HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Saint Louis' Mark Caberto tried to roll Punahou's Bryson Fukushima in the 112-pound final yesterday.
Buffs, Govs are gold
Punahou wins its first wrestling title since 1968; Farrington overcomes rival
The year 1968 marked a monumental period in history: Frank Fasi was in his first year as Mayor of Honolulu, Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and a gallon of gas went for 34 cents.
It was also the year in which Punahou won its last state wrestling title.
After nearly 40 years of waiting, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Buffanblu boys collected 161.5 points to claim the top spot in the Chevron/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Wrestling State Tournament last night at the Neal Blaisdell Arena.
Fellow ILH opponents Kamehameha (141) and Saint Louis (128.5) rounded out the top three, while Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up Kahuku finished fourth (112). On another historic note, the tourney was broadcast live for the first time on the Internet to a worldwide audience that included a slew of collegiate coaches on the mainland.
"Skip Pennington was here today to watch and cheer us on, and we wanted to do this for him," said Buffanblu assistant Jack Belli of the man who coached the team in its last state-title triumph. "The kids really worked hard. It was back and forth with Kamehameha and they pushed us."
Punahou entered the final day of competition with a razor-thin 71.5 to 70 lead over Kamehameha. But the Buffanblu extended the lead to 148.5 to 131 over the Warriors and the Crusaders were far behind in third with 109.5 points.
The Crusaders started off the meet strong, as Jordan Lai (103 pounds) and Mark Caberto (112) each picked up wins to begin the championship round. In the 130-pound division, Keani Nishigaya also pulled out a win for Saint Louis against top seed Jaysen Patao of Baldwin.
The Buffanblu didn't see their first individual champion until Daniel Chow struck gold in the 140-pound division with an 8-2 win over Reynell Transfiguracion of Kealakehe.
"It's been like that for the whole season, sometimes we're not doing too well in the lower weight (divisions) and I have to kind of bring the momentum back," Chow said. "We had some momentum coming in (as ILH champions), and so far we're finishing strong as a team."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Randolyn "Hoku" Nohara of Kamehameha jostled on the mat with Olivia Fatongia of Iolani yesterday in the 220-pound girls final.
Leilehua's Mike Mullen wrote the final chapter of his emotional season with a methodical 1-0 win over Campbell's Miles Tynanes-Perez to claim the 275-pound division. Mike's father, Larry, had flown in from Iraq -- where he is serving a tour of duty in the U.S. Army as a member of the 25th Infantry Division based at Schofield Barracks -- to use his two-week-long rest and relaxation break to watch his son wrestle.
"He was a strong kid, but I started thinking about what I was doing it for, and my dad means more to me than anybody here because he came back from Iraq to watch me wrestle," Mullen said with his father by his side. "All he asked me to do was win this for him."
The senior finished second as a sophomore, and last year, bowed out in the second round with an injury. Mullen had played football at Leilehua prior to this season, but decided to focus his efforts on wrestling and school work this year.
"I wasn't able to do it (in past state tournaments)," Mullen recalled. "The hard work paid off ... it's unbelievable."
The other individual champions were: Branden Mina of Waipahu (119); Travis Okano of Lahainaluna (125); Kelii Palencia of Kamehameha (135); Richard Torres of Kahuku (145); Lake Casco of Lahainaluna (152); Lowen Tynanes-Perez of Campbell (160); Landon Kerbow of King Kekaulike (171); Daymon Carr of Kahuku (189); and Kazden Ikehara of Kamehameha (215).
Farrington pinned down the girls' title with 144 points, outlasting OIA champion Kahuku (117) and ILH champion Iolani (113.5). Punahou and Kamehameha rounded out the top five with 99 and 97 points, respectively.
The Governors, who finished as runner-up to the Red Raiders a week ago in the OIA championship tournament, last won the state title in 2004. The girls were motivated in part by the memory of the late Sanford "Sandy" Obra, the man who helped guide Farrington to their first state crown. Obra passed away in September 2005 while working at the concession stand of a volleyball game to raise money for the wrestling team to travel to the mainland for a tournament.
"A lot of the girls have this instinct and I like to make them believe that they're good -- and at the same time I let them know that they're animals," said Governors head coach Darren Reyes. "So when they come out and believe in their training and themselves, it's gonna happen. We had a lot of down points in the season as far as losing, but I told this group, 'look, we have one more try, and this is the big one.' Obviously they deserved it, they worked hard."
Farrington finally got past the obstacle that was defending state and OIA champion Kahuku. Throughout the conference season, the Red Raiders had emerged victorious in just about every meet.
"Kahuku kind of stole everything this year: the Eastern (conference tournament), the dual meets, and OIA (championship tournament)," Reyes said. "We were right there behind them, and I knew it was going to be kind of tight. But we have a couple girls who used their training and took it to another level."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Farrington's Ashlee Lilo celebrated after beating Baldwin's Kailee Andrade in the 175 final.
The championship run was sparked by Samantha Batoon's shocking 3-2 win over previously undefeated Carla Watase of Iolani in the 108-pound weight division. Watase was shooting for her fourth state title, making the upset even more significant.
Batoon was able to hang on to give the Governors the valuable championship points despite allowing Watase a penalty point after hitting her opponent in the head with a forearm.
"She pushed everybody," Reyes said. "She came up to me in the beginning with the idea that she wanted to take on Carla Watase and ruin the fact that she's going for a fourth state championship. I said 'it's fine, but if you're going to take that challenge, then you've got to realize that if you've got to train twice as hard as the state champion.' I kind of knew that she was ready for it because she wanted it, and she trained harder than anybody I've ever coached."
Tani Ader, a three-time OIA champion out of Farrington, claimed the state crown in the 120-pound weight class by pinning Cianah Hee of Kahuku with 1:09 to go in the second round. The junior also defeated Hee to win the OIA title last week at Leilehua High, and this time around, she made it a point to be the aggressor from the start.
"My strategy this time facing her was to just keep moving and to play my game by shooting first and scoring in the first round," Ader said. "This is for Coach Obra, we love him."
After finishing as runner-up in the 108-pound title as freshman, Ader won the state crown last year at 114 pounds. She is also a two-time state champion in judo and, if she runs the table in both sports, will hold a combined seven state championships by the time she completes her senior campaign next season.
"I really wanted this state championship because my coaches always told me that the hardest thing is defending your state title," Ader said. "That's what made me want to train harder this year and get it again. I want to keep going and get seven (championships), that's my goal right there."
Ashlee Lilo also picked up a victory for the Governors in the 175-pound weight class after pinning Kailee Andrade despite trailing 13-11 in the final round.
The other grapplers to pick up individual state titles were: Renee Michell of Kealakehe (98); Keiko Akamine of Iolani (103); Megan Morisada of Iolani (114); Danica Auna of Kahuku (125); Piikea Kalalau of Baldwin (130); Kara Takasaki of Punahou (140); Monique Dilliner of Kailua (155); and Randolyn Nohara of Kamehameha (220).