HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY OF PACIFIC
Former Hawaii state champion Kapua Torres wants to be competitive at the Senior Nationals before she can set her sights on the Olympic Trials.
Olympics in sight
Kapua Torres hopes to wrap up her career at the 2008 Olympics in China
KAPUA Torres has set her sights directly on the 2008 Olympics in China.
The senior at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., back on the mat this year after missing last year with an injury, knows the steps to take.
The first is to get back into wrestling shape.
A Hawaii High School Athletic Association champion in the 112-pound class her senior season at Kahuku, Torres was not cleared to compete for the Boxers last year due to stingers in her shoulders.
"They would go down my shoulders to my right or left arm. I even had sensations in my feet," Torres said.
"I saw numerous spine specialists. On my own I saw three specialists in Hawaii and even flew to Philadelphia to see one there. They all had the same opinion that I would be fine and it was just a pinched nerve."
She finally received provisional clearance this year on Oct. 13, a Friday the 13th she said with a chuckle, to compete in the Sunkist Kids Invitational in Tempe, Ariz., that weekend.
Torres finished fourth with a 4-2 record. Two wins were over Hawaii wrestlers Tanya Miyasaki (Castle), competing for Missouri Valley State, and Debbie Sakai (Mililani), a student at Kentucky's Cumberland U, who was wrestling unattached.
Once the paperwork from the Philadelphia doctor arrived, she had full clearance at Pacific. Ironically, Torres was cleared to compete in noncollegiate meets last year.
"You can't imagine how happy we are to have her back. She spent part of the summer at the Olympic Training Center. It took a bit for her to get into wrestling shape, but she doesn't appear to be rusty after being off a year," said Pacific coach Scott Miller.
"Her dad (Reggie) is a coach and Kapua has been around the sport really from birth. She has a real understanding about the sport. She maintains body position and keeps the body moving to set up her shots.
"Kapua has three traits, talent, athletic ability and temperament. That is why she is successful. She does what is necessary to make winning happen."
Pacific is hosting the National Collegiate Women's Championships March 9-10 and Torres would like to reclaim the 112.25 title she won as a sophomore. That was the year she became the first Pacific women's wrestler with 20 wins (22-8), including 12 pins, was ranked No. 1 in the nation and No. 4 in North America.
The next steps are the Body Bar Nationals at Colorado Springs, Colo., and the U.S. Senior Nationals at Las Vegas.
COURTESY OF PACIFIC
Kapua Torres was the top wrestler in her weight class as a sophomore before an injury took her out of the game.
The most important meet is the Senior Nationals.
"I'll be wrestling against women who are outside the collegiate level. If I'm aiming to be competitive for the Olympic Trails, then I need to be competitive at the senior level," said Torres, who did not take the sport seriously until the eighth grade.
"When I was younger I had to go to a lot of meets. I just got bored watching. I tried being a team manager in the seventh grade at Kamehameha, but got bored again."
The daily bus trip to and from the Kapalama Heights campus didn't appeal to Torres, who preferred the environment at Kahuku and transferred back to the North Shore school for ninth grade.
There wrestling became a fun sport. She also participated in judo and was a three-time Oahu Interscholastic Association champion.
"I liked the work ethic required to be a wrestler. It is a team sport, but you also are an individual every time you step on the mat. There is a lot of motivation to succeed and actually win," said Torres, who was 40-1 her senior season.
She researched colleges that offer women's wrestling and chose Pacific because of its academic programs. The political science major graduates in May and will put graduate school on hold until after the 2008 Olympics.
Miller, who also coaches the men's team, has two other women, junior Ashley Truchan (Hilo '04) and freshman Candace Sakamoto (Castle '06), and five men from Hawaii in his programs.
"We have a pretty good network of coaches and alumni in Hawaii. They know what we're looking for. If they say we need to go after a kid, we go after them, no questions asked," Miller said.
His comments on Truchan (158.75-pound class) and Sakamoto (105.5):
» "Ashley is still one of our best-kept secrets. She has finished second and fourth at the nationals. People keep overlooking her, but we know where she'll be at the end of the year. She is absolutely fearless, deceptively quick and attacks when she is aware an opportunity is going to open up."
» "Candace is very talented. She has the three traits Kapua has. She is adjusting from folk style (high school) to free style (college). She wants to be successful and we have high hopes for her."
The men are Aaron Fernandez (Kamehameha '03), C.J. Aalona and Bryson Vivas (Kahuku '06), Orlando Avena (Waiakea '06) and Justin Phelps (Lahainaluna '06).
Fernandez was a backup in the 125-pound class as a freshman and early in his sophomore year, before a teammate's injury elevated him to No. 1.
"Aaron took second in the region where his only loss was to the national champion. He was 25-15 and 10 of those loses were to D-I wrestlers," Miller said. "Last spring he was out of action because of stingers in his shoulders. We're hoping he is back this spring."
Miller says the four freshmen are making good progress learning the necessary tactics.
Aalona will compete at 197 pounds but eventually will move up to heavyweight. Avena will be at 141, Phelps at 125 and Vivas at 174.
"We have depth, so none of them will be in a situation where they have to start. I don't want a bulls-eye on their backs, but they will get their shots," Miller said.