Lahainaluna teammates train with the nation’s top teen wrestlers
LAHAINA – They are petite, sweet 17-year-olds who truly exemplify the grassroots spirit of our island community. Warm and friendly, they are easily engaged and talkative – that is, until these teenagers put on a singlet and step onto the mat to represent the highly regarded Lahainaluna High School wrestling program.
That red wrestling singlet does not have an “S” emblazoned on the chest, but the Lahainaluna High School emblem that’s there does represent real life superpowers found in these teen student-athletes.
Sami Saribay, Tayler Pelegrino Hayase and Nanea Estrella, standout wrestlers for the gold standard Luna wrestling program, recently returned from a 41-day training journey through Oregon, Idaho and North Dakota that culminated with sterling efforts by all three at the National Cadet and Junior National Championships at Fargo, North Dakota.
Estrella, a two-time state champion, won a silver medal in the 122-pound Cadet classification and All-American honors.
Saribay also earned All-American recognition with a fourth place finish at 100 pounds at Fargo. She is a defending state titlist at 107, and Hayase is a multiple state placer at 132 pounds.
Luna boys making the trip included Kawehi Gilcoat – who had an impressive start to the excursion but suffered an unfortunate shoulder injury at Pocatello – and Keaka Kuuana.
According to Lahainaluna coach Todd Hayase, that tournament – and the courageous performances the Maui contingent put forth – were simply the “icing on the cake.
“It was the daily two-a-day practices, five-mile runs and countless match-ups with the top teen wrestlers in the nation that will pay dividends in the future. That whole experience that the girls and boys had represents their commitment to excellence and the discipline required to be successful. They really get tremendous support from their parents and families, and from the community.”
Perhaps the most influential mentor for the Luna wrestlers is longtime Coach Conrad Bolor, who opens up his home in the Mill Camp neighborhood for weightlifting and inspirational gatherings.
Saribay said, “Coach Conrad takes great care of all of us and teaches us about wrestling and life. We go over there five times a week to lift and start training runs. He is truly a great mentor to all of us.”
Another important leader has been Nate Williams and his wife, Liza, the official Team Mom. They are on sabbatical leave on the Mainland with much of their time involved in wrestling camps for their children: Bella, already a national champion at age 11, and Oscar, who will be soon vying for a similar title.
The Williams family hooked up with the ten-member Hawaii team with the Sons of Thunder program at Castle Rock, Colorado, to train at various camps, including the U.S. Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs.
Coach Nate and Team Mom Liza served as chaperones, drivers and mentors for the group throughout the trip.
“We worked out with the Sons of Thunder Team for 21 days. The kids slept on air mattresses in an elementary school next to the gym and worked out three times a day. We also worked out with Team Colorado and the USA National Team at the Olympic Training Center for three days. By the time we took the 15-hour drive up to Fargo, we were ready to take on anyone,” said Coach Nate.