By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
In a day of Upset Specials, Kellen Goya entered as the No. 3 seed at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation judo individual championships and wasn’t favored to capture the 121-pound weight class on Saturday.
But the Waiakea junior took down top-seeded Kamehameha senior Charles Aina III to kick-start a string of upsets on the boys side at the Warriors Gym, where an abundance of enthusiasm flowed all afternoon long.
In the next weight class, 132, Konawaena junior Shon Inouye, the No. 2 seed, figured he was 0-12 lifetime against top seed and defending BIIF champion Dayton Towata, a tough and talented Waiakea sophomore.
But Inouye won, and so did Hilo junior and No. 3 Kevin Rapoza, who toppled Waiakea junior and top seed Alan Ikehara at 161. Rapoza couldn’t remember the last time or if he ever had beaten Ikehara, a BIIF wrestling champion at 152.
In a battle of Hilo teammates, No. 5 Austin Nakamura defeated freshman Kenneth Kitahata. In the other upset, No. 4 Kanalu Awai-Martins, from Kamehameha, beat Keaau’s Dennis Oandason, the No. 2 seed.
One of the best matchups was Waiakea junior Kayed Rodrigues, the defending 178 champion and third as a freshman, moving up a weight to take on Keaau senior Haaheo Chan, the defending 198 champ, who was fourth at states last year.
“I got bigger, but weighed in at 186 pounds,” said Rodrigues, a two-time BIIF wrestling champ at 171 and third as a freshman, the same path for both sports. “But I also wanted to challenge myself facing Haaheo.”
Rodrigues tried an opposite-side throw, from his left, three times. Chan blocked it twice. Third time was the charm, and the Warrior earned his gold.
Over on the girls side, everyone pulled rank, except for Hilo junior Shaylyn Arakaki, the No. 2 seed. However, she’s the 98 defending BIIF champion, and downed Kamehameha top seed Ana Delostrico.
“It’s kind of a shock that some of the top seeds went down,” Waiakea coach Jason Tanaka said. “But that’s all it takes, one good throw and that’s the cards you’re dealt. But everyone who lost was capable of winning. That just goes to show that anybody can be beaten.”
Inouye is in club judo at the Kona Hongwanji and competes against Towata at Hongwanji tournaments. They would meet over the years with the same result: Towata victorious. They never met during the BIIF season because Inouye played at 145.
About midway through the five-minute match, Inouye led 10-0. Then as the seconds kept counting down, Towata desperately needed an ippon for an automatic victory. But with gold on the line, Inouye made clear that defense does win championships.
“He would always win. I’ve never beaten him, but during club I could see myself getting closer and closer,” said Inouye, who was third last year and fourth as a freshman at 132. “But I practice with my teammates, like Justin Raymond. He’s a good teacher and we learn from each other. He’ll fix my throw, if I do it incorrectly, and he’s added more throws.
“I learned how to block his throws. I practiced blocking that. It feels great to win, but I feel bad that he got cramps toward the end. But it feels good to finally get that one win.”
Likewise, Ikehara has been Rapoza’s long-time nemesis. Rapoza, who was fifth last year and didn’t place as a freshman, can finally joke about all the losses to Ikehara, the runner-up at 145 last year.
“I lost to him so many times I can’t remember,” Rapoza said. “Winning at BIIFs was a main goal of mine. Now, I have a higher goal at states. Last year, I tried hard, but failed. I trained hard, listened to my coaches and got it.
“It was a pretty close match. I was more excited and amped. I went in a little scared, but used my adrenaline on the mat. It’s pretty exciting to win. It’s eye-opening. I can’t believe I beat the guy who’s beaten me for 12 years. I’ve been in club judo for 13 years.”
Goya has been at Shudokan Judo Club since he was 5 years old. Aina was at the club, too, and they competed against each other.
“Charlie is one of the best I played against. He’s really good and with his spirit he never gives up,” Goya said. “It feels great to win.”
Then the Waiakea junior got emotional, thinking about what gold meant to him. It wasn’t only a sense of accomplishment, it was also an appreciation for others — everyone who steered him toward his first BIIF title.
“I’ve practiced hard and I’ve got to thank Gregg Yonemori and Mike Hayashi. They are my first two sensei from the start and taught me everything I know,” said a red-eyed Goya. “I’ve been doing judo all my life and to see my goal come true is just a great feeling. But I know I have to keep practicing hard and get ready for states.”
Hilo junior Lahi Kanakanui is three-time BIIF judo champion, winning 139 every year. She’s never brought home a medal from the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, at least not in her second sport.
She’s a two-time BIIF champ in wrestling, taking gold at 140 the last two years. She was third as a freshman, denying her a shot for a perfect 8-for-8 league gold medal run. Kanakanui brought home bronze from state wrestling in March.
Kanakanui pinned Kealakehe’s Kealii Manila, relying on her strength and her solid wrestling technique to add to her gold collection. The successful Viking has won a lot at BIIFs, but it’s the third-place finish that really sharpened her.
“It’s my first time facing her and it feels good knowing I can go four years in a row as the defending BIIF champion,” she said. “I’m happy I placed third in wrestling. It made me work harder and I’m proud of the place I’m at right now.”
It was a good day to be a Viking. Besides Kanakanui and Arakaki (98), Lia Nakamura (172) defended their BIIF titles while first-year sophomore judoka Katie Funai (109) got gold, too. As a rookie wrestler, Funai also captured a BIIF championship at 109.
Last year as a junior, Nakamura pocketed gold at states, rallying from a fractured collarbone suffered as a freshman. In 2011, she won the BIIF title, but got hurt at states and finished sixth.
She sat out her sophomore year, recovering from her injury. Now in her last appearance, she heads to states with a bull’s-eye on her back.
“I’m kind of anxious,” Nakamura said. “I feel everyone will be out for me, the defending state champ. But you just have to train hard and have got to want it.”
Konawaena junior Aimee Shiraki, who beat Kamehameha’s Kiana Perreira for gold at 220, also knows the feeling of a lost season. Shiraki had a concussion and missed her sophomore year, after winning BIIFs and placing third at states.
Shiraki is a two-time BIIF champ in wrestling. She was third as a freshman. At states, she brought home bronze in March.
“It was difficult because I haven’t been practicing for a long time,” said Shiraki of her lost year. “I’ve been doing judo since I was 6 years old, so you don’t lose that knowledge. I just had to get back to the routine of practice. It’s like riding a bike.”
Kamehameha senior Welina Tong took the 154 title, prompting the question: Can she win gold in judo, too?
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” joked Tong, a state and BIIF wrestling champion at 175. “I have a lot more to do. It’s only my first match of the season. I’m going to do the best that I can.”
Saturday at Waiakea High
108 pounds: (No. 1 seed) Adam Onishi, Waiakea, defeated (2) Alex Rapoza, Hilo
114: (1) Justin Raymond, Konawaena, def. (2) Lihau Matsuoka, Kona
121: (3) Kellen Goya, Waiakea, def. (1) Charles Aina III, Kamehameha
132: (2) Shon Inouye, Kona, def. (1) Dayton Towata, Waiakea
145: (1) Ikaika Villanueva, Kamehameha def. (2) Kalae Trask-Sharp, Kamehameha
161: (3) Kevin Rapoza, Hilo, def. (1) Alan Ikehara, Waiakea
178: (5) Austin Nakamura, Hilo, def. (2) Kenneth Kitahata, Hilo
198: (1) Kayed Rodrigues, Waiakea, def. (2) Haaheo Chan, Keaau
220: (4) Kanalu Awai-Martins, Kamehameha, def. (2) Dennis Oandason, Keaau
275: (1) Zeph Pavao, Waiakea, def. (2) Kingston Poai, Waiakea
98: (2) Shalyn Arakaki, Hilo, def. (1) Ana Delostrico, Kamehameha
103: (1) Tehani Jones, Kamehameha, def. (2) Dominique Swift, Keaau
109: (1) Katie Funai, Hilo, def. (2) Tiari Carreira, Kamehameha
115: (1) Ruby Suarez, Kona, def. (2) Brittany Kenui, Kamehameha
122: (1) Marissa Guerra, Hilo, def. (2) Charissa Okumura, Waiakea
129: (1) Tanalei Louis, Kona, def. (2) Skye Matsuura, Waiakea
139: (1) Lahi Kanakanui, Hilo, def. (3) Kealii Manila, Kealakehe
154: (1) Welina Tong, Kamehameha, def. (2) Cherish Harris, Keaau
172: (1) Lia Nakamura, Hilo, def. (2) Kailey Lapenia, Kamehameha
220: (1) Aimee Shiraki, Kona, def. (2) Kiana Perreira, Kamehameha