Skills, cultures and friendship were displayed at the Oregon Wrestling Culture Exchange Monday night at Hood River Valley High School.
Oregon’s 13 all-star varsity wrestlers hosted Japan’s top 13 wrestlers in a friendly meet, and exchanged gifts at the beginning of the bout.
Gifts exchanged consisted of kendama toys and komas chiyogami (high-quality origami paper), country flag pins and t-shirts.
Wrestlers from the Japan team were Ato Maruyama, Yu Shiotani, Kosei Takeshita, Hayato Fujita, Kotaro Kiyooka, Kyotaro Sogabe, Yamato Hagiwara, Hikaru Takata, Hikaru Abe, Shu Yamada, Hayato Tamaoka, Yuto Nakasato, Hiryu Toguti, along with Masashi Ochi as team leader, Yuji Sakurai as head coach and Masashi Kaneko as coach.
Oregon’s all-star team consisted of HRV’s Carson Farlow, Jayton Muenzer, Chad Muenzer, Preston Armstrong, Maverick Geller, Abraham Tinajero, and Cody Durham; Culver High School’s Anthony Hood, Wyatt Corwin and Lane Downing; The Dalles High School’s Dusty Dodge; and Steven Preston and Isaac Urbina from Pendleton High School. Coaches for the Oregon team included HRV coaches Tony Rolen and Lynn Miller, Chas Peterson, Ernest Stranz, Brad Keely and Rich Rolen.
Since the early 1960s, the Oregon Wrestling Association has conducted cultural exchanges with countries including Japan, Russia and South Africa. Ochi, Tony Rolen, HRV’s wrestling head coach, and Trent Kroll, HRV’s athletic director, have all participated in the cultural exchange in the past.
Ochi was on the cultural exchange team back in 1992 during his junior year in high school. This experience resonated with Ochi and strengthened his appreciation of the sport and he wanted a similar impact on his student-athletes.
The meet also gave Oregon’s all-star wrestlers an opportunity to learn about a different culture and continue their character development.
“I think it’s an education you can’t teach in a classroom when you get to experience people from other places in the world,” Tony Rolen said.
“Just the language barrier is a challenge and I think the kids had a lot of fun with that. They laughed and had a good time. They realized what it would be like for anyone to come in and not be able to communicate. It’s eye-opening for some of these kids to try to communicate when they don’t know the language.”
In the spring, Oregon high school wrestlers will get a chance to earn a spot in the cultural exchange team through a tournament.
Winners are offered the opportunity to join the team, visit and wrestle in Japan in June.