KEALAKEKUA — It was a dominant night of wrestling for the Hilo girls.
Nine Viking girls finished in first Saturday, and Hilo scored more than 100 points over the second-place Kamehameha to secure the girls title at the BIIF wrestling championships at Ellison Onizuka Gymnasium.
“I’m a retired Army veteran, and one of the biggest things we learn in the service is resilience and facing adversity,” Hilo head coach Ryan Taniguchi said. “They’ve shown extreme resilience from the time I’ve worked with them. I have had kids make weight changes and position changes within a week to cover for friends who couldn’t make weight. The kids showed resilience. That’s the bottom line.”
The Hilo girls came out on top with 235 points, followed by Kamehameha (98), Kealakehe (88), Keaau (80), Konawaena (72), Hawaii Prep (46), Pahoa (15), Waiakea (14), and Honokaa (7). Hilo snapped Kealakehe’s four-year title run.
Waiakea was the winner of the boys division with 183 points, followed closely by Hilo (142), Kamehameha (109), Kealakehe (97), Konawaena (82), Keaau (68), Hawaii Prep (50), Honokaa (36), Ka’u (16), and Pahoa (8).
Waiakea’s Brayden Spain, Aiden Shikuma, Rylan Smith, Caleb Shimaoka, Waylon Spain, Isaac Vickery and Alejandro Blanco all finished first in their weight classes to help snag the title for the Warriors, who won their second title in three years.
The Warriors were a perfect 7 for 7 in the finals. Everyone in blue who qualified won gold.
Waylon Spain went 4 for 4 in career gold. Shimaoka won his third title, and Brayden Spain and Shikuma repeated.
Shimaoka also has a gold in judo. One sport helps the other. And Shimaoka married the two disciplines for his three-peat.
“He’s very talented from his freshman year,” coach Chad Urabe said. He’s a judo standout as well, and that’s carried over to wrestling. He can use his grappling skills from judo into wrestling. He’s soft-spoken but works really hard at practice as well.”
It helped that the Spain boys are cousins and push each other.
“They both push each other to become better,” Urabe said. “It’s a little friendly family competition against each other. They push each other to excel.”
The biggest gold surprise was probably Vickery, a sophomore rookie, who went 20-3 during the BIIF season.
“I wasn’t expecting him to do it, but thought that he could,” Urabe said. “He’s very athletic and picked up the sport really quickly. He’s a fast learner. It’s surprising when first-year wrestlers win BIIFs.”
The proud moment for Urabe was watching his seven wrestlers in the finals take home gold.
“I’m very proud of all my guys. All seven won their final match,” he said. “Both wrestlers in the final want that gold. I thought they really stepped up in the final match.”
The preseason work at the Officials tournament will likely reward Brayden Spain and Shimaoka when the seedings are announced. Spain placed second and Shimaoka was third.
“Brayden did really well at officials. He could get a second seed at states. If he makes it to the final, he’s got a really good shot,” Urabe said. “Caleb took third. He also has a good shot, too, if he keeps winning his matches.”
Hilo’s Elijah Apao, Lyle Silva, and Sione Holani were the gold medal recipients for the Viking boys. HPA’s Jeremiah Borce came in first in the 128-pound class, Kamehameha’s Kamalu Anahu in 162, Kealakehe’s Cody Evile in 197, and Honokaa’s Chandon Pacheco won a gold medal in the 222-pound weight class.
Apao and Anahu won their second gold.
For the Viking girls, the nine first place finishers were Lilliana Campbell, Angela Viernes, Ashley Lavarias, Arionna Beatty, Rayden Kukahiwa, Tia Leao, Kitana Lowery, Luana Chung-Hulama, and Leona Toledo.
Campbell won her third title, while Lowery, Leao, and Toledo repeated.
Taniguchi was proud of how both his teams performed Saturday. He said it was a big step up from where the Hilo wrestling program was at when he took over two years ago.
“I’ve been with the team for two years, and two years ago, we had about 12 kids,” Taniguchi said. “The team is at about 52 right now. Morale is high. And we’ve increased the participation between both girls and boys.
“Kids need to be challenged, and they stepped up this year. Each and every one of these kids and these girls stepped up. It just so happens my girls, they showed extreme dominance here today.”
Kealakehe had two winners in the girls division — Andrea Faldonea for the 99-pound weight class and Pualani Louis in the 119 class. Kamehameha also had two gold medal winners with Lainey Eckart in the 129 class and Tehya Tanigawa in 134. Keaau’s Kaleinani Mauaole won a gold medal for the Cougars, in the 186-pound weight class.
Louis won her second gold.