LAHAINA - It should come as no surprise that a community with the backbone of Lahaina would foster youth and high school wrestling programs among the best in the State of Hawaii. For in a sport that flies under the high-profile radar - yet lives on building strength of character through desire, determination and dedication - Lahainaluna High School wrestling stands tall as an extension of the roots of the West Side.
The Luna boys wrestling team has won six consecutive Maui Interscholastic League championships to go along with top three state finishes over the last six years, and the Lady Luna grapplers have won two straight MIL titles and a second place trophy at states last season.
The "Wall of Honor" in the team's practice facility is nearly filled with names of Luna wrestlers that have placed at the state tournament over the years.
The Luna wrestlers will compete in the Maui Interscholastic League Championship Tournament on Saturday at Baldwin High School. Photo by Art Fillazar.
And the Lunas continue to get stronger. Earlier this year, Lahainaluna won the elite Officials' Tournament in Honolulu, a preseason event that includes the top programs across the state and serves as a gauge for the state championships.
"With that effort, we have the potential to win the state title," said Todd Hayase, now a co-head coach of the team with the elevation of Conrad Bolor to the leadership of the program. "We've been reminding the kids all season long about this after we won the Officials' Tournament."
Coach Todd went on to say, however, that this season has evolved into one of the most challenging of his coaching career. Along with assistants Kim Ball, Neal Nakata, Zane Monteleone and Shane Cunanan, as well as alumni volunteers Sheldon Tateyama, Holden Mowat, Edison Hidalgo, Robbie Kudlich and Lindsay Ball, Hayase has had to deal with a rash of injuries, illnesses and skin issues among the 63 student athletes on the roster that have left the coaching staff scratching their heads in frustration.
"This is a great group of kids, but these issues have made things very frustrating. Sometimes we have only half the team at practice. It seemed like everyday we'd have one or more of the kids having to check out of practice for a week or two with these issues popping up," said Coach Todd.
"We have a real shot at winning at states due to our depth and our leadership of captains Jina Miyamoto, Nathan Inovejas, Christian Carbajal and Bodean Bates. We have A and B wrestlers at nearly every weight class, and this creates competitiveness in the practice room. With two weeks to go before states, we want the kids to come to practice with focus and determination to form a game plan and set their goal standards. We need them to find their strengths and weaknesses and work on them over the next two weeks."
The MIL Championship Tournament takes place this Saturday, Feb. 25, at Baldwin, and the HHSAA State Championships will be held on March 2-3 at the Blaisdell Arena on Oahu.
"We send our thanks out to the Lahaina community for their support of the team. And to the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, the Royal Lahaina Resort, Steve and Ann Marugaki, Bob Kawaguchi, the Ah Puck 'ohana and the Lahainaluna 'ohana we also send our thanks," Coach Todd said.
"The kids have really been motivated throughout the year, and now we our formulating our summer plans with participation in the Excel Camp and team camps in Eastern Washington and in Colorado. We are now in the process of organizing the teams for these camps."