Lahainaluna senior working to replace worn out mat for wrestlers
LAHAINA — Lahainaluna High School wrestling coach Todd Hayase, who has guided the Lunas to five straight Maui Interscholastic League championships, would be the first one to tell you that he’s had plenty of help in developing one of the premiere programs in the state.
And among those at the top of that list would be Lahainaluna senior Cherise Milanio.
According to Coach Todd, this 17-year-old has worked tirelessly throughout her four years as the Luna wrestling student manager to become a vital component of the team’s success.
“In all my years of coaching, she is probably the best team manager we’ve ever had at Lahainaluna. No one could have done what she has in being organized and efficient to take care of the needs of the team and the coaching staff. It was amazing that she would sometimes get things done before we coaches even said anything,” he said.
“And, it takes a special person to put up with the coaches and their unique, raw personalities. I guess we keep her on her toes,” added Hayase, who led the team to girls and boys titles in 2010 and five top five finishes and two runner-up trophies at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Tournament, along with eight individual gold medalists over that span.
As her latest endeavor to help the program, as her senior project — a graduation requirement at Lahainaluna — Cherise has taken on the task to raise the money necessary to bring a new mat to the Wrestling Room in the Jimmie H. Grieg Gymnasium on the Lahainaluna campus.
“Our wrestling mat is in horrible shape — in fact, it’s no longer safe,” she said.
This mat has been used over the years by both the Lahainaluna team during the high school season in the winter months, and then by the Lahaina Roughnecks youth program in the spring.
“With the Department of Education budget cuts, there is no way we would be getting a new mat in the near future. So, I’ve decided to devote my senior project to raising money for the purchase of a new wrestling mat,” she explained.
A new mat that will measure approximately 50 feet by 40 feet to replace the one currently in use for 15 years will cost $16,000 to $17,000, including shipping costs from the manufacturer in Pennsylvania.
Milanio has embarked on the fund-raising campaign with an upcoming huli-huli chicken sale, letter writing effort, donation cans and planned car washes and bake sales.
“I wanted to do a project that would benefit the community, and the coaches told me that they needed a new wrestling mat, so I decided to make this my senior project,” she said.
“My sister, Vicky Milanio, wrestled and was a two-time state placer.”
Cherise’s boyfriend over the years has been Holden Mowat, a four-time MIL champion and two-time state placer with gold and silver medals over the last two seasons. Asked how long they have been going together, she quickly answered with a big smile: “Four years and two months.” Indeed, wrestling is a big part of Cherise’s life.
“Yes, wrestling is really in me. We’ll get started with the fund-raising in the coming weeks, and we’ve already received over $1,000 in donations. I am happy to do this, and I’m very thankful to Coach Todd and Coach Kim (Ball) for their support. I couldn’t do this without them,” she said.
Of course, Coach Todd is happy for Cherise — who earns a 3.2 grade point average and plans to study business management or early childhood development after graduation — and the prospects of a new mat for Lahainaluna.
“I am so proud of her to take on a project of this magnitude. It has always been a pleasure to work with her, and I’m sure she’ll learn invaluable skills in goal setting, organization and communication with this project. And, you know, she’ll learn just how special the Lahaina community is in doing this. She’ll see for herself how strong the support is,” he concluded.
Send donations to the Lahainaluna High School Foundation, a 501c-3 nonprofit. Mail checks to Lahainaluna High School Foundation, P.O. Box 11617, Lahaina, HI 96761, or use your credit card by calling Leslie Hiraga, LHS Foundation executive director, at (808) 661-5332. Hiraga may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.