Punahou rules the mat
POSTED: Sunday, February 22, 2009
Even at ancient Punahou School, there are still feats and firsts.
Last night, the Buffanblu captured the boys and girls team titles at the Chevron/HHSAA State Wrestling Championships at Neal Blaisdell Arena.
The boys won their third state crown in a row - coming after a 28-year drought - while the Punahou girls took their first crown.
"This group over the last five, six years has really gotten it," Punahou coach Matt Oney said. "Both the boys and girls winning it, that's really important for our program. We practice as one team and the girls give to the boys, and the boys give to the girls."
Punahou's boys won by a decisive margin, accumulating 222 points. Kaiser followed with 164 and Lahainaluna placed third with 111. Kamehameha (107) and Pearl City (67) rounded out the top five.
The Buffanblu girls had a tougher go, racking up 150.5 points to Kahuku's 122. Campbell (87), Aiea (86.5) and Pearl City (81.5) followed.
Punahou is just the second school to win girls and boys wrestling championships in the same year. Kahuku was the first back in 2006.
Jonathan Sani Fuimaono, who won the 285-pound weight class for the Buffanblu, was patient.
"I'm speechless. First of all, I watched our team start off slow, but I continued to stay focused. I told my team I'd bring it home for us," he said. "I stepped everything up and prepared for battle."
The Punahou coaches praised their senior leadership, including Jenny Ojerio, who's been in the Punahou wrestling program for eight years, and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
"(Jenny is) a good leader for all our girls," said Punahou assistant coach Jimmy Takatsuka. "We have a lot of young wrestlers on this year's team, and her just setting the example with the way she practices and performs and plays almost a 'big-sister' role, is really big for our team."
"We want to set the bar high for next year's group of girls," said Macfarlane.
"We had a really bad morning," Macfarlane said. "Some of my teammates who should've been in the finals lost, and so we had to get team points. Basically it was up to J.T. (Jenny) and me."
The Buffanblu girls in the consolation matches overcame their disappointment and scored important points that helped clinch the team title.
Ojerio, who won her second state crown, was gratified to win with her pal, Macfarlane.
"We've been wrestling together for eight years, so it feels really good to win in our senior year," she said.
Def. Bryant Fukushima (Punahou) by fall, 1:02
Spiker, the top seed, had faced No. 2 Fukushima twice during the season.
"He's really good. The cradle is his No. 1 move," Spiker said.
As a senior, he paid much more attention to details.
"I'm more motivated and strict on my diet," he said. "But I think tonight we're going to have a Twinkie party."
He credited coach Mike Kim and his brother, Jonathan, for a strong run this season.
"I think it helped a lot because they both pushed me. They knew what it takes to get to the top," he said.
Jonathan watched with pride from the shadows.
"This season, he's been so focused," he said. "Jason did everything right - his diet, his weight, his wrestling."
Spiker won all four of his tournament matches by fall.
Def. Jordan Ng (Punahou) 1-0
Vu lost to Ng in the ILH tournament 4-3, but hung on to shut out his nemesis in the state final.
In the second period, he escaped from Ng for the match's only point.
"I just stood up and fought off his hands," the senior said.
By the third period, the tournament's lowest-scoring battle was in play.
"I thought to myself, this is probably going into overtime. He'll probably escape from me," Vu said.
Instead, Vu did just enough.
"At the end, he tried to escape. I told myself, this is the state championship. I held on for dear life," Vu said.
The unseeded Vu defeated Shane Pantastico-Banaay (Campbell) 10-0, Ryan Nakagawa (Kaiser) 5-2 and No. 1 Edison Hidalgo (Lahainaluna) 8-5 before the final.
Def. Andrew Hirai (Punahou) 5-4
The top seed closed his senior season at 40-1 (76-7 overall). Nakagawa faced Hirai in last year's state tourney at 112.
"I had to go in there and just wrestle. When I think too much, I do junk," Nakagawa said. "He was pretty aggressive, so I was worried."
Nakagawa scored with a single leg to double, taking the lead with 30 seconds left.
"I had to just hold him down. I'm stronger, but he's more flexible," he said.
Nakagawa won by fall against Nalu Kekona-Souza (KS-Hawaii) and Francisco Rivera (Pearl City) before defeating Sean Tachibana (Maryknoll) in the semifinals.
Def. Shayden Terukina (Kamehameha) 6-4
The most controversial match of the night saw Oshiro rally from a 4-1 deficit for his second state title.
Terukina, also a defending champ, led 4-3 when he was penalized for not engaging, or stalling.
He had backed out of the ring as Oshiro made a desperate shot at his legs, and the infraction tied the match at 4-all with 19 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, Oshiro got a takedown to win the match.
"I knew that's what I needed. I really needed to find strength, and a lot of it comes from my team and coaches pushing me," Oshiro said.
Def. Blake Ling (Kaiser) 12-0
After placing at states for three years, Nagata claimed his first championship with a dominant performance. He defeated Dominic Aguilar (Radford) 9-0, pinned Andrew Johnson (Castle) and blanked Hailey Barnes (Kapolei) to reach the title match.
"It's senior year, your last chance," he said. "The experience I gained really helped me."
Nagata squared off with Ling three times this season.
"I just worked my top on him, used cradles and power-half (nelson)," Nagata said.
Nagata began wrestling at Punahou in fourth grade.
"This was definitely a last chance to win and do good," he said.
Def. Byron Apo (Kaiser) 4-2
Tied at 2-all, Luning-Hoshino used a single-leg takedown to take the lead late. It was a gutty effort by both wrestlers, who had never faced each other before.
"I knew he had leg rides. I heard from my friends," Luning-Hoshino said.
Expert advice came from a teammate's father, Darrel Terukina.
"I've been working with him. He said the best way (to counter leg rides) is to stand up," he said.
Only a sophomore, Luning-Hoshino wasn't surprised by his ascension.
"I don't think any of these guys got up at 5 a.m. every day to run, and run after practice," he said.
Def. Branen Yamamoto (Moanalua) 2-0
The sophomore won his final three state matches by a combined five points, bringing home some comfort.
Akamine's sister, Reiko, was derailed by a stomach flu in the semifinals in her pursuit of a third state title.
"At least I got one for the Akamine name," he said.
The lone scoring move came on a move he calls a "gramby."
"It's just a roll move. I thought if I kept it at my pace, I could keep it under control," Akamine said. "I wrestle knowing I don't have the strength to pin people."
He finished the season with a 28-2 record.
Def. Isaiah Fonoti (Kamehameha) 6-1
Chung's methodical approach was effective against a foe he'd wrestled five times.
His first two points came by a single-leg takedown, and he took a 4-1 lead on a reverse move. After another leg shot, the unbeaten senior led 6-1 and had control.
"I'm happy. I'm kind of at a loss for words," he said. "My plan was to work the head and wait for the shots to open."
Chung credited his teammates for his strong finish.
"I feel, what really did it for me was Trong (Vu's) match, then Ian (Akamine) and the girls. I got my inspiration from their matches," he said.
Def. Holden Mowat (Lahainaluna) 11-3
The sophomore met Mowat at the Maui Officials tournament two months ago and won 14-7.
"My dad (Ray) said stay focused. Keep your head on straight," said Cooper, the top seed. "I did a lot of straight attacking. (Mowat) is an animal. He keeps coming and coming."
Cooper used double-leg shots to wear down Mowat, who he called the toughest foe he met all season.
"I was trying to break him down, just use the basics of wrestling," said Cooper, who began wrestling at 5 with his father.
"I love him. He's the best dad in the world," he said.
Def. Jesse Carney (Kalaheo) 13-6
The junior was a second-place finisher last year, but was unstoppable this time around.
He outscored four state-tourney foes 57-13, including two technical falls in Friday's action.
"I just try to get my doubles," he said. "I knew (Carney) would try to tie up with me. He got me in a takedown. I didn't know how strong he was."
Carney, a junior-varsity champion, was impressive, but the older wrestler prevailed.
"I kept grabbing at his ankles," said Hokoana, who began wrestling at age 5 with his dad, Monte.
Def. Cole Loewen (Lahainaluna) 5-3
One of the more entertaining matchups was between these two tall, athletic foes.
The match was tied at 3-all when Sheehan scored with just 1 minute left in regulation.
"He went bottom and I set up a deep shot. I switched to a double and took him down, tried to pin him, but he's a fighter," said Sheehan, who is only a sophomore.
His cousin, three-time state champion (and two-time NCAA champ) Travis Lee, had some practical advice after viewing footage during the season.
"He said to be more aggressive when I generally don't take the first shot," Sheehan said.
Def. Kekoa Kim (Kaiser) 8-2
Tynanes-Perez captured his first title, winning by pin in two of his first three matches. The Campbell junior then defeated Kaiser's Kekoa Kim 8-2 in the final.
His older brothers Lowen (two titles) and Miles (one) set the bar for Tyson, who is only a junior. He had lost to Kim in their first matchup this season, then won a rematch in triple overtime.
He also showed big improvement by pinning the two Alan Browns - one from Radford and one from Kahuku - before the state final.
"I was a little surprised. At OIAs, I beat then by one point (each)," Tynanes-Perez said.
George Kolu Buck
Def. Douglas Paahao (Kaiser) 2-1
Buck, a junior, scored his two points in the first period and hung on.
"He shot and got in deep, and I threw my leg over his leg, got my hips around," Buck said. "I'd never seen him before so I wasn't sure. He's strong, pretty solid."
Buck won at 215 despite being outweighed by most opponents.
He wrestled this season at 191.
"My style's different now. I tried doing moves that smaller guys would try, but it doesn't work the same on big guys, so I had to readjust," he said. "I developed a shot that I like."
Jonathan Sani Fuimaono
Def. Scott Suapaia (Aiea) by fall
The match was a deadlock until midway through the second period when Fuimaono broke away from Suapaia for the first point. Within the next 20 seconds, he maneuvered his way to a shocking pin.
"I snatched his leg and flared it straight to his back. That's my bread-and-butter move, bars and guard," Fuimaono said. "I finished with the half-nelson. I was just being patient and waiting for the right time. I had to finish strong and end it."
Fuimaono finished his junior season undefeated, including three pins against four state-tourney foes.