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Estrella wins gold medal at United World Wrestling Junior Nationals

By BY WALTER CHIHARA - | Dec 4, 2020

Menlo College is one of the nation’s top women’s wrestling programs, and Nanea Estrella hopes to compete on the team while studying for a degree in marketing and psychology.

LAHAINA — The true grit of Maui grown youth is manifested in the club and high school wrestling programs across the county. In particular, that powerful spirit has emerged at Lahainaluna High School through the sterling accomplishments of the Luna wrestling team.

Lahainaluna has dominated the Maui Interscholastic League for more than a decade, and both the girls and boys teams have consistently finished in the top six at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championship tournament over that span.

A prominent leader in the Luna charge has been 2020 graduate Nanea Estrella, a four-time state champion (at 117, 122, 127 and 132 pounds), HHSAA Hall of Honor inductee, Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award winner, The Maui News Maui Interscholastic League Girl Athlete of the Year, and Lahainaluna High School Most Distinguished Senior Athlete Award winner for the Class of 2020.

Estrella graduated with honors with a 3.46 grade point average and earned an athletic scholarship to Menlo College in Northern California.

Most recently, the Makawao girl won the 55-kilogram gold medal at the prestigious United World Wrestling Junior Nationals at Omaha, Nebraska.

“I am just so thankful to my parents, my brother Kainalu, and all of my coaches for helping me reach my goals,” she said. “The coaches were all like dads to me, and I love and respect them all.”

Zane Monteleone is one of those coaches and remains one of the prominent influences in Estrella’s life. After her first year at Lahainaluna in the boarding program, she decided to stay with Coach Zane and his wife, Cynthia, for her sophomore year, and then drove the four-hour daily round-trip commute to finish her sterling high school career.

“I am so extremely proud of Nanea for attending college at Menlo and training and competing at the highest level. She is on track to smash all of her goals, and we just couldn’t be happier for her life success,” said Coach Zane, who was caught on statewide television being taken down to the Blaisdell Arena floor by Estrella after she won her final high school state title.

Lahainaluna coach Todd Hayase concurred in saying, “Nanea was pound-for-pound the toughest, most physical and strong wrestler on this year’s team. She is strong minded and confident, and her work ethic and leadership helped lead our team to success. She always wanted to challenge herself. Above all, it was her character, values and positive personality that I will miss the most.”

Most of all, Nanea doesn’t hesitate to credit her family for her life success.

“My parents, Johana and Isaac, and my brother, Kainalu taught me how to be a strong and independent person. They shaped who I am today. My dad was my first wrestling coach with the Upcountry Wrestling Club, and Alexis Encinas was my wrestling partner throughout the years,” she said.

“I am just so thankful for all that have helped me along on this journey,” Estrella concluded.