Hilo’s Atagi goes 3 rounds against state champion Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy
In the land of Giants, opportunities presented itself with a Viking trying to slay the Warrior King.
Kamehameha’s defending heavy weight wrestling state champion, Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy, made his way to the mat on Saturday in the final match of the day to face Hilo’s Zachary Atagi in a battle of the 285 pound weight division.
“I’m kind of relaxed,” Atagi said before his match with Paleka-Kennedy. “He has more experience than me and he is the state champion, I am just hoping I don’t tense up.”
To quell his nerves Atagi tells jokes to one of his coaches, Mike Mandaquit, in order to keep his mind off facing the best wrestler in the state.
“I plan on fighting power with power and I can’t let him try to overpower me, as I’m hoping to just wrestling him,” Atagi continued.
Atagi brought an 8-1 record to the mat against the state champion, while Paleka-Kennedy came to the mat with an unblemished 5-0 record winning all of his matches by pins.
“He (Paleka-Kennedy) is just like any other guy, as anybody can win and this is a match that I have been looking forward to.”
Paleka Kennedy sat out the first few weeks of the season because of his fluctuating weight which put him over the 285 limit.
During the match the Viking gave the Warrior every bit of a match going the full three rounds as Paleka-Kennedy won on points by a score of 11-2.
“He (Atagi) is very balanced and had good stand up,” Paleka-Kennedy said after the grueling match. “He was strong and hard to take down.”
Atagi scored his two points with an escape and Paleka-Kennedy scored with three takedowns and escapes.
“I don’t want to be overconfident going into a match and I don’t want to take any one lightly,” Paleka Kennedy said. “He (Atagi) is the best wrestler I’ve faced this season.”
Atagi was ecstatic about his ability to go against the state champion.
“For the most part I’m please to go all three rounds against the best in the state,” Atagi said. “Of course, I would have wanted to win as I go into every match to win.”
Atagi comes from a wrestling family as his dad was a state runner up for Waialua High School on Oahu.
“My dad coached both of my current Hilo High coaches,” Atagi said. “He also helps me a lot, along with my other coaches.”
Viking Coach Alex Kalawe was pleased with his team’s performance as the opportunities presented itself on the mat.
“All of our kids are getting really tough challenges today,” Kalawe said. “Most of the schools are trying to set up the best matches which will go on to making the kids better and more successful later.”
Another Viking, Trent Hashimoto-Noguchi at 130 had his hands full dropping his first match to a Keaau opponent on points.
“I just got tired and didn’t have the energy to finish that first match,” Hashimoto-Noguchi said. “I need to be better prepared by rehydrating and putting some food into myself.”
In his second match Hashimoto-Noguchi rebounding winning by pin in the third round as he used a tilt, gaining control, then pushing his opponent onto his back, bringing his overall BIIF record to 6-4.
The Lady Viks made the most of their opportunities with Kainoe Lee gaining an impressive victory over a talented Kamehameha Jasmine Iuta at 155.
“Jasmine beat me last week and today I won by a score of 8-2,” Lee said. “I came into this match with more confidence and I felt good warming up as I was really motivated.”
Lee’s only two losses this season came at the hands of Iuta as she ran her league record to 8-2.
“I just came in more aggressive than in the past and I wanted to take control,” Lee said. “I was also more relaxed and I know that Jasmine is the best competition that I have in this weight class.”
Teammate Lahi Kanakanui won an exciting match over Waiakea’s Kanani Silva, in overtime.
“The match was tied at 5 all at the end of regulation,” Kanakanui said. “In overtime she (Silva) went for a shot and I sprawled and then circled around for the win.”
While Hilo was hosting an East Division wrestling tournament Hawaii Preparatory Academy hosted the West.
Undefeated in BIIF competition is Ka Makani Troy Choi at 215 who beat both his Honokaa opponents to run his record to 15-0.
“In my first match I wrestled Christian Silva and pinned him in the second round using a duck under and then moving into a backward high crotch,” Choi said. “My second match was against Kainoa Lyman who bumped up from 189.”
“I pinned Kainoa in the third round using a chicken wing, running it to the right and then flipping him onto his back, Choi said.
Choi, a senior, credits most of his success to sticking with the HPA wrestling program for all four years.
“I got beat up as a freshman and paid my dues,” Choi said. “Most of my opponents now are younger and still need to pay their dues as their skill level is below mine.”
Choi was the BIIF runner up last season and looks to vie for the title this year in his weight class.
The BIIF wrestling venue moves to Kealakehe on Saturday with an all schools meet starting at 10 am.
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