KEAAU – ‘Back to old school style’, is what Pahoa coach Elvis Lum has been preaching to his dozen grapplers during the Big Island Interscholastic Federation wrestling season.
Lum, a former BIIF champion in the unlimited weight division (189 pounds and above) in 1995 during his senior year at Pahoa, brings to his Dagger team the philosophy that the basic old school form of wrestling, still works if done correctly.
“A lot of coaches might disagree with me, but I believe in teaching the basics and to teach my team the stuff that works,” Lum said.
The Daggers feature Jake Torres at 145 and Dylan Coffel at 160 as their top two wrestlers as Lum has high hopes of qualifying some of his athletes for the state championships in February.
“We have some kids that could make it to states, but a big part of wrestling is the mental game and we need to get over that hurdle and gain more confidence on the mat,” he said.
This past Saturday the Dagger boys (no girls tried out for wrestling at Pahoa this year) took to the mat at Kamehameha’s Koa’ia gymnasium with schools from the East Side of the island, while West Side schools were wrestling in Honokaa.
Coffel was on the mat against Waiakea’s Jordan Maglinti as both boys battled for position.
“In the beginning I was trying to push him around for points, but I made a mistake when he was in front of me and I pulled him backwards,” Coffel said.
The result was that Maglinti landed on Coffel’s chest which caused an injury and Coffel was pulled from the rest of the meet for safety reasons.
“I won the match by a score of 9 to 6, but wasn’t able to get anymore matches in that day,” Coffel said. “I love wrestling for Pahoa as all the other teams are big and we get the smallest amount of money for our program.”
But despite the shortfalls in numbers and funding Coffel was optimistic in his view of Pahoa wrestling.
“What we lack in money we make up for in heart,” he said. “We have a very good conditioning program and I’m glad I’m here.”
Dagger teammate, Jake Torres, who won the Kealakehe tournament the previous week at 145, was on the mat facing Waiakea’s Pat Enos for the first time.
Torres jumped to a point advantage during the first period, but lost focus during the second and was pinned by Enos.
“I need to work on my sprawl and I need to be faster,” Torres said. “I had the opportunity to win the match but I failed to see the openings at the time and wasn’t able to reverse the situation.”
In the 152 weight class it was Pahoa’s Torin McMurray facing Kamehameha’s Roland Fernandez. McMurray looked to be in total control of the match as he led 10-3 during the second period.
“He (Fernandez) stuck in a half and rolled me over,” McMurray said. “I lost my focus and know I could have done better.”
McMurray was also seen by an athletic trainer and was scratched from the rest of the meet due to injury.
“I got back into coaching to show what I know,” Lum said. “And what I know is the basics, the things that worked in the past still works today.”
Also on the mat for Pahoa was Tiare Mata, but she wasn’t there to wrestle as the recent high school graduate was in training to be a BIIF wrestling official.
“I love the sport and I can’t seem to get away from it,” she said. “Officiating is the closest I can come. Now I need to know the sport and improve on my self confidence to be a good official.
On the girls side it was Hilo’s first year head coach Alex Kalawe that was trying to bring his eight girls into a respectable position.
“We’re young, but we’re coming up,” Kalawe said.
A pair of Viking freshman, Sha Pagan and Kaylan Kanakanui, was on the mat continuing on the learning curve.
Pagan was bumped up from her usually 108 class to the 114 division and on her opening match went against Kau’s Raquel Fields.
“With four seconds left in the first period I managed to drive from the top and put her in a half nelson to get the pin,” she said.
Pagan was introduced to wrestling when some of the boys on the team asked her to come out for the sports.
“This is a fun sport and a good way to express myself,” the Viking cheerleader said. My cheerleading coaches are worried that I might get injured, but all in all they are happy about my playing two sports.”
Hilo’s Kaylan Kanakanui, also a freshman, came out to wrestling after spending a few years watching her brother, Isaiah, wrestle.
“I watched Isaiah, a senior, and thought that I could do that as well,” she said. “I love the sport as I like the vicious contact sports. I’m always trying my hardest and I like the overall conditioning that I get.”
BIIF wrestlers return to the mat on Saturday with divisional meets at Hawaii Prep and Hilo.