What could be sweeter than to win a league title in wrestling? How’s about winning four titles during an illustrious prep career?
Such was the case for Konawaena’s Alexandra Aoki as the senior won her fourth Big Island Interscholastic Federation wrestling title on Saturday at Keaau while adding layers of icing to her super sweet season.
Aoki, who has not lost a match to a BIIF competitor in more than three years, special day became even more special when her younger brother, Sage Aoki, won the boys 108 weight class.
“This was my last year of high school wrestling so it was our goal to both win at BIIF’s,” Alexandra Aoki said.
Aoki has dominated the league at 103 the past four seasons and during the finals on Saturday pinned Kealakehe’s Mindy Lorance in 58 seconds of the first period to maintain her supremacy.
“I did it today for my dad, Mark,” she said. “It is also Coach Wally’s (Nakashima) last year as head coach and Sage and I wanted to win it for him too.”
Sage Aoki wasted little time in his championship match against Kealakehe’s Ralph Ortega. Aoki opened with several head slaps, and then caught his opponent off guard for an opening period take down before pinning him with 51.3 seconds left in the first period.
“I had a branch modified where I grabbed his arm and flipped him over,” Aoki said of his pin.
Moments after his match the brother and sister were seen on the sidelines embracing each other in their jubilation for reaching their goals.
The Aoki duo is also coached by their father who is a judo sensei and both credit judo with being helpful in their upward spiral in wrestling. Alexandra is a brown belt and Sage carries a purple belt.
Fifty girls and ninety-eight boys representing 11 schools from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation competed during a daylong wrestling tournament at the Keaau High School gym on Saturday to determine who would walk away with individual and team titles.
In the 114 weight class it was Kamehameha’s Justin Hirae going against Laupahoehoe’s Lucky Baun in the championship match.
Hirae came into the title bracket as the two time BIIF title holder and wasted little time getting the first take down and a quick 2-0 lead.
The private school Warrior caught Baun out of position and went for a cradle move.
“I was head hunting and pinned him in a Cadillac,” Hirae said of his third BIIF title.
Hirae’s only loss this season came at the hands of Sage Aoki when the Wildcat was bumped up to the higher weight class earlier in the season.
At the 130 class Kealakehe’s Dillon Cortes took on Keaau’s Jesse Huihui in a battle between two scrappy wrestlers.
The match was a stalemate during the first period as neither could gain the advantage, but Cortes began to open things up late in the 2nd period to gain a 5-0 lead and never looked back.
Cortes won 8-0 and claimed his first BIIF title.
“It feels great,” the senior Waverider said. “I wanted to give it my all this year and it paid off. I needed to push the pace against Jesse (Huihui) which is just what I did.”
A pair of upsets took place when Honokaa’s Jade Perreira pinned Kamehameha’s Pomai Pohina in the girls 140 class and Waiakea’s Kawika Nihoa got past Hawaii Preps Bronson Kobayashi at the boys 145.
Perreira had fallen behind on points during the 3rd period against Pohina by a score of 8-4. With time running out it looked like Pohina had the match in hand, but Perreira reversed the situation by getting Pohina in a chicken wing, half-nelson, and the pin.
“My coach (Dan Whetstone) was yelling at me during the match saying he wanted the pin,” Perreira said. “I never wrestled her before and I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew she was good.”
For the boys it was Warrior Kawika Nihoa upsetting defending BIIF champ and previously unbeaten Ka Makani Bronson Kobayashi.
Both boys were equal throughout the three periods of wrestling and needed to go into overtime when Nihoa claimed the first take down in and the BIIF title.
“This match had to see who had the biggest heart,” Nihoa said after the match. “My coaches pushed me hard to get this far. Winning is all about heart, standing up to pressure and getting a lot of support.”
Kealakehe came into the championships as the defending team title holders for the boys and girls but faced stiff competition from the Honokaa and Kamehameha.
The private school Warriors managed to fill all 11 girl’s weight classes which gave them an advantage in claiming the overall team title.
“I’m really happy for our girls,” third year head coach Marlon Miller said. “I’ve been preaching all year that I want to fry some bigger fish and to focus on the state championship.”
Miller was quick to point out that no outer island team has ever won a state title wrestling and that he’d like to see Kamehameha-Hawaii break that streak.
The Kamehameha girls had seven of their 11 girl’s make it into the title matches which three of them taking BIIF crowns.
“We have 14 of our 16 girls returning next year and I’m real excited about that,” Miller said.
For the boys team crown Kealakehe filled 12 of the 14 divisions leaving vacancies in the 160 and 189 weight classes, but having enough firepower and depth to repeat.
“One of our goals for the year was to win the BIIF team title,” ‘Rider coach Michael Ciotti said. “Another one of our goals is to do well at states and to peak for that tournament.”
“We’re really happy for the kids and we’re pleased that we could repeat by winning the boy’s team championship,” Ciotti said.
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.