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Pro Wrestling Coach Dies

November 28, 1999 GMT

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Yasuhiro Kojima, who trained and coached professional wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Lex Lugar, has died of colon and liver cancer. He was 62.

Kojima, who was known by his stage name as Hiro Matsuda, died Saturday at his home.

Kojima played baseball in Japan but came to the United States in 1961 because wrestling was his first love. The sport was more developed here.

Kojima started wrestling on a circuit that took him through Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.

After settling in the Tampa Bay area in 1962, he went on to train neophytes at the old Sportatorium in Tampa, home of the Championship Wrestling from Florida television program.

``We referred to it as the dungeon,″ said wrestler Brian Blair, known as in the ring as Killer Bee. ``That’s where Hiro put us through the mill. He taught us discipline.″

Blair trained with Kojima for two summers 20 years ago. He remembered that about 100 wrestlers tried out under Kojima those two years.

Only Blair, Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan), Paul Orndorff (Mr. Wonderful) and Ray Hernandez (Hercules) stuck it out, he said.

Kojima wouldn’t allow them to enter the ring until they’d done 1,000 pushups and 1,000 squats.

``We never knew wrestling as sports entertainment,″ Blair said. ``He trained us to believe we’d have to fight for our lives. He used to kick us and say, `Come on, boys, I’m an old man and you can’t even keep up with me.′ ″

Kojima never stopped training, Blair said. Even in his 60s, he could do hundreds of pushups and squats.

Kojima is survived by his wife, Judith; daughters Heather Kojima of Venice, Calif., and Stephanie Kojima of San Francisco; and a sister, Hatsue Yokotsuka of Yokohama, Japan.

Funeral arrangements were pending.