Waiakea junior Dayton Towata was at his best at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation judo individual championships on Saturday, winning the 132-pound title with his quickness, technique and most of all his determination.
He defeated Konawaena senior Shon Inouye, a longtime rival on the club judo scene, at the Warriors gym, resuming his long-term dominance.
Last year, after Inouye upset Towata, he estimated he was 0-12 against the smaller Warrior, who stands 5 feet 3 1/2 inches.
Towata faced Inouye twice this season and won both times at the BIIF team championships last week and again on his home mat, a victory he credited to his coaching staff and fellow Warriors, especially his practice partner Skye Matsuura.
She won the girls 129-pound title. They compete against each other at practice, not necessarily to beat the other but to improve technique. And Towata’s target in mind was always Inouye.
“It was a long season to prepare against him, and train every day,” said Towata, who won gold as a freshman. “Last year at states I was fourth. I hope to place a little higher and make my teammates proud, especially Skye, who pushes me at practice. Hopefully, Shon and I can meet again at states.”
Towata comes from a judo family, and got into club judo in the fourth grade. His grandfather James Shimazu and uncle Jason Shimazu are black belts.
“It’s pretty much my first and only sport,” Towata said. ” I love the bond you share with a team. You’re dedicated and do everything together, work out, cut weight, train together, diet together.”
He’s a lot like Matsuura, who has a 3.92 grade-point average, a high achiever in academics. Towata holds a 3.97 GPA, getting, like his Warrior sister, only one costly B, which came as a freshman in math.
“Last year, I took one AP (advanced placement) class because I was 1 to 2 percent away from a 4.0,” Towata said. “This year, I’m taking three AP classes. But it’s hard. Hopefully, I can get a 4.0 or higher. That was my one goal from the beginning, to be one of the valedictorians.”
Towata is a worker bee at Waiakea, where he’s the class president, a role he had last year, too. As a freshman, he was the treasurer. He’s thinking about a college in Oregon, and majoring in biology to become a pediatrician.
In his student government role, he pointed to teamwork as his most memorable experience, solving problems, big or small, with the cooperation of his staff.
It’s the same type of hard-nosed determination he takes to the mat as a customary underdog because of his size.
“In some ways, it’s an advantage,” he said. “Because I’m closer to the mat, it makes it a lot easier to go into the legs. The disadvantage is if someone’s taller I have to stretch my legs to get them over for a throw.”
Towata’s determination erases a lot of disadvantages and deficits, whether it’s on the judo mat or tackling his studies to chase his coveted 4.0 GPA.
“When my parents signed me up for judo, they wanted me to learn a life lesson in sports,” said Towata, who then offered his championship motto. “If you start something, do it until the end. Don’t give up and don’t cut yourself short.”