Kayed Rodrigues and Haaheo Chan are like two Bighorn rams fighting for dominance across the Rocky Mountains, waiting to knock the other off, knowing there’s room for only one.
Only the scenario is different.
They’re the top two 198-pound contenders at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation judo individual championships, which figure to feature a lot of exciting matchups.
But none will be more entertaining if Rodrigues, a Waiakea senior, and Chan, a Keaau senior, don’t slip on their way to the BIIF finale’s mountain top.
Quick side note: last year there was a whopper menu of upsets. Six lower seeds took down higher seeds, including five on the boys side. Five No. 1 seeds took a tumble.
The top three in the 10 weight divisions earn berths to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships, which will be held Saturday, May 10 on Oahu.
Rodrigues is the defending league champion. He won BIIF gold as a junior at 178 pounds and took third as a freshman.
A year ago, he had adventure on his mind, and no apprehension about battling someone his equal.
Rodrigues jumped up a weight class from 178 pounds to face Chan, who took up judo as a sophomore and pocketed BIIF gold at 198 pounds.
“It should be a good matchup,” Waiakea coach Jason Tanaka said. “They’re really evenly matched in strength and technique.”
At states last year, the two entered in the same 198 weight class. Rodrigues didn’t advance to the medal round. Chan took home a bronze medal by ippon.
Unfortunately in wrestling, their other shared sport, the two didn’t meet in a showdown at the BIIF championships.
As senior wrestlers, they were in different weight divisions. Chan won the BIIF title at 195 pounds and took silver at states, the same color medal as his rival Rodrigues at 182 pounds.
On Saturday at Rodrigues’ home mat, it might be the last tango between the two, unless they cross paths at states.
While Chan has the motivation of a second-place finish from last year, Rodrigues has a chance to add to his Waiakea judo-wrestling legacy. He could finish 6 of 8 in BIIF gold for both sports, after a pair of bronze as a freshman.
Chan’s collection includes BIIF judo gold as a rookie sophomore and silver from last year, and wrestling gold as a senior and bronze as a sophomore.
Hilo senior Lahi Kanakanui has a chance to go 7 of 8 in BIIF judo-wrestling gold. She’s captured the last three judo titles at 139 pounds. She’s jumped a weight division to 154 pounds this season.
She’s also a three-time BIIF wrestling champion, and was third as a freshman. Kanakanui took home fourth at states in February.
However, she was injured and sat out the BIIF team championships last Saturday at Konawaena. Not one to sit idly by, Kanakanui helped coach her fellow Vikings to the league title.
If she doesn’t compete on Saturday, her 6 of 7 BIIF judo-wrestling gold mark stamps her as the greatest dual Viking and puts her behind 2012 Kamehameha graduate Megan Aina’s 8 of 8, and 2013 Konawaena graduate Tanalei Louis’ 7 of 7. Louis played softball as a sophomore, and skipped judo.
Several of Kanakanui’s teammates are defending judo champions: two-time champ Shalyn Arakaki (98 pounds), Katie Funai (109) and Marissa Guerra (122). Arakaki (103 pounds) and Funai (115) have bumped up a weight class.
Besides Rodrigues, the Warriors also feature one other BIIF defending champion in Kellen Goya (121 pounds, now at 132) and two strong contenders in Dayton Towata (132) silver, and Alan Ikehara (161, now at 178), silver.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to Waiakea coach Tanaka if the BIIF individual championships resemble last week’s team finals. The Warriors won their fourth straight league crown with the same blueprint as the Vikings.
“Hilo has got nine of the girls weight classes covered,” he said. “They’ve got quality players. When you’ve got quality and numbers that’s hard to beat.
“We’ve got nine boys and there’s pretty much quality at every weight class.”