Wrestlers make international mat friends

The brotherhood of wrestling.

That’s how Coach Steve Thorpe describes the benefits of his favorite sport. Last Monday, 14 members of a cultural exchange wrestling team from Japan visited Sweet Home as part of a three week tour through Oregon.

“It was a very positive experience, fun,” Coach Thorpe said. “It’s another way our wrestlers can get a new experience. Now, they can say they’ve wrestled a national champion or perhaps, a future Olympian.”

Coach Thorpe said each of the Japanese team members had placed first or second at a national tournament to qualify for the cultural team.

“This was a life experience for our kids,” Coach Thorpe said. “They had a chance to learn about another culture, another way of life.”

The Huskies, plus fellow team members from Albany, Lebanon and Eugene, also found out their contemporaries are strong grapplers.

“They are very good. Very tough on top,” Coach Thorpe said.

Each of the Japanese students spent a couple nights in a host home and although only a few had a minimal grasp of the English language, the exchange proved fruitful.

“The kids managed to communicate just fine,” Coach Thorpe said.

Husky coaches took the Japanese coaches golfing on Sunday afternoon. The team members were treated to a visit to McCubbins ranch, bowling, ice cream at the A and W and then spent Monday in classrooms.

The two teams practiced together Monday afternoon before the exchange match that night.

Coach Thorpe said he is a strong supporter of cultural exchange programs. In the last five years, Husky wrestlers have traveled to South Africa and Bulgaria on exchange trips.

Former Husky coach Norm Davis was the evening’s dignitary. He is an Oregon member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and coached exchange teams to South Africa and Canada among others.

“We were asked to host this exchange group because of our team’s involvement and support of the Oregon cultural exchange program,” Coach Thorpe said. “Sweet Home is also known as a town that would take care of group like this.”

Local wrestlers who hosted exchange grapplers included Andy Ellis, Ian Bostrom, Logan Cooley, Chad Emmert, David Helfrich, Adam Knight, Ricky Stock, K.C. Stokes, Neil Workman, Keith Horn, Andrew Swanson, Kyle Temple and Adam Zurcher.

The exchange team left Sweet Home on Tuesday to compete at Coquille. The wrestlers will begin their college academic careers in April.

SHHS vs. Japanese Cultural Exchange Team

Chris Riley, Junction City dec. Masaki Kawasaki 11-7; Jason Burr, Lebanon, was dec. 11-1 by Takuya Hasegawa; Israel Helfrich, Sweet Home, was dec. 11-5 by Takuji Nakamura; Travis Kopecek, West Albany, was dec. 9-0 by Atsushi Fujisawa; Elias Soto, Churchill, dec. Makoto Moriizumi 9-3; Drew Bledsoe, West Albany won by default; Daniel Brewer, Sweet Home, was dec. 7-1 by Shinuke Toba; Mike Hoppe, Junction City, was dec. 10-0 by Jun Hamamoto; Ryan Drummond, Lebanon, was pinned by Kosuke Hashii; Eddie Rippee, South Eugene, was dec. 12-2 by Tomoyuki Nakamura; David Helfrich was dec. 7-0 by Tomoyuki Iwamiya; Chris Riley, Junction City, was dec. 3-0 by Hirokazu Shinsho.

Team leader: Shigaru Otsubo. Coaches: Kazuo Shimada and Masanori Miyake.

Valley team coach: Steve Thorpe.