[ JUDO ]

In the state championship match at 114 pounds, Gerry Malanog of Leilehua strained to get out of a hold after being thrown by Brandon Low. Low went on to take the state title.

Kahuku, Pearl City
win first judo titles

Not even a three-and-a-half hour delay could sour the moods of the Kahuku girls and Pearl City boys teams yesterday as they made history at McKinley High School by winning the first state judo championships.

The Red Raiders, who had five girls as No. 1 seeds, found that being the favorite didn't necessarily mean victory was going to be easy.

After watching the first four top seeds go down, Kehau Kamauoha knew she needed to help boost her team with a victory, and did just that, defeating Ashley Truchan of Hilo.

"When the girls below me would win, it would push me to win and not let them down," Kamauoha said. "It was different without that, but I knew I had to come up big for my team if we wanted to take home the team title."

The Red Raiders had stiff competition from Pearl City and Kamehameha. The Chargers got wins from Corey Jo Tashima in the 109-pound division, and Amber Horn at 136, while the Warriors got a key performance from second-seeded Chelsea Berdon, who upset top-seeded Jenna Nihipali of Kahuku in the finals.

In the state championship judo match at 115 pounds, Caylene Valdez of Moanalua threw Eisha Matsubara of Waiakea to the mat for a yuko. Valdez went on to win the first state judo championship. She previously won three OIA judo championships and is the only girl to win four state wrestling titles.

"Kahuku beat us in wrestling so I was glad we got a state judo championship this year so I could get some revenge," Berdon said.

Many of the state champions in wrestling competed in this judo championship as well, especially on the boys side.

Saint Louis' Brandon Low, who became only the third freshman in history to win a wrestling state title, took home the 114-pound championship, defeating Leilehua's Gerry Malanog in the final.

"I was fighting off a bit of a side pain," Low said. "But I just fought through it and did what I had to do."

Low, who is a 10-time national judo champion, was seeded second in this tournament, creating a little bit of a fire inside of him.

"I was pretty upset I was seeded second, especially when I never heard of the guy in front of me before," he said. "But he was good and it just shows how it doesn't matter what you are seeded, but how you perform out there."

Punahou's Jeremy Otani, another second seed from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, defeated Kalani's Lewis Nakao 27 seconds into the match, to cap off what had been a tough year.

"I injured myself in wrestling, which was hard, but I'm fortunate I got another chance to come back and end the year well," he said.

Otani also felt a little angry after being seeded second in a tournament where all the OIA champions got No. 1 seeds.

"I don't really know the meaning behind it, but it got me a little angry and definitely added extra motivation to this tournament," he said.

However in the end, it was the Chargers who walked out as boys champions, edging out Mililani 70-58. They were led by individual winners Joel Akimoto in the 150-pound division, unseeded Andy Hung at 165 and Eddie Inuma in the 275-pound weight class.

Other boys winners were Thorean Evans of Kahuku at 105, Mililani's Justin Galvez at 123 and Emile Suehiro of McKinley at 132. Unseeded Sean Shinjo of Mililani upset heavy favorite Everett Pavo of Pearl City in the 180-pound division and Shingo Katsura of Moanalua won at 200 pounds.

Girls individual winners were Tabitha Lum of Maryknoll at 98 pounds and Iolani's Catherine Chen at 103 pounds. Moanalua's Caylene Valdez, a four-time state wrestling champion, took home the 115-pound title, while Kailua's Kimberly Kodo won at 121 pounds. Kealakehe's Kelianne Chong won the 128-pound title and Maimiti Ho of Kamehameha won the 200-pound division.

While the OIA took home both team championships, the ILH had six individual champions, making the inaugural state tournament a showcase for all Hawaii high school talent.

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