By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Pahoa sophomore Reed Hayashikawa wrestled uphill all day, finishing his Big Island Interscholastic Federation field with a 2-1 record, and a better appreciation that there’s always room for improvement.
He usually competes in the 140-pound weight class, but jumped to the 145 division, where the competition was a little stronger and tougher Saturday at Koai‘a Gym in an East schools meet.
It’s nothing new for Hayashikawa, who has challenged himself before. As a rookie freshman, he competed at 135 during the season, but took one for the team and placed fifth in the 145 class at the BIIF championships.
“I’m 5 pounds over my weight class, and they’re much stronger than me,” Hayashikawa said. “I try to adapt, stay focused and work everything from top to bottom. I have to use anything I can. Whatever is out there, I have to take it.”
He pinned his first two opponents, then lost 17-15 in overtime to Keaau’s Roy Martinez, who fell to Hayashikawa at an earlier meet. Martinez, a physical Cougar with good counter moves and flexibility, placed fifth in the 140 class at the BIIF championships last season.
At least, Hayashikawa can take comfort that he fought a good fight, and it was exciting to the end, especially in the third period. With 17 seconds left, he was behind 14-13 and in the bottom position, down on all fours.
He needed an escape, worth one point, or a reversal, worth two. Hayashikawa used his speed, switched positions and grabbed a 15-14 lead. Then Martinez got an escape with three seconds left to force the extra period.
It was the big fish that got away, a lesson learned and another log to throw on his fire of determination.
“I have to work harder in practice and be on top of things,” Hayashikawa said. “I want to place at BIIFs and go to states, if not this year, I’ve got two more years. There’s hard competition at 140. There are two seniors.”
Waiakea’s Keoni Rice and Kamehameha’s Kawika Gibson figure to offer the toughest competition in the 140 class. It’s their last year as seniors, so they’ll swing for the fences. Both are accomplished; Rice was second and Gibson third in the 135 division at the BIIF championships last year.
Hayashikawa remembers that he lost to Gibson two weeks ago, and that Rice beat the Kamehameha senior. The Pahoa sophomore hasn’t faced the Rice, so a true pecking order hasn’t been established yet. But that’s coming fast with the all-schools meet next Saturday at Keaau.
“It’s his second year and he’s really improved a lot from last year,” said Pahoa co-coach Madonna Hoomanawanui, who coaches with her brother, Elvis Lum. “Wrestling has been good for him. His wrestling has improved and it’s made him a better student and person. It’s given him an incentive. If he keeps it up, he’s got a good chance to make states.
“Last year at the Konawaena preseason meet, it was his first time on the mat. We barely had any mat time, and he surprised us. When we saw this kid, we realized he was going to be good and had to push him to keep him going.”
The Pahoa coaching siblings and assistant Ryan Smith, who jokes that he’s got two popular names (grandpa is Robert Smith), are cultivating a strong sense of belief, especially among rookies and one in particular named Yvonne Lum.
“We have a 90-pounder go from cheerleading to wrestling,” Hoomanawanui said. “She has the drive for it. We’re working on her stamina. She’s one of the smallest, but she has surprised me a lot. A lot of girls might think they can’t do a sport like wrestling; Yvonne shows that you can. It doesn’t matter how small you are. She’s a strong girl and has impressed me.”
Lum was out with an injury, as was Maile Tadeo, the defending BIIF champion in the 98 class. “We’ve got nine girls,” Hoomanawanui said. “Maile is the only experienced one. The rest of the girls are in their first year. But every single one has surprised me and the coaching staff.”
That building of positive spirit has helped Hayashikawa, as much as the technical tips.
“Our team is strong, and we’ve got a big team. We’ve got good support,” he said. “Everybody helps each other out. My coaches help me a lot. They bring me on my feet after a loss.”