When most people think of Japanese wrestling, Sumo is the first discipline that comes to mind.
The island nation from Asia will have a chance to make Missoulians think twice next month when a team of 14 high-school aged wrestlers from Japan visit Big Sky High School on a wrestling cultural exchange trip.
The Japanese boys will compete against the locals on Jan. 6 at Big Sky as part of a tour of the northwest that includes several stops in Oregon as well later in the week. The international boys will spend two nights in Missoula, Big Sky head wresting coach Lanny Bryant said, staying with local families as part of a cultural immersion.
It’s a wonderful opportunity for young athletes on both sides of the encounter, Bryant said. He’s coached a handful of teams on trips the other direction, including three to Japan.
“I hope we can understand the educational values to these kids on exchanges,” Bryant said. “It’s not so much the competition that’s important, but man, what an opportunity for these guys. You guys get to go into the culture and intermingle with wrestlers and people.”
Among some of the Big Sky competitors against the Japanese wrestlers will be 170-pound senior Luke Entzel and 205-pound senior Conner Gordon. Both boys were part of a similar exchange this past summer to Germany.
The Americans will also get a chance to get a little more familiar with the metric system. The Japanese boys’ weight classes are broken up by kilograms after all.