BIIF Wrestling Season about to take to the Mat – League Preview
To be large, strong and fast are key components in being the best there is on the mat. The Big Island Interscholastic Federation wrestling season is about to unfold and with it comes the best of them all in the heavyweight division.
Kamehameha’s Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy stands 6’ 2”, weighs 285 pounds and during last season produced an unblemished record.
Paleka-Kennedy ended the 2010 season with a perfect 15-0 record on the mat and comes into this season as the heavy favorite to defend his BIIF and State crowns.
“I’m kinda excited for this upcoming wrestling season,” Paleka-Kennedy said. “I will give it my all and don’t hold back.”
The state champion stayed in shape during the off season by heading to the Kamehameha campus every morning to work out with his weight lifting conditioning coach, Kimo Weaver.
“I worked out every morning, Monday through Friday, from 6 to 7 am with Coach Weaver,” Paleka-Kennedy said. “I’m hoping to repeat as the BIIF and State Champion because I’ve improved my mental preparation and in the execution phase of wrestling.”
As the high school wrestling season is gearing up to take to the mat Kamehameha has bragging rights to the Big Islands only two returning state champions in both the smallest and largest weight divisions.
They say that good things come in small packages and nothing could be more accurate when talking about the Warrior’s Megan Aina who measures in at 5 feet even and weighs 98 pounds.
The petite Warrior is a bundle of dynamite when it comes to taking on all challengers on the mat. The senior comes in as the three time BIIF champion and was the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state champion during the 2010.
During her sophomore year Aina became the first BIIF girl to win a state individual championship in three years as a competitor in the smallest weight division.
Aina is not new to the state mat as she has slowly progress from a sixth place medal her freshman season to winning the state championship as a sophomore and finished fifth place as a junior last year.
Now in her senior year Aina hopes to return to repeat as BIIF champion and make it back to center stage at the state championships.
“I’d like to win my fourth BIIF title,” Aina said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to stay at 98 or move up to 105 and will make up my mind during the season.”
The Kamehameha girls return as the BIIF team champions which has veteran coach Marlon Miller smiling.
“We have a slew of seniors and juniors this year and as coaches we are very proud of all the accomplishments that our girls have shown on and off the mat,” Miller said.
Behind Kamehameha’s wrestling dynasty is an even further bright future. Besides Aina the Warriors bring to the mat the experience of Alexia Osburn and Kawehi Lopez.
“The class of 2015 has given our wrestling girls a tremendous boost in numbers and as coaches we hope that they will stay together and carry the future of the program with them,” Miller said.
Miller believes that the upcoming BIIF season will be extremely competitive for his girls as other schools have stepped up in their pre season conditioning.
“I believe this season will be one of the strongest for the girls as I’ve noticed how diligent all the schools were in their off season training,” he said. “In keeping in touch over the summer with Kealakehe’s Head Coach Mike Ciotti, I know that the West Side is ready.”
Kamehameha has already set personal goals for each of their wrestlers, according to Miller.
“The coaching staff wants to get our young athletes to believe that they can wrestle beyond high school,” Miller said. “Our only two seniors last year find themselves still wrestling. Rustee Johansen wrestles for Pacific University in Oregon and Justin Hirae attends Iowa State and is trying for a spot on the Cyclones.”
Kamehameha boys coach Brendan Courtot has 17 boys on the roster with six returning seniors.
“We have two champions in Nalu Souza at 120 and AkoakoaPaleka-Kennedy at 285,” Courtot said. “We have one BIIF runner-up in CJ Matuyama at 171 and three third place finishers, Kamalu Wright, 114, Charlie Aina, 130, and Kema Chin, 251.”
The Warrior boy’s team goals are to improve their showing at the state finals in which they placed sixth last season, according to Courtot.
“Our most improved wrestler last season was freshman Kalae Trask-Sharp as the kid worked hard, learned from his mistakes and improved all year long,” Courtot said.
Waiakea boys are the defending boy’s team champions and Coach Stanley Haraguchi has a lot of work ahead as the public school Warriors are caught in a rebuilding season.
“We lost a lot of boys to graduation,” Haraguchi said. “We are what we are as this sport comes with a lot of work and the kids will get out of it what they put into it.”
One of the bright spots for Waiakea comes with returning BIIF champion Pat Enos.
Waiakea girls return two time BIIF champion Tracy Poch at 155 as Coach Preston Sato tries to build the numbers of Warrior participants.
Kau returns defending BIIF champion Kiani Mello-Waiawaiole in the 220 division with Coach Greg Rush having high hopes for the Trojan program.
“We’ve got four girls and three boys,” Rush said. “Our key returnee is Kiani and her goal is the State Championship. We also have two of her younger sisters at 175 and 130.”
Rush is assisted by his wife Hettie along with Dylan Rush as a volunteer coach.
“We guarantee big improvement among the wrestlers and a tougher attitude on the mat,” he said.
Coach Dan Whetstone at Honokaa is not as fortunate as some of the other schools since they return no BIIF champions and bring to the mat a lot of new faces.
“I really can’t predict yet who will be our best wrestlers this year,” Whetstone said. “Maybe after a couple of preseason events I will have a better idea.”
At Hawaii Preparatory Academy Coach Gary Jarvill has high hopes for his two seniors, Shannon Samura at 140 and Troy Choi at 215.
“We have 20 boys and 15 girls this season with no BIIF champions,” Jarvill said.
Hilo’s coach Alex Kalawe has 25 wrestlers on the matt this season, with over half being first time wrestlers.
“We have three returning BIIF runner-ups in Jacob Murphy a senior who will wrestle at 140 this year,” Kalawe said. “On the girls side our runner-ups are Sha Pagan, a sophomore at 108 and Lahi Kanakanui, another sophomore, at 140.”
Kalawe considers this a rebuilding season for the Vikings as many of his wrestlers are still in the learning stages of the sport.
Pahoa coach Elvis Lum has 30 plus athletes coming out for wrestling this season which has the Dagger coach all smiles.
“Everything is up in the air right now as we are trying to figure out what we have,” Lum said. “Our most experienced wrestler and team captain is Jake Torres, a senior, who will either wrestle at the 145 or 152 class.”
Keaau is loaded with numbers as 50 boys and 10 girls have come out for the sport, according to head coach Charles Manning.
“We are really young,” Manning said. “Our BIIF returning champion is Cheyden Quiocho at 135.”
The Cougars are also coached by Elton Lum, who is the brother of Pahoa coach Elvis Lum.
Kealakehe coach Michael Ciotti is optimistic about his chances of competing for the boys and girls team crowns.
“We have 30 boys and 10 girls and they are all tough,” Ciotti said. “We worked hard during the off season and are prepared.”
The Waveriders return boys BIIF champion Robin Arllano at 114 along with girls league champion Destiny Maters also at 114.
As the BIIF wrestling season begins to unfold one of the key areas on the mat is getting qualified officials.
“One of the things that are always needed is trained officials to man our tables,” BIIF Wrestling Official Elton Suganuma said.
“Without good scorekeepers and timekeepers our matches are so much more difficult to manage. When you have to worry if your tables are getting the calls right as a referee, your focus is divided and that is never a good thing. We need interested people who are not affiliated with current teams to train to man our tables,” Suganuma said. “After all don’t our kids deserve the best we can give them?”
Several preseason tournaments are underway with most of the BIIF schools planning to participate at Kealakehe this weekend.
“We are looking forward to hosting the first all schools meet of the season,” Coach Ciotti said. “This first meet is an opportunity to see how we look and how everything is about to unfold.”
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