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Rant & Rave

By David Higa

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Judo team vows
to take best to mat

EVERYONE has felt pride, whether it has to do with achievement in sports, school or a personal goal. Kaiser Judo does well every year because we have pride.

Still a new team in the 2000 season, Kaiser started to turn heads, with mentions in the newspapers. Still, few people at school knew we had a judo team.

We team members practiced every day and went to every tournament knowing that unlike the more popular football and basketball teams, we probably wouldn't be appearing on the evening news.

Judo is one of the roughest sports and we had the injuries to prove it, racking up countless broken bones and sprained joints.

During the season we went undefeated and beat our rival, Castle, 60-30. With a perfect season, we were so hyped up for the post-season championship tournament.

We went to Moanalua for the tournament knowing we had to defeat Pearl City to win the O.I.A. championship. We knew that if we could put up an O.I.A. championship banner in our gym, it would do wonders for our team's pride, as well as show our fellow students that we have a good judo team.

The Campbell team we needed to face first seemed to be thinking upset, but got smashed 90-10. Pearl City didn't even sweat with their first opponent.

Then we had to face a rough McKinley team which had given us trouble in the regular season. But all of a sudden we were unstoppable, whipping the strong McKinley team 70-13.

On the other mat, Pearl City was having trouble with Castle, but eventually won 50-35.

Then it was time for the showdown, Kaiser vs. Pearl City for the championship. The lineup for Pearl City was intimidating. All but one was a brown belt, second to the black belt in rank.

In the 123-pound weight class, I was up against a brown belt. With only a blue belt, two ranks below a brown belt, I went in there scared, but once the referee started the match, the butterflies went away. The crowd seemed to get louder and the sound pumped me up a lot.

I ended up reversing my opponent and throwing him for ippon, a perfect throw that ends the match and is good for 10 points and the lead. When the crowd cheered it felt great. The score was now 20-10 Kaiser.

My teammate Mike Nishikawa easily won the 132-pound weight class, putting our score at 30-10. But with disappointing losses at the 141- and 150-pound weight classes, we found our 20-point lead cut to three.

We ended up 47-37 before the final match in the 275-pound weight class. All Pearl City needed was an ippon to win. There was still the possibility that they would execute a wazari, a good, but not perfect throw, for seven points; a yuko or sloppy throw for five points; or a koka, a throw which lands your opponent on his rear end and is good for three points.

But they got the ippon, tying the score at 47-47.

The Pearl City guy hit our teammate after the match, which should have led to a five-point deduction for their team, but the judges didn't call it, so we moved on.

In overtime matches, Pearl City won. We were very disappointed but did not cry or boo. We bowed to our opponents, shook their hands, helped put away the mats and went home.

We still ask ourselves, "What if ...," but keep practicing, keep our heads up and say, "We'll get 'em next time."

David Higa is a junior at Kaiser High School.
Judo competitions begin in March.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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