Graduates Nanea Estrella and Joshua Tihada moving on to compete at the collegiate level
LAHAINA – Their cherubic exterior demeanor belies the championship caliber fortitude that resides within the spirits of Lahainaluna High School scholar-athletes Nanea Estrella and Joshua Tihada.
The angelic faces of the two graduating seniors – Estrella headed for Menlo College on a wrestling scholarship with a 3.56 grade point average, and Tihada bound for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas as a preferred walk-on for the football team with a 3.5 GPA – highlight the physical presence of two of the most gifted athletes in the history of Luna sports.
More importantly, the two of them represent the deep, cherished character of the West Side community and the nurturing nature of Maui. In these days of historic turmoil and anxiety worldwide, the Estrella and Tihada families stand for togetherness, respect and hard work – the key to success in life and emotional stability.
That combination of ohana and the golden traditions at Lahainaluna have created pathways to unmitigated success for the wrestling and football programs.
Tihada helped the Lunas to four Maui Interscholastic League and Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships, while Estrella aided the wrestling team to MIL and state titles.
Individually, Estrella became just the second MIL wrestler (Lahainaluna’s Lalelei Mataafa was the other) to win four state championships – at 117, 122, 127 and 132 pounds. She was recently inducted into the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Hall of Honor Class of 2020, named the national winner of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award, and was honored with the Lahainaluna Most Distinguished Senior Athlete Award.
“I am just so thankful to my parents Johana and Isaac, my brother Kainalu and all of the coaches. They (the coaches) were all like dads to me – I love and respect them all. Most of all, my mom and dad taught me how to be a strong and independent person and shaped who I am today,” she said.
Luna wrestling coach Todd Hayase summed it up in saying, “Nanea was pound-for-pound the toughest, most physical and strong-minded wrestler on this year’s team. She was a definite beast and strong-minded and confident. Her work ethic and leadership, along with our other captains, led our 2020 teams to MIL titles and strong state showings. She wanted to always challenge herself and compete against anyone. Above all, it is her character, values and positive personality that I will miss the most.”
Tihada was named to the HHSAA Hall of Honor Class of 2020 and All-State Football Team, and he was also honored with the Most Distinguished Senior Athlete Award at Lahainaluna.
In helping the Lunas to those four consecutive championships, he set numerous MIL and HHSAA scoring and rushing records while spearheading the team’s vaunted running attack.
There is no doubt about the positive influence of the Tihada family in Lahaina. And Joshua does not hesitate to credit his family – mom Sheri, dad Joey, brothers Kaulana and Justice, as well as Uncle Lanny and Coach Garret – for nurturing the important values of hard work, respect and responsibility that have helped shape the person he is today.
“I had so many role models growing up, and I learned the important lessons of working hard and taking care of responsibilities,” he said.
Lunas Co-head Coach Dean Rickard summed it up in saying, “As a football coach, we are always looking for that special player who comes along and forever leaves a lasting impression of what the Lahainaluna football program exemplifies, and at the top of that list is Joshua Tihada. Joshua is a homegrown kid that was literally born and raised to be a Luna. The past four seasons, he has been the workhorse for the team and an integral part of the overall success of the team.
“What stands out about him was his relentless work ethic, positive mind set and ability to adapt. Joshua served as a constant reminder to his teammates that if you’re willing to dedicate and commit yourself by putting in the time and effort needed, you will be successful. He embodied the role of the student-athlete and serves as a great example to all students and athletes.
“Joshua has put in the time and effort, on and off the field, in the hope that great opportunities will come his way. His maturity, intelligence and never quit mentality will certainly serve him well at the collegiate level and in his journey through life.
“We wish him nothing but success, and especially would like to thank him for all he has done for the Lahainaluna football program and for the legacy he leaves behind,” Rickard concluded.