Nakagawa, Somera on path to state tournament


POSTED: Saturday, February 20, 2010

There's nothing wrong with setting your sights on a state championship as long as you remain focused on the steps needed to get there. The climbing starts by working your way through league championships.

Early wrestling favorites Ryan Nakagawa of Kaiser and Kailua's Ellene Somera took the first step yesterday by winning their quarterfinal matches in the opening rounds of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Championship at Paul T. Kobayashi Gym on the Leilehua High School campus.

Nakagawa, a junior and OIA East tournament champ, went straight to work in his quarterfinal match vs. Pearl City's Anthony Clemente, pinning his opponent at the 1:42 mark of the first period. The quick resolution might be evidence of a renewed focus in strategy and it was good news for Cougars head coach Mike Kim.

“;Ryan has been going the distance with a lot of guys he should be pinning,”; Kim said. “;We've been concentrating on him finishing the matches and we're glad he was able to do that in this one.”;

Nakagawa felt strong throughout the season, but has taken his coach's suggestion to heart.

“;I saw I have been lacking technique more than anything so I've really been working on it a lot.”;

Nakagawa not only feels the pressure of being in the mix of statewide favorites in his weight class, he also has a family legacy to live up to. Older brother Michael, now wrestling for the University of California-Davis, won the 120-pound division in last year's state championships. With the elder Nakagawa brother in college, Kim is looking to the younger sibling to assume more responsibility as a leader.

“;We are working at Ryan stepping up and taking more control of the team,”; said Kim. “;We really need him in that role.”;

Nakagawa will face Campbell's Shane Pantastico-Banay, the OIA West second seed, in today's semifinals.

On the girl's side, Somera used her quarterfinals match to work on some moves en route to a victory-by-fall over Waipahu's Liayka Butin at the 1:28 mark of the second period.

“;(She) was pretty dominant, she used some new stuff she's been working on to score a little more from the top,”; said Kailua head coach Charles Kaulukukui. “;She worked well and pretty much did what she wanted to do out there. Ally got a little upset when she made a mistake and the other girl put her in a back flip, but she worked through it just fine.”;

Kaulukukui credits Somera's success to a lot of hard work and says the “;boys are always trying to keep up with her”; on events like runs, where she holds her ground pretty well. He also credits her with a role in team leadership, albeit more by example than a vocal cheerleader. On the mat, she's all business.

“;(She) sticks to the basics; real simple, nothing fancy but lots of hard work,”; Kaulukukui said. “;The thing that makes her good is her toughness, both mentally and physically. She always strives to be better and never satisfied with where she's at.”;

Somera faces Waipahu 's Jennifer Arao, the OIA West second seed, in tomorrow's semifinal action.

Today's competition continues with the semifinals and championship rounds as well consolation rounds. Wrestlers are competing for spots in next week's HHSAA State Championships at the Neal Blaisdell Center with seven slots in each weight group for the girls, and six for the boys.