierra said.

Although the stop was to be more of a cultural exchange, there was a great deal of wrestling action as well. After introductions, gift exchanges, and the playing of both national anthems, 13 exciting matches took place. A few hundred wrestling fans got to see the best prep stars in the region take on the best of Japan, all of whom were among the top three wrestlers in their weight class.

At the end of the day, the WesCo/KingCo/Cascade team was only able to win two of the 13 matches.

Senior Taylor Call, who went up against his opponent Daisuke Shimada in the 171-pound weight class, was the only wrestler representing MTHS at the event. However, the match was over quickly as Shimada won both rounds.

Although Call wasn’t victorious, it was still an enjoyable experience for him. “It’s a big honor [to be selected],” he said. “It’s the entire region against their nation.”

Call only had about a day to prepare for the match to work on certain techniques. “I was nervous because it was a different style [of wrestling],” Call admitted. “We wrestle folkstyle over here in the states but they wrestle freestyle over there and we wrestled freestyle in this match.”

Folkstyle, also known as collegiate style wrestling, is commonly found in high school wrestling in the United States but freestyle is widely practiced around the world, including in Japan. Freestyle is the style found in the Olympics. The main differences lie in the types of holds and moves that can be performed and the number of rounds in each match.

The Japanese wrestlers and coaches enjoyed their stay in the area. Coach Toshihide Suzuki has been to the United States multiple times in the past and described his brief time in the Seattle area as “very nice”. Following the meet at MTHS, the Japanese team continued on with their tour of Washington before returning to Japan on Jan. 14, Suzuki said of the team’s busy schedule.

The Japanese wrestlers were also delighted to be a part of the special event. Although they didn’t speak very much English, they quickly became acquainted with the Terrace wrestlers and communication was hardly an issue. “They’re nice guys. Nice to hang around,” Call said of the Japanese team.

Japan has made these wrestling tours in the states somewhat of a tradition, which has prompted the Mountlake Terrace wrestling team to consider taking an overseas trip in the near future.

“The cultural exchange director talked about doing a trip to Japan and I think they’re going to try and do it this summer. It’s already in the works and we’re looking to go to some other countries as well and do an exchange match,” Vierra said.

“I think it’s a good experience for all the athletes to be able to experience this, whether they participate in the wrestling match or not.”

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