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State champion Luna wrestling teams return strong competitors

By Staff | Dec 31, 2015

The Lahainaluna High School wrestling program has three defending state champions in Lalelei Mata‘afa (above), Alexis Encinas and Justin Inovejas. PHOTO BY GLEN PASCUAL.

“You go back, Jack, do it again; wheel turning round and round. You go back, Jack, do it again.” – Steely Dan

After banging on the door for a decade or more, the Lahainaluna High School wrestling program busted down the barricade that had blocked their ascension to the pinnacle of the sport last season with a two-headed monster that captured state championships in the boys and girls divisions.

Now the hard part begins as, no matter what the sport, repeating as the champion is always a most difficult task to accomplish.

The Lunas look to be up to the task, particularly on the girls’ side of the mat in the wrestling room in the Jimmie H. Greig Gymnasium on the Lahainaluna campus.

A veteran staff led by co-head coaches Todd Hayase and Conrad Bolor, along with assistants Shane Cunanan, Zane Monteleone, Neal Nakata, Kim Ball, Sheldon Tateyama, Lindsay Ball and Conrad Bolor Jr., have their charges primed and ready to roll after a summer and fall of rigorous training at various camps in Hawaii and on the Mainland.

The boys team has won ten consecutive Maui Interscholastic League titles, while the girls have taken six straight, and the state championships were the first ever won by an outer island school.

The roster numbers are down compared to previous years with 45 student athletes coming out, but quality competitors return to fill almost every weight class for the Lady Lunas.

Returning state placers include gold medalists Alexis Encinas (107 pounds) and Lalelei Mata’afa (225); bronze medalist Ivy Navarro (102); fifth place finisher Karina Arroyo-Haro; and sixth place winners Kaile Kron (117) and Pohai Miyamoto (184).

For the boys, state champ Justin Inovejas (138) returns along with bronze medal winner Kainalu Estrella and fifth place finisher Izaak Panlasigui-Domingo (106).

The heavier weight classes could be a problem for the Lunas, as those categories have been troublesome in the early invitational meets for the boys team.

“We’re trying to individualize the kids to help them figure out their own wrestling style,” explained Coach Cunanan last week.

“We’re breaking into more techniques to help them find their own style and try to get them at their peak at the right time of the season with a rise in the intensity level. We’ve tried to keep it interesting but also trying to go hard all year long. Also important is getting the kids to understand our one team, one family philosophy – we try to get them to have fun and get better at the same time.”

Navarro, Kron and Encinas are the girls team captains, while Inovejas and Estrella are the boys team leaders.

Both teams began regular season competition on Tuesday, Dec. 29, that will continue through mid-February, when the MIL championships to determine state entries will take place. The state championships are slated for Feb. 20 in Honolulu.

Coach Shane emphasized the program’s gratitude to the West Side community.

“The support we get from the community is amazing. From businesses like TS Restaurants, Royal Lahaina Resort and Minit Stop, to families like the Ah Pucks and Tihadas, the contributions they make really fuel our success,” he concluded.