Kapua Torres went undefeated to capture her weight class at the National College Wrestling Championship last week.

In the winners’ circle

Their sport is young and the spotlight on them is not so bright.

There is no TV, no reporters, hardly an audience, and only a handful of competitors, but the pride of accomplishment that swells in the hearts of Hawaii's two newly minted national champions is as great as in any athlete who clutches gold as the best in the land.

Kapua Torres of Kahuku and Selina Perez of Waiehu, Maui, won titles at the Women's National College Wrestling Championship on Saturday in California.

Torres, a 2003 Kahuku graduate, is a sophomore at Pacific University in Oregon and Perez, a 2003 Baldwin graduate, is a sophomore at Missouri Valley College.

Only five teams scrapped it out before a crowd of about 50 at little Menlo College, south of San Francisco. There are only six "solid" college programs in the land and one of them, defending champion Cumberland of Kentucky, didn't come.

Two weeks before, a nationwide television audience and a packed arena in Saint Louis, Mo., saw Travis Lee (Saint Louis, '01) win his second NCAA men's wrestling championship in a field of 32 who were the best from 85 teams in NCAA Division I.

Some of the pioneers in the women's game think it will grow exponentially, like women's soccer did in the 1980s, as acceptance of the sport grows.

"Within the next three years, the number of teams will triple or more," says Missouri Valley coach Carl Murphree.

The women's tournament was not sanctioned by the NCAA or NAIA, but was an independent competition for colleges with women's teams.

Murphree found it noteworthy that five of the eight national champions on Saturday came from Texas and Hawaii, the only states that have sanctioned high school championship tournaments.

When women's wrestling makes its mark, it will revere pioneers like Iolani alum Jill Remiticado, who started the program at Pacific, the eight women from Hawaii who are in U.S. Olympic development programs and national champions like Torres and Perez.

Torres has been ranked No. 1 nationally in the 112-pound division most of the season, but didn't really believe it until Saturday. Now she has set higher goals.

"I hope it says that I am peaking," she said. "I want to qualify for the (U.S.) World Team Trials in June." That would call for a top-six finish at the Senior Nationals in late April.

"Kapua is starting to develop a mastery over what she does," said Pacific coach Scott Miller. "She is learning to trust her body and go where it (instinctively) wants to go.

"We've seen it coming," he said. "She has gotten much better with her shot. She is coming up to her finishes quicker and she responds (to her opponents' moves) much quicker than in the past."

Quick response is what won the 176-pound championship for Perez.

In the final she had a familiar opponent -- Pacific freshman Ashley Truchan of Hilo.

"I had wrestled her in high school and I knew her style," Perez said. "I studied her preliminary match and decided to set it up where I could counter that action.

"She tried a lateral drop. I countered it and pinned her in the first round."

It was also a victory for Perez over the anxiety that naturally comes after a serious injury. She had torn her left ACL in the same gym last March.

"I was real nervous at first," she admitted, but a pep talk from Murphree between rounds of the preliminary calmed her. "She is just starting to get confident on that knee," the coach said.

Missouri Valley freshman Sadie Kaneda (Roosevelt, '04), who placed fourth at 105.5 pounds; Pacific freshman Jazmine Cockett (Kamehameha '04, fourth at 130); and Truchan also won All-America designation.

Conspicuous by her absence at the nationals was Missouri Valley sophomore Stephany Lee (Moanalua, '02), a member of the U.S. National Team who tore the ACL in her right knee while defeating Russia's Olympic silver medalist in Moscow in January.

Lee underwent reconstructive surgery two weeks ago and will be in rehabilitation for six months.


Tiogangco put on shelf
after accident

Dayson Tiogangco has been pole vaulting -- one of the most dangerous events in sport -- for eight years in high school and college without an injury more serious than a pulled hamstring.

But three days after vaulting his lifetime best 15 feet, 2 1/4 inches this month, Tiogangco crushed his hand in a ceramics lab and will be unable to vault for 4-to-6 weeks.

Tiogangco, a 2001 Hilo High graduate from Papaikou, soared more than half a foot over his career best on March 19 to climb to seventh on Linfield's career list.

He met the provisional qualifying standard for the NCAA Division III championships for the first time.

Dayson Tiogangco cleared 15 feet last month.

Tiogangco, a studio art major who will graduate in May, was feeding clay through a slab roller in a college lab the following Tuesday when his hip inadvertently bumped the power switch.

His left hand was sucked into the space between the heavy rollers nearly to his wrist.

"I kind of yelled," Tiogangco said, "but the other kids just thought I was angry because the clay was going in wrong.

"Then they saw my hand coming out the other end.

"There were no broken bones and the swelling has gone down a lot, but I can't grasp anything," like a pole, Tiogangco said.

He said he might try long jumping this weekend.

Tiogangco and coach Garry Killgore hope he can return for the Northwest Conference championships, which he won in 2002.


Kohatsu joins Tanoue at top

Ohio State junior Ryan Kohatsu (Waiakea, '01) and Nevada senior Ryan Tanoue (Saint Louis, '01) were named All-American shooters this week by the National Rifle Association.

Kohatsu was selected first team and Tanoue was second team on the small-bore team. Their positions were reversed on the air-rifle team: Tanoue first team and Kohatsu second team.

Sophomore Matt Ma (Iolani, '02, of Aiea) shot 1-over-par 141 to tie for third place this week in the 59th annual Western Intercollegiate tournament at the Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif.

It was the fourth top-six finish in five tournaments for Ma this season. Ma's rounds were 71-70. Tuesday's third round was rained out.

BYU (Utah)

Junior Ashlyn Russell (Baldwin, '02) hit her 12th home run of the season yesterday in support of junior Summer Tobias' perfect game as BYU beat Utah Valley State 8-0 in Provo.

Russell's 11th home run came Friday in a 5-1 loss at 16th-ranked Oregon State.

Lewis & Clark (Ore.)

Freshman pitcher Eric Muraoka (Iolani, '04) has an entry in the NCAA Division III record book today, but probably would rather he didn't.

Muraoka and Pacific (Oregon) pitcher Adam Azril combined to hit 11 batters with pitches on Tuesday.

Azril, who also struck out 13, won 3-1. Muraoka fell to 0-2, lasting 3 1/3 innings in his second start.

BYU (Utah)
Junior Apana Nakayama (Moloka'i, '00, of Kaunakakai) hit a single, double and triple, drove in a run and scored three Saturday in a sweep of Utah.

The Cougars are 17-7-1 and Nakayama is hitting .355 (39-for-110) with 17 RBIs and four home runs in 25 games.

Western Washington

Aleki Pascua, a 1993 Saint Louis School alumnus, yesterday was appointed defensive ends coach.

Pascua has been a graduate assistant the last three years at Oregon, where he helped coach the offensive line, and helped develop Enoka Lucas (Kamehameha, '02, of Alewa Heights) into a starting center and guard last season.

Pascua graduated from Linfield (Oregon) in 1999.

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