Kamehameha’s Paleka-Kennedy wins state heavyweight wrestling title
Big Island wrestlers were well represented in the finals of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association championship on Saturday held in Honolulu at the Blaisdell Arena.
“We’re especially pleased with our performance,” an elated Coach Brendan Courtot said of his Kamehameha Warriors.
Heavyweight, Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy, weighed in at 284.8 pounds and dominated his 287 weight class to become the Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s lone state champion.
The BIIF had four wrestlers enter the finals to compete for an individual state title.
“Last year our boys had only one wrestler, Nalu Souza, place in the top six as he finished fourth,” Courtot said.
Paleka-Kennedy realized after day one that he had a shot at winning it all.
“Once I won my first two matches on Friday it gave me the confidence to know that I could win the state title,” Paleka-Kennedy said.
In the final match of the day Paleka-Kennedy went against Pearl City’s Devin Ching and managed to pin him during the second round.
“My coaches told me to stay in good position and don’t go chasing,” Paleka-Kennedy said.
The state championship pin came when Paleka-Kennedy used his hips to take his opponent down on his back.
“I used a head and arm move while he was on his back to get the pin,” he said. “Everyone here is an athlete and you have to compete hard to win. I’m very happy I came out on top.”
Along with Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy, in the finals were teammates Nalu Souza (122) and Rustee Ann Johansen (132) with Konawaena’s Tanalei Louis, (127).
What stood in the way for Johansen and Louis were the Chow sisters, Chrissy and Mindy, from Punahou.
The Chow’s are state judo champions and also hold co national titles in wrestling. The Big Island girls needed to somehow manage to get past the Chow’s accolades if they were going to win a state title of their own.
Louis, a sophomore who finished third in the state last year, went head to head against Chrissy Chow and gave her everything she had.
The match was probably the best of the day according to Courtot, as Louis and Chow were tied at the end of regulation 3-3.
“I knew her and her reputation prior to going into the match,” Louis said.
Chow got a take down during over time and with it the state title.
“I feel great and well accomplished,” Louis said. “I’m probably the happiest person on earth and I don’t have any regrets about the match.”
Johansen, who placed 5th in the state last year, found herself in the title match needing to out maneuver the more experienced Mindy Chow.
“This is my senior year and I just wanted to do my best,” Johansen said.
During last year’s match Chow pinned Johansen in the first round, so the Warrior was determined to avoid the same fate this year.
“I feel very accomplished,” Johansen said of her technical fall, 15-0, loss to Chow. “She is a lot stronger and quicker than I am, but she couldn’t pin me.”
Despite the loss Johansen felt content with the overall results saying, “I have no regrets.” “I didn’t think I’d make it this far,” she said.
Kamehameha’s Nalu Souza went against Kaiser’s Ryan Nakagawa in a seesaw nail biting match.
At the end of the first round the boys were scoreless with Souza trying to take control on his feet.
“I took the lead at the start of the second round with an escape, but during the third round he took me down and I ended up losing 5-3,” Souza said.
“I feel like I wrestled my hardest and I put everything on the line. He (Nakagawa) was more experienced in competition and that gave him the edge over me,” Souza said.
The only defending state champion representing the Big Island Interscholastic Federation was Kamehameha’s Megan Aina (100) who faltered during the semi finals and found herself winning fifth place.
Other BIIF wrestlers coming away with medals (the top six wrestlers in each of the 14 boys and 11 girl’s weight divisions’ medal) were:
Kamehameha’s Justin Hirae (127) 5th.
Waiakea’s Pat Enos (147) 4th, Tyler Yonemori (142) 3rd, and Tracy Poch (177) 5th.
Hilo’s Jordan Enos (132) 5th and Max Oishi (137) 6th.
Kona’s Sage Aoki (122) 4th.
Keaau’s Cheyden Quiocho (135) 4th.
The Kamehameha boys and girls teams led the BIIF teams in total scoring with a strong finish in overall results.
“I’m excited about our improvement from year to year,” Courtot said. “Once we get to this point there is nothing I can do except worry and add a few more grey hairs.”
The Punahou boys and girls swept the team titles with their boy’s team having now won five consecutive state titles and their girls winning their third straight.
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