Good things often come in small packages and when it comes to prep wrestling the 103 pound weight division may see a battle between giants.
This past Saturday Kealakehe played host to an all-schools wrestling meet which saw some of the premiere grapplers in the state going head to head.
Kamehameha’s Megan Aina weighed in at 99 pounds while three times BIIF champion Konawaena’s Alexandra Aoki dropped one weight class to feature two of the best wrestlers at 103.
Aina, who believes in the theory that to be the best she must compete against the best, moved up a weight class earlier in the season to challenge Aoki and lost by pin in the second round.
This past Saturday Aina was determined to turn things around on Aoki and became the aggressor early on as she tried to keep the more experienced wrestler off balance.
“Megan led going into the third period by a score of 7-4,” Kamehameha coach Marlon Miller said. “But instead of wrestling to win she got conservative and wrestled not to lose.”
Aoki overpowered Aina during the final two minute period to squeak by with an 8-7 victory.
“In that match Alex (Aoki) showed everyone why she is a three time BIIF champion, going on her fourth BIIF title,” Miller said. “I am looking forward to them meeting again at Kamehameha’s Tournament on Jan. 30 and also in the BIIF Championships.”
While Aina dropped her close match her older sister, Jenna Aina, was able to avenge her only loss in BIIF competition by beating Wildcat Daniele Hubbard in a nail biting overtime score 9-7.
Jenna Aina’s victories at the 114 weight class led to her capturing first in that division and provided the Warrior girls with another impressive meet.
Warrior teammates Rustee-Ann Johansen, junior at 140, Kanoe Padaken, sophomore at 108, Kaopua Sutton, senior at 175, and Jasmine Iuta, freshmen at 220, all had perfect records on the day.
Especially impressive for the Kamehameha girls was Jasmine Iuta who weighs under 175, but was bumped to the higher weight division by her coach.
“One thing Jaz has going for her is that her practice partner, Kao Sutton, beats her up in practice every day,” Coach Miller said. “I tell my wrestlers at the beginning of the season that their mission is to make it hard for their partner. Their goal is to make them the hardest wrestler their partner will see all season.”
Iuta went on to pin both her opponents in the heavyweight division which now makes her the person to beat in that weight class.
“I pinned the girls from Kau and HPA in the second round,” Iuta said. “During the match with the Kau girl I used a lot of head snapping. I couldn’t shoot on her, so I used more momentum and less muscular force to try and counter her moves.”
“Against the HPA girl I felt that that we were around the same experience level so I used some moves that my dad taught me,” Iuta said. “The move that I felt the most comfortable with was the head and arm and to pin her I used a head chancer.”
Honokaa had a good showing with two girls taking second place finishes in Heather Sugimoto, 125, and Jessica Muskatt, 175, both going 2-1.
For Dragon boys it was Geo Chavez-Pardini, 160, and Kalai Niau, 189, winning all three of their matches resulting in first place finishes. Teammate Preston Cawagas, 171, also had a good day going 2-1 and finishing second in a tough weight division.
Chavez-Pardini and Niau both won their first won matches by pin with Chavez-Pardini taking a superior decision in his final match while Niau came away with a close decision in his final match.
“I was able to win my first two matches with first round pins using the head and arm technique,” Niau said. “My third match was against Ryan Pilanca of Kealakehe and I beat him on points, 13-11.”
During his third match Niau was up by 10 points and nearly had his opponent pinned on two occasions, but needed to hang on in the final round to escape with a narrow victory.
Niau weighed in on Saturday at 171.8 pounds and was required to wrestle at the heavier 189 class, but the senior believes that he will compete at the 171 class by the time the BIIF championships roll around.
“I probably can win BIIF’s this year at 171,” Niau said.
Two Kamehameha boys also had unblemished marks at Kealakehe. Justin Hirae, junior at 114, Nalu Souza, sophomore at 120, established themselves as contenders in their weight divisions.
The host Waveriders had several good performances as well with defending BIIF champion Jodi Ozaki winning both her matches at 120 along teammates Justin Tanaka, 2-0 at 135, and Dillon Cortes, 3-0 at 130.
Cortes continues to be undefeated in BIIF competition and needed to get past a trio of tough competitors to keep his mark in tact.
“During my first match I tried to work the half-nelson and then went to set up the high crotch shot,” Cortes said of his first round pin.
The second match against Waiakea’s Ryan Tampon was to be the real testing ground for Cortes as both wrestlers lead the 130 class, but Tampon was forced to forfeit the match due to an unscheduled bathroom break.
In his third and final match of the day Cortes faced Keaau’s Jesse Huihui who is a gifted all around athlete.
“I had a hard time getting shots because Jesse is really good at tie ups,” Cortes said. “He’s really hard to pin and tough to get on his back.”
With a few seconds left in the third and final period, and up by a 4-0 score, Cortes managed to flip Huihui on his back for the pin.
‘Rider teammate Justin Tanaka took on two different Hilo opponents while working hard on his wrestling skills.
“I was trying to have fun on Saturday and work on my technique,” Tanaka said. “I train hard and work hard and I always try to get the first take down.”
In his first match Tanaka won during the first round with a 15-0 score and his second match went the full three rounds to win on points 15-3.
Tanaka used a variety of wrestling moves from the half-nelson, to chicken wing and leg rides as he practiced the various moves associated with prep grappling.
Wally Nakashima and his Konawaena Wildcats played hosted to a long day of competitive prep wrestling in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation season opener this past Saturday.
“Wally (Nakashima) did a great job in hosting the tournament,” HPA coach, Gary Jarvill said. “Everything ran smoothly and most of the kids got in three matches.”
Ka Makani wrestlers Jonny Chute, 140, Bronson Kobaysashi, 145, Keoni Colson, 152, and Onipa’a Stevens, 215, all went a perfect 3-0 on the mat.
HPA’s Max Verbrugge, fresh off the football team, went 2-1 on the day and Jarvill had high praise. “Max didn’t get in much practice and I believe he’ll be one of the top three BIIF wrestlers at 171 by the end of the season,” Jarvill said.
Jarvill was also impressed with two of his girls, senior Marie Donohue, 120, who went 2-1 and freshman Leila Wong, 130, finished that day at 1-1.
“We have a lot of kids who are off island and still on winter break,” Jarvill said. “Next week we should have everyone back at practice.”
Honokaa was missing their top wrestler during the season opener in Geo Chavez-Pardini, but it didn’t stop the Dragons from getting stellar performances from a number of their youngsters.
“We had five boys going undefeated,” Dragon coach, Dan Whetstone said. Honokaa saw perfection at the 171 weight class with Noa Eads, Preston Cawagas and Chris Camero all going a perfect 3-0. Teammates Chris Reed went 2-0 in the heavyweight division and Kalai Niau went 3-0 at 189.
Whetstone was most impressed with Niau’s win over Kealakehe’s Kimo Louis. “Kalai outpointed Kimo Louis to avenge the loss he suffered in the semifinals at last year’s BIIF championships,” Whetstone said.
For the girls Honokaa saw all six of their seniors going 2-1 while having junior Jessica Muskat going a perfect 2-0.
“Jessica is very athletic and has a great work ethic. I think she is the girl to beat in the 175 weight class,” Whetstone said.
Coach Whetstone believes that the girl’s match of the day was between Dragon Heather Sugimoto and HPA’s Marie Donahue in the 120 class. Sugimoto was behind on points when she reversed the situation and pinned Donahue.
“It was a great way for us to start the season,” Whetstone said of the season opener.
Kealakehe had perfect records from Jodi Ozaki (2-0) at 120 pounds, with boys Robin Arellano (3-0) and Ralph Ortega (3-0) both in the 108 weight class and Dillon Cortes (2-0) at 130. “Our kids wrestled hard this weekend and I’m really proud of their performance,” ‘Rider coach, Michael Ciotti said.
“It still early in the season and we still have a lot of things we need to work on. We don’t have a lot of depth, but we’ll be able to move kids around to fill all or most of the weight classes by the end of the season,” Ciotti said.
The Kamehameha girls, who are considered by many to be the team to beat this season, had great performances from Tehani Jones (2-0 and only a freshman) at 98, Megan Aina (2-1) at 103, Rustee-Ann Johansson (3-0) at 140 and Chantel Pohina (3-0) at 155.
Warrior boys also notched season opening perfect records with Nalu Souza (2-0) at 120, Jason Fowler-Fernandez (3-0) at 152 and C.J. Matsuyama (2-0) at 160.
“This past weekend was one of mixed emotions, as a coach we like to see the hard work pay off in our younger wrestlers and the sense of achievement in their faces,” Kamehameha coach, Marlon Miller said.
Megan Aina suffered her first loss of the season after winning both her matches at 103 Aina was moved into the higher weight class to meet Kona’s Alexandra Aoki.
“I had mentioned to Megan (Aina) that if she wants to be the best she needs to wrestle the best. Aoki is definitely one of the best in the state and she was able to pin Megan in the second round,” Miller said.
Kamehameha’s Justin Hirae, the two time BIIF champion, also suffered his first loss of the young season, dropping a match to Alex Aoki’s brother, Sage, by a close 9-7 score.
Miller also had high praise for sophomores Fowler-Fernandez and Matsuyama. “Both Jason and C.J. has a rough freshmen year, paying their dues as we like to say. C.J. went his entire freshman year without a victory. Both young men persevered and trained diligently and this weekend it all paid off,” Miller said.
Other BIIF wrestlers having perfect opening day records were:
Konawaena’s Alexandra Aoki and Danielle Hubbard (114) each going 3-0 with 2 pins along with teammates Melissa Dumaguin, 125, Tanalei Louis, 130, both perfect at 2-0.
For the Wildcat boys Sage Aoki (3-0) and Justin Raymond (2-0) were flawless in the 114 classes and Kawika Scott (3-0) at 215.
Waiakea’s Tracy Poch, (2-0) at 175, with boys Ryan Tampon, (1-0) at 135, and Micah Kekela (3-0) at 215.
Keaau boys Cheyden Quiocho (3-0) at 130 and Cougar teammate Jeremiah Santana (2-0) at 160 were perfect.
Hilo boys Kelton Castagnetti (3-0) at 130, Draven Torres (3-0) at 140, Jens Beets (3-0) at 145, and Justin Branco (3-0) at 152 stayed unblemished.
Kau had Keani Mello go 2-0 as she won both by pin at the 220 class.
Kona Coach, Wally Nakashima, provided the names and weight classes of those wrestlers with perfect records.
Good things often come in small packages and for Konawaena’s Alexandra Aoki nothing could be truer.
Aoki, just under 108 pounds soaking wet, is one of the most fierce competitors in wrestling and returns for her senior season as the two time Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association runner-up for her sport.
Aoki has gone undefeated in BIIF competition over the past two seasons where she has won titles in the 98 and 103 weight classes. She finished second in the state at 103 and is the only returning BIIF wrestler (boy or girl) to have placed that high in a state championship last year.
(Hilo’s Teenaysha Yadao and Kealakehe’s Pomai Barton were also HHSAA runner-ups last season and have since graduated.)
Aoki is considered to be a heavy favorite to win her third consecutive BIIF title, but the decision hasn’t been made if she will return at 103 or move up to the 108 weight class.
Defending boys and girls team champions Kealakehe looks to bring to the mat another strong squad under first year head coach Michael Ciotti.
Over the past eight years the ‘Riders have won six BIIF boys team titles and four team title for the girls.
Leading the Wave Riders is the defending girls BIIF champions Jolynn Kahala-Minezer, 114, and Jodi Ozaki, 120, with BIIF runner-up at 103, Mindy Lorance. All three girls are seniors and will be at the top of the league leader board throughout the season
Defending boys individual BIIF champion Tim Ekert, at 189, will move up to the 215 class this season and should help a large ‘Rider team compete for another league title.
“We carry 25 boys on our team and we can fill all 14 weight classes,” Coach Ciotti said. “Our team works hard and they are very coachable kids. We try to keep the family atmosphere and our kids maintain a high work ethic.”
At Honokaa coach Dan Whetstone returns BIIF champion Geo Chavez-Pardini. “Geo should capture the 160 pound title again this year,” Whetstone said. “I think we have a good chance of having champs in the 171 and 189 weight divisions as well.”
Whetstone predicts that Dragon teammates Kali Niau and Preston Cawagas will battle for the 171 weight class with the loser moving up to the 189 class and will then need to compete against Kaimana Lutey for a spot on Honokaa’s first team.
“We have 21 boys on the roster and should have wrestlers in at least 11 of the 14 weight classes,” Whetstone said.
For the girls Honokaa has five returning seniors and should have wrestlers in nine of the 11 weight classes. “Our girls finished third at BIIF’s last year and could finish higher this year if they can get past Kamehameha and Kealakehe who figure to be the other top girl’s contenders,” Whetstone said.
Whetstone believes that perennial champion Kealakehe will again be the team to beat for the boy’s title. “From what I’ve seen at the official weigh-ins earlier this month a lot of teams have an increase in the number of wrestlers from last year. This might be our best chance to capture a title for a few years as we have 11 seniors on the squad and many of the other teams are in a rebuilding phase,” the Dragon coach said.
Kamehameha coach, Marlon Miller, also sees the Kealakehe as the team to beat. “I would have to give the edge on the boys and girls team to the ‘Riders due to the size of their enrollment as well as their experience coaching staff,” he said.
The Warriors return two time BIIF boys champion, Justin Hirae, at 120 pounds, along with defending girl’s champions, Megan Aina, 103 and Pomai Pohina, 130.
“Megan and Pomai are sophomores and have been working hard to retain their title,” Miller said. “Megan did well at the Maui Invitational winning the 103 division teching the Mid-Pac girl 17-2 in the championships. Pomai was forced to wrestle at 140 on Maui due to the strict guidelines that wrestlers must follow in their weight loss program,” Miller said.
Kamehameha has more than 20 girls out for wrestling, but are not able to fill the 11 different weight classes. “Most of the girls are in the same weight, so I have the numbers but will find myself having a hard time filling the different weight divisions,” Miller said.
On the boys side Kamehameha is very young and will have some holes to fill going into the season. “We had a hard time retaining boys due to the vigorous training we put them through,” Miller said. “I’m hoping we will be able to fill as many of the weight classes prior to the start of the regular season.”
Hawaii Preparatory Academy returns BIIF champions Bronson Kobayashi, 145, and Keoni Colson, 152 and Coach Gary Jarvill has high hopes for Marie Donahue. “Our boy’s team will be well balanced this season with many returning wrestlers that are seniors,” Coach Jarvill said.
“Marie (Donahue) will be tough at 114-120,” Jarvill said. “She earned second place at Maui and should be a leader on our girl’s squad.”
Despite some preseason losses the HPA coaching staff remains optimistic of a good season. “I took six wrestlers to the Officials Tournament on Oahu for more pre-season matches, but none of them made it into the top six,” Jarvill said. “We did well for the amount of practice time we have had thus far.”
The BIIF wrestling season officially begins on Saturday, Jan. 2, with an all schools meet at Konawaena High School.
For four decades the Maui Invitational Wrestling Tournament has been the testing grounds for up and coming prep athletes wishing to hone their skills and this past weekend Kamehameha’s Megan Aina made her mark.
Aina, the defending Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion at 98 pounds, moved up a weight class to 103 and took on some of the states best.
“I had three matches and I won my first two by pin,” Aina said. “I used a head snap to get them off balance in the pins which helped me make it into the finals.”
In the finals Aina went against Pac 5 wrestler, Chloe Nagasawa, and won on points, 15-1. “I got most of my points for attempting to pin her on three separate occasions,” Aina said. “She avoided the pin by using bridges.”
After winning the BIIF championships last year at 98 pounds Aina is now faced with figuring out which weight class to compete in as her current weigh is 100 pounds.
“This year I need to decide whether to go with 98 or up to 103 and I’ve been debating the pros and cons,” she said.
“Kamehameha took ten wrestlers to Maui, five boys and five girls,” Warrior coach, Marlon Miller said. “We took some of our more experienced wrestlers to Maui as the cost of travel is expensive and we weren’t able to take everyone.”
Three of Miller’s wrestlers made it into the finals at Maui with Nalu Kekona Souza, 120 lbs., and Kaopua Sutton, 220, taking second place, and Aina, a sophomore, taking top honors.
Kamehameha expected senior Kaopua Sutton to compete in the 175 weight class, but Sutton missed weight by three tenths of a pound and was forced to compete in the heavier division.
“We thought Kaopua had a good chance to win at 175, but at weigh ins she was at 175.3 and needed to be bumped up into the higher weight division,” Miller said.
“We have a very young team this year with fifty percent of our squad being first year wrestlers. I’m excited to see how they’ll do this year and I’ve noticed that they are very eager to learn,” Miller said.
Twenty seven schools were represented at the Maui Invitational which brought in a total of 289 wrestlers.
Kamehameha-Big Island had the highest team finish of any BIIF girl’s teams, placing third overall with only five competitors.
Other BIIF girls making it into the finals were:
Kealakehe’s Jodi Ozaki won the 120 division beating out Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Marie Donahue in the finals.
Konawaena’s Alexandra Aoki (108) and teammate Danielle Hubbard (114) both made it into the finals and took the runner-up spots in the tournament.
For the boys Honokaa’s Geo Chavez-Pardini (160) and Kona’s Jimmy Romualdo (135) captured tournament titles.
Chavez-Pardini is only a junior and is a two time BIIF champion who won the title as a freshman in the 140 class, as a sophomore in the 152 bracket and now is competing at 160.
During the two day tournament on Maui Chavez-Pardini had three matches winning all by pin. “I won my first match in the second round with a chicken wing, half-nelson,” Chavez-Pardini said. “My second match lasted 20 something seconds and I won it using a cradle with a leg.”
In the championship round Chavez-Pardini went against Eric Roth of Mililani and managed to pin his opponent in the first round using a cradle move.
“I think we (Honokaa) have a pretty strong team this year that can compete well in the heavy and lighter weight division,” he said.
Chavez-Pardini stumbled upon wrestling in his freshman year when he tore his rotator cuff prior to the football season. “I was out the entire freshman football season and decided to try wrestling during the off season,” Chavez-Pardini said. “It was a fluke that I happened to find something that I’m good at and now my entire focus is on doing well at wrestling.”
Second place medals were awarded to Hilo’s Wong Ly (140), Kealakehe’s Ralph Ortega (108) and Dillon Cortes (130) along with Honokaa’s Preston Cawagas (171).
Honokaa led the BIIF boy’s teams finishing 8th overall. “We took 12 boys in seven weight divisions and I thought we did really well on Maui,” Dragon coach, Dan Whetstone said.
“Our team exceeded my expectations and they could be one of the best teams in the BIIF, if not the best,” Whetstone said.
Eight BIIF schools made the journey to the Valley Island to go against some of the best grapplers in the state.
Lahainaluna won the boys overall team title and Punahou captured the girl’s crown.
Coach Marlon Miller of Kamehameha recorded all the BIIF wrestlers that made the finals during the Maui Tournament.