By J.R. De GROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
KAILUA-KONA — With the wrestling season still very young, a lot is still to be determined, but Saturday’s meet hosted by Kealakehe High School was be a good indicator for who has been working hard in the offseason and has a leg up on the deep field of Big Island Interscholastic Federation competitors.
Defending BIIF boys team champion Waiakea had an impressive showing at the meet. Warriors Kade Rodrigues (195 pounds), Justus Mikkelson (182), Dylan Sanchis (145) and Austin Kuahuai (138) all finished with undefeated records.
Despite the performance, Waiakea coach Caleb Nixon — who filled in for head coach Stan Haraguchi on Saturday — was timid to say the Warriors were the favorite to repeat as the BIIF boys champions.
“I feel it would almost be ignorant to say we are going to repeat this early in the year,” Nixon said. “But being BIIF champions is always the goal, and then obviously also to place highly on the state level. I think a lot of our guys have the potential to do well on that stage.”
Kealakehe — the host school Saturday — has a deep roster of athletes. Head coach Mike Ciotti said he often has up to 40 kids working hard at practice.
“I think there is more of a wrestling culture emerging,” Ciotti said. “We have a lot of wrestling families on our team, who have had family members wrestle in the past.”
A Waverider to watch this year is Destiny Masters. Masters is the defending BIIF 113-pound champion and has worked hard in the offseason to make her senior year the best yet.
“At practice when I feel I can’t take it anymore, I just think of the goal of winning states and it keeps me going,” said Masters, who placed eighth at the state meet last season. “Even when I do win a match, I can always feel like there are things I can work on and learn from.”
Masters got in the weight room in the offseason, jumping weight-classes from 113 to 121 pounds.
Saturday, Masters convincingly won both of her matches. Kealakehe teammate Pauline Gampon, wrestling in the 130-pound weight class, was also a perfect 2-0.
“They have been working hard and coming together as a team and supporting each other,” Ciotti said. “Each and every week I have seen improvement.”
Winton Palik also went 2-0 Saturday in the 285-pound weight class, showing off the power and athleticism that earned him a second-consecutive selection as All-BIIF first-team offensive lineman for Kealakehe.
“Winton came to me and said he wants to play football at the college level, but was ready for another year of wrestling,” said Ciotti.
Honokaa contended for the boys team crown last season, and looks to be on pace to do so again. Payton Cawagas (145) and Austin Sprague (160) put on notable performances Saturday, combining to go 4-0 on the mat.