First came the duals, and next are the duels.
Hilo and Kealakehe were among the schools to go head-to-head last week during a dual-format meet, providing a sneak preview of sorts heading into Saturday’s BIIF wrestling championships at Keaau High.
Waveriders coach Ivan Louis saw the roadblocks ahead as his girls team seeks its fourth consecutive crown.
Louis likes Andrea Faeldonea’s form at 97 pounds, but the Vikings’ Lilliana Campbell stands in the way.
“We have a tough task, she’s a tough cookie,” Louis said of Campbell, the defending BIIF champ, “but I like that.”
The Waveriders Myra Liufau is the title-holder at 225, but Hilo’s Leona Toledo “has had the upper hand and has been wrestling really, really well,” Louis said.
Besides the requisite talent, Hilo, has depth on its side and us able to fill all 14 weight classes, something Kealakehe won’t be able to do.
“If they are not healthy enough,” Vikings coach Ryan Taniguchi said, “it will be us and Kamehameha.”
The Waveriders were the last team to sweep the titles, in 2017, and Hilo might be best positioned to do so this season, though Taniguchi cautioned his boys depth isn’t on par with Kealakehe.
“I think it’s up in the air for the boys,” Taniguchi said. “Waiakea, Kealakehe, and I think we have an outside shot.”
Waiakea is the defending champ and feature top seeds and defending champions Caleb Shimaoka (120) and Wayland Spain (126), who seeks a third title.
Timothy Nakamoto, who reigned at 106 last season, will wrestle in a higher class Saturday.
The issue for the Warriors is they only will be able to fill 10 weight classes.
“Only filling 10 of 14,” coach Chad Urabe said, “I think all our wrestlers will have to be very competitive and get into the medal round. If they can get into the finals, that would be great, obviously.”
Even if Kealakehe should get shut out in the team race, it has two wrestlers bidding for a fourth title: Kobby Faeldonea (113) and Roxie Umu (184).
Umu and fellow defending state champion Kapoina Bailey of Konawaena have wrestled this season, with each winning once, but they’ll go their separate ways in the championships, with Bailey back at 168.
Kealakehe’s boys advantage could come in higher weight classes.
Malosi Abraham will try to win a championship at a third different weight class, 220, Setu Vole will defend his heavyweight title and Anthony Gopaul will give it a go at 195 after claiming 220 last season. Also, Kelii Pelekane will defend his title at 145.
“I’m not discounting Kamehameha, and Keaau has been bringing the heat,” Louis said. “The 120-152 classes, there are going to be fireworks.”
Campbell and Hula Kahookaulana (138) are the Hilo girls’ two defending champs – Kahookaulana won with Keaau last season – but the Vikings have several contenders.
Kitana Lowery is undefeated at three classes this season and will compete at 138 in the championships; Tia Leao, also a standout volleyball player, is undefeated at 145; and Taniguchi was encouraged that Ashley Lavarias (112) wrestled up in class against Kealakehe’s Pualani Louis (117) and lost by only one point. Louis won last season at 112 as a freshman.
“These kind of matchups bring out optimism in a coach,” Taniguchi said.
For Kamehameha, Ashley Falces will vie for a third title at 107.
Look at Laupahoehoe
The Seasiders won’t be able to compete for a team title in its first year back on the mats in a handful of years, but coach Roger Espejo said the team can make its mark in other ways.
“Our goal is to wrestle our hearts out and try to get to the podium and let the Big Island know that Laupehoehoe is here to wrestle,” said Espejo, a 2010 alum of the school.
He helped revive the program with the help of his former coach, Jordan Lopez.
The Seasiders have three male wrestlers, all in the lower classes, and the biggest obstacle, Lopez said, “is when you have a 200-pound coach wrestling 106-pounders in practice.”
He goes “less than a half-step” in such instances.
“But I want to credit Honokaa,” he said. “Honokaa has been a big support for keeping the Laupahoehoe wrestling community alive.”
Nicholas Wanner pulled off the first victory for the Seasiders with a pin earlier this season.
“We’re just hoping to make an uproar this year,” Espejo said, “and see whoever comes in the future.”