HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
PAUL HONDA / PHONDA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Punahou's varsity and junior varsity boys and girls teams practice together, according to Buffanblu coach Matt Oney.
Tough 'n' blue
ILH champion Punahou wrestlers prepare for states
AFTER 16 YEARS, Matt Oney is loathe to glorify the individual.
Instead, the coach remains a stickler for the team-first concept. In the world of blue mats and yellow walls of Punahou wrestling, the concept is reality. In the midst of Punahou's first boys wrestling title in 28 seasons in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, Oney points to the unit before any single standout.
"We have a very talented team, but we also have a very hard-working team," he said moments after Punahou's ILH crown on Saturday. "The JV, the varsity boys and girls, we all work together, practice together."
Still, it is impossible to separate the team's achievement -- matching that of the Punahou football team, which also went 28 years between league crowns -- from dominant performances in the finals. Daniel Chow (135-pound class), Josh Plechaty (140) and Kenny White gave Punahou valuable bonus points after winning by pin. Bryson Fukushima (103) and Mike Egesdal (171) also captured individual titles as Punahou (162.5) outpointed Saint Louis (153.5) for the championship.
NOW, THE BUFFANBLU are in the midst of preparation for the state championships, which begin Friday at the Blaisdell Arena. Last year, Kamehameha finished second in the ILH before capturing the state title.
Oney is well aware of the short shelf life of a league title when it comes to states.
"We'll prepare. If one thing happens for one of our guys, and one thing happens for a guy on another team, that gap is gone," Oney said in reference to his team's nine-point margin of victory in the ILH championships.
PAUL HONDA / PHONDA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Assistant Jimmy Takatsuka has been with the Punahou wrestling program with head coach Matt Oney, above,*
for 16 seasons.
It wasn't just individual winners that rolled up the point total for the Buffanblu. Brendan Whitt, who finished second in the 130-pound division, was a big contributor. "It feels weird. Since I've been on varsity, the program had a rep for not coming through," the senior co-captain said. "It makes me happy to see coach Oney get a title, especially considering the controversy from last year."
THE CONTROVERSY erupted when a Punahou assistant resigned after a practice incident that resulted in an injury to a wrestler. Somehow, the program emerged from those dark clouds, and practice sessions since have been about teaching. Discipline. The work of blue-collared wrestlers.
"I guess this is the start of something new," said co-captain Cole Peiterson, who placed fourth in the 152-pound division. There are only four seniors in the program, he noted.
Egesdal may be the most enthusiastic about Punahou's future, both in this weekend's state tourney and beyond.
"It feels really good," the third co-captain said. "Our intermediate team dominated in ILH."
For assistant coach Jimmy Takatsuka, Saturday's win is perhaps sweeter than anyone can imagine. He won the 119-pound class in 1982, four years after that long-ago team title. Takatsuka has coached wrestling at his alma mater alongside Oney for each of the last 16 seasons.
"In a lot of ways, it's so rewarding for the team to come together and pull through. It's much more gratifying to win it as a coach than as an individual," he said.
Sunday, March 5, 2006
» Punahou School head wrestling coach Matt Oney was pictured on Pages B1 and B2 on Wednesday. He was misidentified as assistant coach Jimmy Takatsuka.