BIIF wrestling elite find varying forms of competition

  • MATT GERHART/Hawaii Tribune-Herald
    Kamehameha’s Colby Bowman, top, wrestles Waiakea’s Benjamin Vento during a BIIF meet Saturday at Waiakea High. Bowman won the 113-pound match 2-1.

When it’s near closing time after a long day of BIIF wrestling, Kealakehe’s Roxie Umu is a good person to have around.

Umu, a defending state champ, fought in one of Saturday’s last matches at Waiakea, even as the other two mats in the gym were being stripped and stowed away for storage.

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The senior wasted little time in pinning an overwhelmed opponent – if it took her 30 seconds, it took her an hour.

For wrestlers such as Umu and Hilo’s Elijah Apao, finding a true challenge may have to wait until tournaments later this month on Oahu.

But Saturday wasn’t devoid of drama. Other contenders did face a test.

“We control the pairings, and we put the tough kids vs. the tough kids, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Hilo coach Ryan Taniguchi said. “At the end of the day, at the BIIF championships, it’s whoever is the sharpest. The rest will be on the sidelines.”

Here are a look at a few of the more competitive matches:

• The way things are going, Kamehameha’s Colby Bowman and Waiakea’s Brayden Spain will be an entertaining pairing all season long in the 113 class.

Last week at Hilo, Bowman handed Spain his first loss, but Spain had the upper hand at Waiakea, winning 6-3.

Spain was the BIIF-runner-up at 113 last season, while Bowman, a sophomore, moved up after reaching states at 106 a year ago.

“That’s one to watch for the rest of the season,” Kamehameha coach Cary Masuko said, “they are going toe to toe.”

• Bowman followed that up with another hardfought match, eking out a 2-1 victory against Waiakea’s Benjamin Vento.

• In one of the most competitive bouts of the day, Waiakea’s Rylan Smith and Hilo’s Carmelo Castillo, a sophomore, wrestled to a stalemate in regulation before Smith earned the upper hand in sudden-death overtime in a 120-pound match, winning 11-9.

“They’re going to be up and up all season,” Taniguchi said.

• In a top girls pairing at 138, Hilo’s Hula Kahookaulana pinned Kamehameha’s Kanani Chan in a battle of BIIF champions.

Wrestling for Keaau last season, Kahookaulana finished fifth in the state at 138, while Chan is the reigning league champion at 127.

Taniguchi said Kahookaulana isn’t likely to face too many tough BIIF challenges this season, but her first meeting against Chan this season fit the bill.

“A good win,” he said, “and you like those kind of matches.”

Chan’s ultimate weight class at BIIFs is still to be determined, Kamehameha assistant Keith Laeha said.

With the BIIF taking a four-week break until its next meet (Jan. 5 at Waiakea), the next stop for the island’s top girls wrestlers is Punahou’s Pa’ani Challenge, where Hilo’s Liliana Campbell (97) will defend her title.

The Kamehameha girls are a perennial power who have taken a bit of a backseat to Kealakehe recently.

This season the Warriors have 14 to 17 wrestlers, but not enough to fill all 14 weight classes.

“We competed well,” Laeha said. “I think Hilo is the (team) front-runner. Over the long haul watching everybody wrestle.”

Over on the boys side, Kamehameha should be able to fill all the weight classes with a roster of 15, including Kamalu Anahu, the defending BIIF champ at 138.

Anahu has moved up to 145, which could be a loaded class if Kealakehe’s Kelii Pelekane returns to defend his title in the division.

The Warriors also are welcoming back Thaze Gomes, a senior who missed last season after suffering an injury during the football season. Gomes, Masuko said, is wrestling at 195 but his descent plan would put him at 182.

Masuko returned as the program’s head coach after previously serving in the capacity more than a decade ago, and one his favorite aspects so far has been working with newcomers such as Raizen Aina, a 106-pounder.

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“He works really hard and gives tremendous effort week in and week out,” Masuko said. “Maybe the wins and the losses aren’t necessarily in his favor, but he’s very competitive on a weekly basis.

“He’s coming a long way considering this is his sixth week in the sport. Not too shabby.”