The Japanese Cultural Exchange wrestling team invaded La Grande Sunday night to take on the Oregon All Stars in a freestyle dual meet. And after 13 matches, it was the boys from the far east that won 11 of the 13 matches on a very special and unique night in Eastern Oregon. “This was great,” La Grande wrestling coach Klel Carson said. “You see the news and you see that there are problems all over the world. But then you meet these kids, and you realize they’re kids just like our kids here. I’m really thankful for everyone who came out tonight.”
While the night was more about the experience than the actual wrestling, both teams showed up ready to compete.
After two exhibition matches, Chandler Michael of Sam Barlow High lost to Hiroki Tashiro, getting out-pointed 3-1 in round one and 5-1 in the second round. Dylan Holcomb of Pendleton lost in three rounds to Yuya Hashiura, before Hermiston’s Tyler Berger got the first win of the night for the Oregon All Stars in a three-round decision.
“A lot of these kids have never wrestled freestyle before,” Carson said of the wrestlers on Team Oregon. “People asked why we didn’t do a two-night event and include collegiate-style wrestling, but we thought that would be disrespectful to the Japanese team.”
Nyssa’s Nick Contreras lost to Yashitugu Yamagata in two rounds, while teammate Robert Deleon lost in three rounds after taking round one in overtime. Abraham Rodriguez (H.M. @ 152) of Hermiston fell in two rounds to Terumasa Osanai, and Vale’s Austin Tolman lost by fall in the second round.
Enterprise’s Erich Reopke, just one of two local wrestlers competing in the event, lost to Masatoshi Sakuraba by fall in round one, before La Grande’s Cody Shaffer fell to Kazunori Ohashi by fall in round two.
“This was a pretty fun experience,” Shaffer said. “I’ve never done anything like this. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. They (Team Japan) were really courteous to us.”
“Both teams put out a lot of great kids tonight (Sunday),” Carson said.