LAHAINA - Thanks to the efforts of several Maui coaches - particularly the West Side's Nathan Williams - a club sport wrestling program for middle school-age kids has sprung to life here on the Valley Isle.
Williams, Josh Perry, Malakai Panuve and Kevin Grant have worked over the last six months to organize the inaugural Maui Intermediate School Wrestling program to introduce young teenagers to the sport that is spreading like wildfire across the nation.
Nowhere is the popularity of wrestling more evident than here on Maui, and Williams, a substitute school teacher at Lahaina Intermediate School and family man with a wife and four - and, very soon, five - young children has tapped into that energy to develop and nurture the interest in the sport here.
Thirty-one girls and 17 boys learned the sport in the Maui Intermediate School Wrestling program.
Along with Ui Kuaana, Kurrent Cockett, Conrad Bolor and Shane Cunanan, Williams has organized seven middle schools into a club program to develop the kids' interest, teach them fundamentals, promote discipline, become a feeder to the high school teams and build school spirit.
Their efforts have blossomed into packed crowds and eye-opening competition at three meets held in January leading up to a championship event on Feb. 8 at the Baldwin High School gymnasium.
The LIS club had 31 girls and 17 boys take part in the program. All of them competed in the championship meet, as well as kids from six other schools on Maui.
"I just want to support and promote the sport that saved my life. I went to King Kamehameha III Elementary School, Lahaina Intermediate School and Lahainaluna High School, where I found wrestling under coach Neal Nakata. It set me in the right direction, and I went on to wrestle at Northern Colorado, where I earned a degree in history with a minor in political science," Williams said.
"I want to do this for the sport I love and to prepare the kids for the high school team. It has been an absolute success."