When Ezekiel Anahu officially ended an undesirable Big Island streak, he put off any thoughts of a celebration so he could console his opponent.
Anahu, as well as Hilo High senior Leona Toledo, carried the torch for the BIIF on Saturday by bringing home state wrestling championships from Honolulu, and the Kamehameha senior was just as happy to pass that torch on.
As much as he is a trailblazer – becoming the first BIIF boys state champion since 2012 – he was also just as humble.
He thanked his coaches and teammates.
“They helped me do this even when I didn’t know this was something I could do,” Anahu said.
He thanked God.
“Honestly, I felt God was with me watching over me the whole time,” he said.
He even thanked the opponent he beat in an all-BIIF final, Hilo High junior Hana Kahookaulana.
“I don’t think I could have done it without him pushing me,” Anahu said. “I love that guy. I have no doubt he is going to win it next season.”
But this was Anahu’s turn to shine, and he did so efficiently and thoroughly as the second seed in the 160-pound division, winning twice by pinfall Friday to reach the semifinal. He cruised 12-2 in the semis, then looked comfortably in command and gave Kahookaulana little room to breathe in beating him for the third time this season, this time 6-1.
Anahu is modest, but make no mistake, coach Keith Laeha said, he’s earned this.
“He put a lot of work in on his own, away from our own program, doing road work running and lifting three times a week,” Laeha said. “The past two seasons he went to a Vegas national tournament and this past year he finished tied for eighth. It really helped going up against better competition.”
Earlier this season, Kahookaulana looked to be on track to become the first boys state gold medalist from the BIIF since Kamehameha heavyweight Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy and Konawaena’s Sage Aoki (120) accomplished the feat in 2012. Kahookaulana won the 160 title in December at the Officials Tournament, and earlier that month he outscored Analu 3-2.
Analu avenged that defeat later in the regular season, then he beat Kahookaulana for the BIIF title.
“That loss was a wakeup call and showed me what I needed to do in order to be successful,” Anahu said.
Toledo is trending
Toledo also avenged an earlier loss to take gold, but her 7-2 win to dethrone Kahuku’s Tangiteina Niutupuivaha, a two-time state champion at 225, was a surprise to some — though not to Toledo nor coach Ryan Taniguchi.
“Honestly, it feels amazing,” Toledo said. “There was pressure, because she’s a good wrestler, but when I looked at my coaches, they gave me everything I needed.”
In Toledo’s very first wrestling match three seasons ago, Niutupuivaha got the better of her, Taniguchi said, and Niutupuivaha earned a second-period pin earlier this season when the two met at the Paani Challenge.
Taniguchi, who champions strength and conditioning — he fills that coaching role for Hilo’s state champion football team — said Toledo had been working all season to topple Niutupuivaha. Her victory was a product of her workouts matching her talent level, he said.
“She believes in the approach, she believes in herself and every coach and she’s emerged as a team leader,” Taniguchi said.
The second seed, Toledo, a two-time BIIF champ, earned a bye to the quarterfinals, then she pinned two opponents to reach the final, which started inauspiciously enough.
Niutupuivaha was ahead 2-0 in the second period when Toledo turned the tide with a reversal and took control, and she eventually got Niutupuivaha on her back and could have gone for a pin as time ran out.
“I want to thank my family, my coaches, my friends and God, my savior,” she said. “I needed every single one of them.”
It didn’t hurt that she has a “rough” family background. Leona is the fourth of sixth siblings, and she’s got two older foot-ball-playing brothers, including Kuresa Toledo, the 2017 BIIF defensive player of the year for the Vikings
“It’s a lot of fun,” Toledo said of her large ohana. “Having two older brothers helps a lot (with wrestling).”
She was thrown for a loop once at the state championships. After wrapping up gold, the 140-pound Taniguchi picked her up.
“First time’s he’s done that,” she said. “I though he was going to suplex me.”
Toledo won a BIIF judo title last season and finished fifth in the 220 division at the state tournament, but this season she has a different double-state gold experience in mind, planning to return as a thrower in track and field. As a freshman, she claimed the BIIF discus title and Toledo was fourth at the state championships in the event as a sophomore.
“I want to win another state title,” Toledo said.
Best of the rest
Honokaa’s Chandon Pacheco was one of 13 BIIF wrestlers to reach the semifinals, and he took home bronze at 220. After losing to the eventual champion, Kaimuki’s Harry Lloyd, in the final four, Pacheco pinned Saint Louis’ Jeremy Pangelinan in a consolation final then edged Baldwin’s Maake Panuve 2-1 for third.
• The Hilo girls were seventh in the team race, getting fourth-place finished from Lilliana Campbell (102) and Lilliane Toledo (184) – Leona’s younger sister. Finishing sixth for the Vikings were Ashley Lavarias (112) and Kitana Lowery (155).
• The Waiakea boys finished a respectable ninth in the team standings, with Aiden Shikuma (113), Rylan Smith (120), Caleb Shimaoka (132) and Alejandro Blanco (182) all finishing fourth.
• D’Shane Bannister finished sixth in the 170 division for Keaau, and the Cougars’ girls team had a nice showing in 12th place. Zysha Pavao (132) was fourth, and Kaleinani Makuaole (184) and Zyann Pavao (225) were each sixth.
• For the Kamehameha girls, Lainey Eckart (127) was fourth and Tehya Tanigawa (132) was sixth. In the semifinals, Tanigawa ran into Lahainaluna’s Nanea Estrella, who went on to claim her fourth state crown. Kamehameha-Kapalama’s Kysen Terukina also completed a career slam as the Oahu Warriors swept the team titles.
• Unseeded Raizen Aina finished sixth at 113 for Kamehameha.