Kaiser boys remain unmatched on the mat


POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Kaiser High boys team continued its dominance of OIA wrestling, capturing the program's third consecutive team crown by nearly 100 points at the two-day league championships, which wrapped up yesterday at the Leilehua High School gymnasium.

The Cougars piled up 250 points, followed by Aiea (153 1/2 ). Kahuku and Pearl City tied for third at 141 1/2 .

Pearl City was the surprise winner on the girls' side, claiming the school's first team title. Janine Razon (103 pounds), Mei Ling Keiki (175) and Sanoe Spencer (220) captured individual titles and three of their teammates were runners-up as Chargers outpointed perennial power Kahuku 148-135.

“;This is a tribute to these kids, who have worked so hard—not just this year, but over the past four years,”; said Kaiser coach Mike Kim. “;Nine of our seniors have been with us since they were freshman, and this is so big.”;

Kaiser's championship run is the most recent for the school but not its first. Kaiser also claimed five OIA boys team championships from 1978-1982 under coach Stephen Kim—the longest string of boys team titles in OIA history. Kahuku ran off four straight from 2003-06.

“;We're one of the smallest schools in the OIA, so we have a lot going against us,”; Kim said. “;The fact we are competitive on the state level is a testament to our kids. I think at this point Punahou is still the definite favorite (for the state title). We'll need some help and some luck of the draw to have a chance, but anything can happen.”;

Cougar wrestlers advanced to the finals in eight of 14 weight classes, winning six to keep the title in Hawaii Kai. Senior standout Jason Spiker continued a dominant season, pinning Mililani's Nainoa Tompkins with 23 seconds remaining in the first period. The OIA title was the third of Spiker's career. He is 32-0 heading into next weekend's state meet.

“;I'm not gonna take anyone lightly (next weekend),”; Spiker said. “;I have my family and my coaches here to push me, and this is my last year and I want to go out with a bang.”;

The day's top girls match saw Kalani's Megan Yamaguchi gut out a 4-3 win in a tightly contested battle with Aiea's Joy Yamashita to defend her OIA title at 120 pounds in a contest that took three overtime periods to decide.

After the first period ended in a scoreless stalemate, Yamaguchi took a 1-0 lead 1:03 into the second period with an escape, after starting the frame in the down position. Yamashita responded with an escape of her own with 1:50 remaining in regulation to even the match.

Both grapplers were penalized a point in the first overtime period for stalling, in a match that significantly featured defense. Yamaguchi regained the lead with 12 seconds left in the second extra period, when she bolted out of Yamashita's grasp after starting in the down position. With the match seemingly in hand, Yamaguchi was whistled for stalling with just one second left to carry the showdown into a third overtime.

“;The referee said I wasn't doing anything as I was holding onto her at the edge of the circle, “;Yamaguchi said. “;He told me I had to be trying to take her back down to the mat.”;

Yamaguchi again occupied the lower position on the restart and battled to exit the grip of Yamashita, as the action carried out of bounds twice. With time winding down and Yamashita holding on, Yamaguchi ripped herself free for the escape just as time expired on the official's clock.

“;At that moment I was thinking about how I prepared for this, and how much work I put in and how badly I wanted this,”; Yamaguchi said. “;I did it for my team, my family, my sister, who's wrestling here today, too.”;

Morgan Yamaguchi, a Kalani freshman, advanced to the final at 130, falling to Roosevelt's Robin Teruya, 5-3.

Defending state champion Taylor Iberra of Farrington claimed her third individual title at 98 pounds by pinning Pearl City's Hazel Asperin with 1:16 left in regulation. The senior was in total control of the match from the outset, holding a 7-0 lead before registering the pin.

“;My strategy was just to work to my strengths and not play to hers,”; Iberra said. “;I knew what I had to do and I was able to stay focused. I know defending a state title is the hardest part. I will have to work 10 times, 100 times harder to keep it.”;

The top eight finishers in each weight class advance to next weekend's Chevron HHSAA Championships at the Blaisdell Center on Friday and Saturday.