It’s pretty much a slam dunk that the Waiakea boys judo team will be in the hunt for another league title, throwing around a surplus of depth and talent.
The Warriors have won the last nine Big Island Interscholastic Federation team championships, and they’ll be shooting for 10 in a row with the same lineup.
Out of the 10 weight classes at BIIFs, they filled seven spots and return all the medalists: senior Adam Onishi, gold, 108 pounds; junior Xylon Takata, bronze, 114; senior Kellen Goya, gold, 121; junior Dayton Towata, silver, 132; senior Alan Ikehara, silver, 161; senior Kayed Rodrigues, gold, 198; and junior Kingston Poai, silver, 285.
All of those judoka went to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships. Goya was sixth while Towata and Ikehara were fourth.
To add to the team’s depth, there’s also junior Joshua Ohara, who got BIIF bronze in 2012; junior Ben Camero, who captured silver; and senior Justin Gray, who claimed bronze that same year.
“I think we have a really good chance for 10 in a row,” coach Jason Tanaka said. “I tell them it’s ours to lose. We’ll still have a bunch next year as well.”
Tanaka counts on senior sparkplugs Ikehara and Rodrigues for providing a strong work ethic. Both are coming off BIIF gold in wrestling — Ikehara at 152 pounds and Rodrigues at 182. They were third and second, respectively at states in wrestling.
Last year at BIIFs, Hilo senior Kevin Rapoza, the No. 3 seed, upset Ikehara, the No. 1 seed and a judoka with a strong background. Ikehara was silver as a sophomore at 145.
“I think that will make him more determined to play harder and take the title,” Tanaka said. “I’m not sure what weight he wants to go at. But I know he’ll be at the weight Kevin is at, whatever weight he goes. Alan is constantly training and he wants to do better. Even after a loss, he’ll take that and learn from it.
“Kayed is another one who works really hard in practice. He’s got technique and is strong as well. Being seniors, it’s a big push for them to do well.”
Last year at BIIFs, one of the best matchups was at 198 pounds when Rodrigues jumped a weight class and beat Keaau’s Haaheo Chan, who won the title in 2012 as a sophomore.
At states, the two juniors entered in the same 198 weight class. Rodrigues didn’t get into the medal round. Chan took home a bronze medal by ippon.
As senior wrestlers, they were in different weight divisions. Chan won the BIIF title at 195 and took silver at states, the same color medal as his rival Rodrigues at 182.
Whether Chan and Rodrigues face off at the same weight class at either 198 or 220 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Waiakea won’t have to worry about depth for the foreseeable future.
Tanaka has a roster of 32 judoka, 27 boys but just five girls, led by senior and BIIF silver medalist Skye Matsuura, who was second at states last year.
That’s one spot higher than Tanalei Louis, the Konawaena standout and 2013 graduate, who beat her at the BIIF championships. After her bronze at states for judo, Louis landed a wresting scholarship at Oklahoma City University.
“We’ve been lucky. Every year we get a lot of interest and consistently fill weight classes,” Tanaka said. “The biggest key for judo is to fill all 10 spots and you have a really good at taking the team title.
“Skye came back really determined. She wants to do well since it’s her last year. Hopefully, she can do just as well at states, too. For a girl, she’s really strong.
“The girls title is a longshot. We can’t fill all 10 slots with the five we’ve got. But I’m hoping we win every weight class.”
Editor’s note: A BIIF girls judo preview story ran on Friday in the Tribune-Herald sports section.