Beach play, sports and school dominated their time schedule as the warmth of the island sun nurtured an endearing, easy-going spirit in them both. It is that intangible charisma, that easy-going nature found so naturally in the Hawaiian people that characterize their personalities.
Mel and Uncle Buff Nakoa raised the boys and their three sisters with a keen appreciation and awareness of family togetherness and responsibility to one another.
“We were always close — all of us,” said Chanse. “We had our battles, we fought, but we were very close with each other.”
On March 11, 2006, they became closer still. Big brother Kelsi had moved to Hana and set up an idyllic life at the stairway to Heaven there on the southern coast of Maui. Diving, hunting and working at the Heavenly Hana Hotel, he was living a life that the rest of us only dream about. But then the Good Lord lent his mysterious hand to the family.
In a tragic, horrific hunting accident, Kelsi Kaahui was shot and died in the arms of one of his closest friends.
The family, shaken to the core, kept on, however, and slowly moved forward. A home of their own was built. The three sisters grew up and started families of their own. And Chanse multiplied his family values within the youth and high school wrestling programs on the West Side, forever embracing the spirit of his big brother.
It would be difficult to encapsulate the energy and work ethic that defines wrestling at the collegiate, high school and — to a lesser extent — the youth programs in this space. Suffice it to say that the extreme effort extended to reach the success levels attained at Lahainaluna High School over the last six years — six straight Maui Interscholastic League titles along with top-tier finishes at the state tournament each season — requires bonding and unity second only to blood-related families.
Chanse, who had watched Kelsi wrestle and play football for the Lunas, immersed himself in the sport, first with the Napili Surfriders youth team mentored by Kim Ball, and then at Lahainaluna under head coach Todd Hayase.
Mel and Uncle Buff also set up a scholarship award in Kelsi’s memory with Lunas wrestling. The spirit of the two brothers had blended into one.
In 2009, his freshman year, Uyeda won his first MIL championship, and last year he captured the 142-pound title and finished fourth at the state tournament.
This season, he moved up to the 147-pound bracket and swept through an undefeated regular season for his third straight MIL championship. And he wouldn’t be denied at the Neil Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, the site of the 2011 Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Championships.
Throughout his wrestling career, and particularly on the mat for the Lunas, Chanse has held on tightly to the hand of his brother.
“I would think of him before every match,” he said today. “When things got tough, I would think of him, and he would be telling me to push through it. He would always be telling me that.”
Chanse Uyeda suffered one loss this season — a defeat in the Maui Invitational Tournament — to a tough Iolani wrestler.
Two weeks ago at the state meet, Chanse pounded and dominated that same opponent from Iolani, won the gold medal and led the Luna boys to a third place overall finish.
Chanse has a tattoo of Kelsi on his right side, and as he raised his arms in exhilaration, we all could feel the skin on his side rise up in a broad smile of pride in his brother. We all could feel that beautiful, golden feeling that is Lahaina.