FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Daniel Chow, a Punahou senior, will help the Buffanblu defend its state title Saturday at Blaisdell Arena.
Chow knows how
The accomplished Punahou wrestler goes for state title No. 3
DANIEL Chow exudes quiet confidence. The Punahou senior will shoot for his third straight individual state title at the Chevron/HHSAA Wrestling State Championships starting Friday at Blaisdell Arena.
The following week, Chow, a two-time defending state judo champ, will resume the martial arts training that has given him an edge on the mat.
"(Daniel's) got literally thousands of matches from his judo experience," said Punahou coach Matt Oney. "So his comfort level is pretty high relative to most high school wrestlers. He doesn't get flustered, he doesn't get frazzled."
Chow demonstrated his poise under pressure at Saturday's ILH championships, where he fended off hard-charging Keani Nishigaya of Saint Louis -- the Crusaders running back and also an experienced judoka -- to defend his 145-pound league title.
With less than 30 seconds remaining in the second period of their match, Chow spotted an opening as the aggressive Nishigaya seemed poised to gain the advantage.
"I wasn't really in too great a position, but I figured I could catch him off guard if I sat hard one more time," said Chow, recounting how he baited Nishigaya and then deftly swung around the reigning 130-pound state champ to score a takedown and seize control of the match.
Saturday's decisive 5-0 win was Chow's second over Nishigaya this season and enabled him to finish undefeated in ILH competition.
If the top-seeded Chow and Nishigaya both make it through their halves of the state bracket, the two could face off again in this week's state final.
But Chow says he is most proud of his role in helping the Buffanblu succeed.
"It feels good to help the team achieve its potential," he said after the Punahou boys team clinched the ILH team championship Saturday.
The team now is looking to defend last year's state title.
Oney, the veteran Buffanblu coach, praises Chow's positive impact on his teammates, describing him as "almost like an assistant coach during practice."
"He helps the kids who are new and inexperienced," said Oney. "He works with them on technique. He'll see something, he'll go correct it."
Chow's mentoring of teammates and his sisters Chrissy and Mindy is something his father noticed during practice sessions at Hawaii Tenri Judo Club, where the entire Chow family trains.
"(Daniel) gives the guys near-peer teaching," observed Gregory Chow, who coaches the Tenri club and Punahou's judo team.
"It's a lot easier for the guy (like Daniel) who remembers, 'Oh, yeah, last year I figured out if I do this, it works', whereas as coaches we're 15, 20 years away from where the kids are.
"Daniel tells them, 'Well, when you do that, you gotta step over here, bring your arm across.' It's so much closer in his mind, and he knows what they're struggling with, so he communicates to the other kids a lot better than we do."
The Chow clan boasts an impressive judo pedigree. The family's most accomplished member is Daniel's mom, Robin, a member of the U.S. national judo team in the early 1980s who placed fifth at the women's world judo championships in Paris and captured a gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1983.
Daniel began his formal judo training when he was 6, but his induction to the discipline came even earlier, when Gregory did his orthopedic surgery residency at UCLA.
"[Daniel] was sort of adopted by all the (judo) families," explained Gregory Chow. "They would all take turns carrying him around, laying him down on the mat and that sort of stuff."
Daniel's siblings are also elite-level competitors. Chrissy Chow, a Punahou freshman, and Mindy, an eighth-grader, have medaled at many mainland judo competitions.
Chrissy won the ILH girls wrestling 114-pound division title Saturday, and Mindy captured an intermediate individual championship last month.
Daniel further honed his own wrestling IQ, competing for Team Hawaii at the U.S. junior nationals in Fargo, N.D.
Oney credits Chow for working hard to expand his repertoire beyond that of a counterattacking wrestler.
"The last two years, he's really pushed himself to become a more aggressive, attacking-type wrestler," Oney said.
According to Oney, Chow rebounded from a loss in his first match at the Clash National High School Duals in Rochester, Minn., where Punahou competed over winter break, to score impressive wins over two highly ranked opponents.
"It felt good to compete against the best in the country," said Chow, whose performance attracted positive feedback at the competition.
"A lot of kids and a lot of coaches were coming up to us and saying, 'Wow, that Daniel Chow kid is a tough wrestler,' " Oney said.
It's that grit that draws Robin Chow's attention, both as an eagle-eyed coach and a proud, video camera-toting mom.
"He has a certain level of tenacity," Robin says. "He doesn't give up easily. He's technically pretty sound, and he hates to lose because he's very competitive."
After Saturday's state wrestling final, Daniel Chow will jump right into judo season, with his usual regimen involving a double dose of practice, first with his team at Punahou, then with his Tenri club in Nuuanu.
The lessons learned in judo have helped him not only in wrestling but also in the classroom.
Chow can claim practical application of the concepts of leverage and torque covered in his advanced placement physics class.
His aptitude for math and science has him considering a major in engineering at prospective schools including Boston University, the Colorado School of Mines, Duke, Harvard, Lehigh, and the University of Chicago.
Wherever he enrolls, he'll bring that quiet yet fierce determination with him.
"I guess I sort of have the confidence that if I give my best efforts and don't ever stop that I can accomplish whatever I need to," Chow said.