Kapolei, Moanalua win OIA wrestling titles

Feb. 19—A little adversity couldn't stop the Kapolei Hurricanes, who won their first OIA boys wrestling championship on Saturday at Leilehua High School

A little adversity couldn't stop the Kapolei Hurricanes, who won their first OIA boys wrestling championship on Saturday at Leilehua High School Senior Brycen Pagurayan was one of four individual gold-medal winners for Kapolei, which was without head coach Shawn Salter.

"There's a lot of heart, honestly. We had a lot of recent challenges on our team. We just dug deep and wrestled for each other, basically, and our coach, " assistant coach Koa Yamada said. "This is Coach Shawn's team, the team he built. The kids wrestled their butts off."

Pagurayan is the defending state champion in the 170 weight class. He overcame an inadvertent blow to the eye and pinned Campbell's Jensen Tanele in 1 :20.

"My brothers and dad always tell me prepare for anything. In the practice room we go all out, as hard as we can. Sometimes we get injured. Sometimes we get a scratch, slap, punch or a poke, but we go back, right to it, " Pagurayan said. "I read his game plan. I saw how his stance was. It's a pretty good stance. He's a really good wrestler. I just adjusted it to where I make it my match, and I did it."

Pagurayan qualified for the final after pinning Jeremiah Tubana of Waipahu (1 :27 ), Alexander Bajet of Aiea (54 seconds ) and GXXR Young of Waianae (1 :46 ).

"We have a solid team this year. We train hard, we work together, cry together, laugh together, " Pagurayan said. "Just hard practices, emotional things, stuff that people are going through and help each other with. The level of respect and trust is phenomenal. It's not just coaches and wrestlers, it's coaches and wrestlers. It's friends and family, parents, sisters, brothers."

Moanalua's girls, sparked by Isabelle Asuncion (17-1 ), four-peated as OIA champion.

"The job's not done, you know. Our goal is to win every tournament and we still have one more to go, " Na Menehune coach Sean Sakaida said. "Isabelle is very disciplined, very calm. Never gets too hyped for the moment, always wrestles within herself. Can't ask for a better wrestler. All of them, our whole team buys into what we go over. They practice what we preach and believe in us. They're a great group of girls, they're very close knit. They're so close, they're like family and that's what helps us out."

Asuncion, the 117 weight class state champion a year ago, reached the final by pinning Kyla Donaldson of Campbell (17 seconds ) and Akemi Ralston of Radford (1 :01 ).

Kalina Hotema of Kalani pinned Taylor Gates of Aiea in 33 seconds and Susana Setu of Waipahu in 3 :25.

Asuncion stymied Hotema for a 4-0 decision to win the OIA 117 crown.

"I wrestled her four to five times already (this season ). She's always tough, always doing something different. She was more defensive today. She was tough on bottom. She worked really hard. Overall, it was a really a good match for me because we won all three periods, " Asuncion said.

Asuncion is ready for the challenge of being the probable favorite at states in the 117 class.

"In my heart, I know what I want to do and how I'm going to overcome, " she said. "It feels pretty awesome (to win four OIA team titles in a row ). It's good that we have this team as a family. We're always working hard every day and we're always encouraging each other. I'm very happy and glad to be part of this program."

Maia Esera remained unbeaten with a run through the tourney for the 225 weight class title. Esera (20-0 ) drew two byes before pinning Kofa Tokyo-Liusa of Waipahu (47 seconds ) and Francis Hufanga of Leilehua (1 :42 ) before reaching the final.

Esera, the daughter of former UH football player Tala Esera, pinned Jenelle Mattos of Waipahu at 1 :40.

"With heavyweights, you're usually up, but my coach teaches us to stay low no matter your weight, and take shots, " Esera said. "I was a little bit shaken after my sister wrestled and lost in the finals before me, but I knew I had to win it for my team."

Moanalua sophomore Tyger Taam ran his record to 23-0 against, arguably, his toughest foe of the season, Hakuilua Paaluhi of Waianae, to earn the 138 weight class title.

Taam (23-0 ) was the 132-pound state champion as a freshman last year. On Saturday, he drew two byes before pinning Kealon Tomas of Pearl City (34 seconds ) and Ryder Baptista of Aiea (5 :35 ) to reach the final.

His championship battle was tooth and nail until Taam ended it with a 12-7 decision.

"That was the second time this year. Last time wasn't as close. He got a lot better on his bottom. He scrapped more. I respect him a lot, " Taam said.

He led 2-0 before Paaluhi scored three points in a span of 15 seconds to end the opening period. Taam notched a point before the buzzer to tie at 3 going into the second period.

Then came a whirlwind of action with the score tied at 5 when Paaluhi inadvertently choked Taam.

"He choked me for well over 10 seconds, " said Taam, who was awarded one point for a 6-5 lead. "It took me a while. It took a lot out of me. I was gasping for air."

The match was halted for a couple of minutes before resuming. It was still close in the final minute of the third quarter when Taam nearly pinned Paaluhi.

It was 7-up when Taam scored two points with 23 seconds left.

"I was just holding on for dear life, " he said. "I feel tired."