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Konawaena judoka cap dominant careers

TIM WRIGHT/Tribune-Herald  Konawaena’s Justin Raymond flips teammate Lihau Matsuoka on Saturday to win his fourth BIIF judo title.


Tribune-Herald sports writer

Konawaena seniors Tanalei Louis and Justin Raymond got their final golds at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation judo individual championships on Saturday, piling more first-place finishes on top of their mountains of perfection.

Both won in the most impressive fashion, by ippon or automatic victory via hard throw, at Waiakea High’s gym. Louis defeated Waiakea’s Skye Matsuura and Raymond ipponed his sophomore teammate Lihau Matsuoka.

Louis is 3 for 3, capturing the 129-pound weight class every time she’s been in the league’s individual title match. As a sophomore, she skipped judo and played softball. The Wildcats, coached by her mom Malia Louis, won the BIIF Division II title in 2011 and Louis still placed first with a team trophy.

Likewise, Raymond has been dominant throughout his career and is 4 for 4, winning the 108 class as a freshman and sophomore, and the 114 division twice.

Louis is 4 for 4 for BIIF titles in wrestling, and has a heavy collection of medals from the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament. She has three bronzes, including her latest in March, and a silver.

She is the defending state champion in the 129 class for judo, winning gold last year in memory of her grandmother, Pualani Louis, who passed away in October 2011. Louis also brought home silver as a freshman.

Raymond can’t match Louis’ judo/wrestling BIIF perfection streak. She’s 7 of 7. He’s 7 of 8, placing fourth at the BIIF wrestling championships as a freshman in 2010.

His state trophy case is only missing a gold medal. Last year at states for judo, he finished runner-up. Raymond took home bronze as a senior and junior at states for wrestling.

“I really want a gold, after losing in wrestling and getting third at states,” said Raymond, who beat Matsuoka by tomoe nage, or what’s basically a bicycle throw, flipping someone from your back. “I was just lucky. We practice every day together. Luck has a lot to do with it. I was lucky I made it that far at states and got silver, too.”

Kona coach Rodney Branco points out that there’s more to being a champion, especially one with multiple golds, than just plain, old good luck. He looks at Raymond and Louis as true students of the game.

“Part of their success is their work ethic and their wrestling, too. They train all year long,” he said. “No other sports you have to worry about your weight. They do that all year long and that always comes with discipline. They never miss practice. They’re the first ones in and the last ones out at practice. They always do what needs to be done. They always work on their games and are never satisfied.

“Justin has wanted to win a state gold since he was a freshman. It’s a huge motivation. It’s his last chance and it’s all guns blazing for him. Tanalei didn’t get her gold in wrestling, but she wants to go out on top and do something big before she heads off to college.”

Louis is looking at the University of Cumberland, a Division II school in Kentucky, or Oklahoma City University, a Division I school, to wrestle and study. Branco is hoping Raymond will join the coaching staff if he goes to the Hawaii Community College in Kona.

Meanwhile, Louis has no second thoughts about missing an 8-for-8 opportunity, accomplished last year by 2012 Kamehameha graduate Megan Aina, the only BIIF judoka/wrestler to win state gold for both sports and have that perfection streak.

“I have no regrets. I was young and wanted to try something else,” Louis said. “It feels really good and it feels fantastic to go 7 of 7. Well, I did go 8 for 8 with the softball title. Hard work always pays off. That and dedication and commitment. My wrestling complements my judo and my judo complements my wrestling. It goes hand in hand.

“Justin and I practice a lot together. He’s quick and agile and I’m an opposite (left-handed) thrower. He’s right-handed and it works hand in hand for us, if he has to face an opposite.”

Raymond also practices with Matsuoka, who won the 108 title last year as a freshman. They’ve been friends since elementary school days. But Matsuoka is growing and couldn’t make his old weight and had to face his mentor.

“We train hard every day and Justin taught me all my moves and showed me some counters, too,” Matsuoka said. “I was surprised he did that tomoe nage. I didn’t think he would do that. Last year, he did that to me in an exhibition.

“I tried to get out of the way. He pulled me down when I was going up. It’s called an elevator.”

Raymond vise-gripped Matsuoka’s gi, rolled to his back, then put a leg on his teammate’s chest and flipped him up and over. It was a beautiful move, resembling the bicycle kick soccer players make in mid-air.

After Raymond got to his feet, a sense of accomplishment washed over his face. Following the age-old tradition of sportsmanship, the teammates bowed to each other. Then the sophomore Wildcat summed up what another BIIF title meant for Raymond, and Louis, too.

“It’s his big moment,” Matsuoka said. “It’s his senior year.”


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