Passing the torch: Mamones take over recruiting network from Milhoan

  • West Hawaii Today file photo Wela Mamone (4) earned an opportunity to play football in college after graduating from Hilo High. Mamone would like to help other athletes do the same via the family-run Big Island Sports Network.

Thane Milhoan was always at BIIF sporting events, especially at football, filming games.

He created the Big Island Sports Network in 2010 to help Big Island athletes find college opportunities.

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Milhoan helped Kealakehe’s Psalm Wooching (Washington) and Tui Eli (UH-Manoa) find football homes. Wooching is now playing rugby for the San Diego Legion and Eli is in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Milhoan recently left Hilo for Florida, where he’ll spend the next two years writing a book and producing a documentary on the Puerto Rico International Undersea Laboratory. His dad was the diving director at the laboratory from 1971-73.

Milhoan has passed the mission of the BISN to Wela and Ricky Mamone.

“Thane was trying to find somebody and asked, ‘What about your boys?’ We talked to them and they said they would do it,” said Sergio Mamone, who’ll serve as an advisor.

Wela wants to help his brother, Ricky, and his friends land a college scholarship.

“It’s a good opportunity for the younger boys,” said Wela, who works at Steve’s Honda. “When I was in high school, it was hard to get exposed to the next level.”

Wela wants to follow BIIF players already in college and focus on filming girls sports, too.

He played football at a community college in Virginia, where people had misconceptions about Hawaii.

“I also want to do YouTube blogs about our lifestyle and culture in general,” he said. “In Virginia, people thought we lived in grass huts.”

Wela is still pursuing his MMA dream. He last fought in February on Oahu in a Destiny card, where he scored a TKO over Josiah Lagazo in February. He’s 2-0 in his career.

His father transformed the family’s MMA room into a sports training center. Sergio Mamone’s house is across the street from Panaewa Park, where coach Maurice Silva trains the neighborhood youngsters.

“Every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, they’re training down at Panaewa,” Mamone said. “Every 15 minutes, 10 kids check in. We’ve got a bunch of volunteers. The most kids we’ve had is 40 but they’re all staggered.”

There’s a lot of activity in the Panaewa neighborhood, first on the filed then at Mamone’s training center. He welcomes it all.

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“We’ve got a lot of people weight training at the sports center,” he said. “They’ll come right after the finish at Panaewa. It’s the same guys doing weight lifting.

“It’s been crazy how everything changes your whole life.”

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