By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Zephaniah Pavao and Keenan Greenbaum are more like friendly sibling rivals than fierce competitors, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put on a good show.
The pair of 285-pound heavyweights were the final match of a 9 1/2-hour day at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation wrestling championships. And as the old idiom goes, save the best for last.
They not only brought much anticipation to Keaau High’s gym Saturday, but also history between the two that only increased the drama, after all the matches were done and everyone’s eyes were trained on them.
Last year, Hawaii Prep’s Greenbaum pinned Keaau’s Pavao in the third round at Kealakehe High’s gym. The venue switched sides of the island and fortunately for Pavao it was on his home turf.
With the home crowd in his ear, Pavao pinned Greenbaum at the 1 minute and 47 second mark in the first round for his first BIIF championship.
Actually, the big Cougar is more successful in judo, a sport Greenbaum doesn’t participate in. He’s the two-time defending BIIF heavyweight champ, and was second as a freshman.
After his loss, whatever disappointed Greenbaum felt was buried by the camaraderie he felt for his friend.
“It was a good day. The better man won today,” said a smiling Greenbaum, who didn’t place as a sophomore and didn’t wrestle as a freshman. “I went for a takedown and he countered my mistake. He got it and knew what to do.
“It’s more of a sibling rivalry between us. We got at it on the mat. After that, it’s just us.”
Like Greenbaum, football is first for Pavao but wrestling runs a close second. He’s hoping to play football in college, if not he’ll turn to wrestling. Greenbaum is weighing football scholarships on the table.
Pavao’s wrestling gold was always a carrot on a stick, so close but far enough to motivate him. He got silver not only last year, but as a sophomore, too. As a freshman, he was fourth.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I wanted to take him to the third round and tire him out. I tried not to make any mistakes. I’m excited. I’m finally No. 1 after four years of wrestling.”
Keaau coach Charles Manning has been at the school for nine years. He watched the two heavyweight compete against each other the last two years. He also noticed that Pavao closed the gap.
“Those two kids have fought hard all year long, but in the last three against each other it was close,” he said of the matchups, standing at 2-2. “In the last two, Zeph was focused and if he could get under Greenbaum nobody is going to stop that because he’s strong with his base.
“I knew it was going to be a war. Zeph is strong and quick. You don’t see a big man who can shoot, get under you and pick you up. He was just focused and fighting at home I expected him to do well.”
Following are comments from the other winners:
97 pounds: Shaylyn Arakaki, Hilo, pinned Marie Danielle DeRosario, Kealakehe, 1:27 first round.
“I’m really proud of myself. I never thought wrestling would be my sport,” said Arakaki, a senior who repeated and went undefeated for the second year. “I”m really happy and accomplished what I wanted to do.”
101: Aaliyah Ching, Konawaena. No opponent.
105: Jade Cadaoas, Kealakehe, pinned Jessica Rabang, Waiakea, :39 first round.
‘It’s exciting that I get to go to states,” said Cadaoas, a senior, who was runner-up as a sophomore. “I took her down, had my head on her stomach, got a half-nelson and stacked her for the pin.”
109: Charlotte Taylor, Honokaa, pinned Kena Greenbaum, Kealakehe, 1:16 first round.
“I have to credit all my friends, family, coaches and my one lucky sock,” said Taylor, a freshman, who wears a pink sock on her right leg.
Taylor’s two pink socks were a Christmas gift. She went to a tournament with only one sock, won three matches that day and has continued her winning superstition.
113: Crystal Baysa, Kamehameha, defeated Katie Funai, Hilo, 9-8.
Last year, Funai pinned Baysa for the 109 title. Funai moved up a weight class and Baysa joined her, hoping her rival would give her hard rubs and make her better.
“I feel tired but that’s a good thing,” Baysa said. “She pushed me that much harder. Since I lost to her last year, my coaches told me I could have won, that I had the skill and stamina, but I wasn’t strong enough. This year, it was my second chance.
“One of the reasons I moved up is because she’s a strong wrestler and would give me good training for states.”
The two juniors pushed each other and now the shoe is on the other foot, with Baysa providing motivation for Funai.
“She’s good competition,” Funai said. “Now I have to work harder.”
117: Maria Hernandez, Hilo, pinned Tracy Galanto, Kealakehe, 4:37 third round.
“It’s my first year wrestling and my first sport. I’ve done a lot of clubs but no sports,” said Hernandez, a senior. “I wish I had did this my freshman year. Getting gold hasn’t hit me. I wasn’t supposed to be here. I injured my finger and begged my doctor to let me wrestle. I feel like it’s your mindset. If you feel it, you can accomplish a lot.”
121: Destiny Masters, Kealakehe, pinned Brandy Ilac-Wong, Honokaa, 1:04 first round.
“I sprained my right shoulder and tore a ligament in it,” said Masters, a senior. “I had to trust in God and everything would be OK.”
She earned her third gold. As a sophomore she was injured.
125: Kaiya Casuga, HPA, pinned Anais Huet, Kealakehe, :48 first round.
“I’m really excited. I tried my best, pushed myself, didn’t give up and executed,” said Casuga, a senior, who won the 121 title last year.
It’s her second year wrestling. She also runs cross country at HPA, and is in the school’s contemporary dance company, which performs at the school and in the community.
130: Ashlee Lopez, Keaau, pinned Pauline Gampon, Kealakehe, 2:51 second round.
“This feels good. It was good and fun out there,” said Lopez, a junior who repeated and earned bronze as a freshman. “We had to take care of our home, go out there and want it. I had to repeat my title.”
135: Loke Ching, HPA, pinned Skye Matsuura, Waiakea, 1:32 first round.
“It’s the sport of my family. My dad (Robert Ching) wrestled at Lahainaluna High School,” said Ching, a sophomore who defended her title. “His advice to me was, ‘Go out there and do your best.’ To place first in BIIFs opens up opportunities for me, like college, and it’s something I love.”
140: Kayla Araki, Kamehameha, pinned Savannah DePonte, Pahoa, 1:25 first round.
“I have a judo background, two years with a club,” said Araki, a freshman. “I’m happy and worked hard. I dropped from 155 to 140 pounds and was a vegetarian for the longest time. I feel like I have much to accomplish for the next three years.”
155: Lahi Kanakanui, Hilo, pinned Carleigh Vallente, Honokaa, 3:23 second round.
“It definitely makes me more confident for states,” said Kanakanui, a senior who won her third gold. “I feel good and happy. Hard work pays off.”
175: Kawena Ruamoo-Mendiola, Waiakea, defeated Leah Mello-Waiwaiole, 9-5.
“My coaches were dedicated and unreal for me,” Ruamoo-Mendiola said. “I’m a senior and wanted to leave it all out on the mat, and give it my all. She’s really strong and I had to dig deep.”
Last year, Ruamoo-Mendiola injured her ACL and didn’t wrestle. As a freshman, she was fourth at BIIFs and took silver as a sophomore.
220: Tia Kalalau, Kamehameha, pinned Billie Bruce, Pahoa, 1:23 first round.
“It feels amazing,” said Kalalau, a senior, who won bronze as a sophomore. “I tried to be focused and didn’t want anyone to dictate but myself and I stuck to that game plan.”
106: Elison Galanto, Kealakehe, pinned Raulin Santiago, Pahoa, :58 second round.
“I had to be mentally prepared because I had no one to wrestle off (at Kealakehe),” said Galanto, a freshman who also picked up his first win and improved to 1-11. “It’s my first win. I’m so happy. During the season, I had no wins and wrestled at 113 pounds. I just want a drink right now.”
113: Shaeden Quevedo, Hilo, pinned Kaaumoana Estrella, Kamehameha, :47 third round.
“He and I go way back. We used to grapple and always compete against each other,” said Quevedo (17-0, 12 pins), a junior. “I knew he would be my toughest competition. I had to not let him have any space, keep the pressure on and not let him score.”
120: Will Spain, Waiakea, defeated Trey Galigo, Kamehameha, 11-7.
“It’s exhilarating. I finally accomplished my goal after four years of wrestling in high school,” said Spain, who was second as a freshman and sophomore. “I had to keep being aggressive, ignore being tired and wrestle for a good six minutes to live the rest of my life as a champion.”
126: Xylon Takata, Waiakea, defeated Julian Tongpalan, Hilo, 18-13.
“It was good and I’m stoked,” said Takata, a junior. “He was riding high and I caught his head and got a near fall. I lost to him earlier in the season and he pinned me.”
As for his unusual first name, his mom Susan looked in a baby name book and picked out Xylon because it started with an X.
“I like it,” Takata said. “People compliment me on it. Not too much people have an X in their names.”
132: Austin Kuahuai, Waiakea, pinned Shon Inouye, Konawaena, 1:23 third round.
“During the preseason, I pinned him,” said Kuahuai, a senior, who earned his first medal. “I’m going states for the first time. I’m happy and excited about the opportunity.”
138: Uriel Santiago, Pahoa, pinned Brandon Corpuz, Keaau, 5:07 third round.
“It feels great. I’ve worked hard and the team works really hard,” said Santiago, a senior, who was second at 130 last year. “I gave everything and left it all on the mat.”
145: Reed Hayashikawa, Pahoa, pinned Thomas Kahooilihala, Hilo, 1:29 first round.
“I just trained hard,” said Hayashikawa, a junior, who was second last year, and fifth as a freshman. “Every day at practice our team steps up and we get a good push from everybody. We’re all constantly trying to improve.”
152: Alan Ikehara, Waiakea def. Austin Sprague, Honokaa, 20-5.
“I’m happy and stayed in position and took advantage of whatever position that was there,” said Ikehara, a senior who defended his title.
160: Hoku Kahookaulana, Pahoa, pinned Chastin Kekahuna, Kamehameha, 5:57 third round.
“There’s always an opportunity,” said Kahookaulana, who was third last year at BIIFs. “I looked for an opportunity and actually found it. I feel like I’m at the bottom again with states coming up. I’ll just had to look for an opportunity again.”
170: Kaleo Holt, Kona, pinned Justus Mikkelson, Waiakea, 2:48 second round.
“I didn’t think I would place, let alone win the championship,” said Holt, a senior who grabbed his first medal. “I moved around, took shots and wrestled smart and kept going at it.”
182: Kayed Rodrigues, Waiakea, pinned Kaulu Obrey, Kealakehe, :52 first round.
“I’m excited and just happy,” said Rodrigues, a senior who earned his third gold. “Our coach told us we need pins to win the BIIF title and I feel like I did my job.”
195: Haaheo Chan, Keaau, pinned Russell Laros, HPA, 1-0 third round.
“My coaches told me to protect our house and I felt this year was my time,” said Chan, a senior who won bronze the last two years and placed fourth at states last year. “This feels amazing and I’m speechless.”
220: Kincaid Kawananakoa, HPA, defeated Kamalani Crum, Kamehameha, 9-2.
“My team really prepared me for this,” said Kawananakoa, a sophomore, who didn’t place last year. “They key was staying in control and don’t do anything stupid.”
Waiakea, 163 points; Pahoa, 153; Kamehameha, 110; Hawaii Prep, 105; Kealakehe, 103; Keaau, 94; Konawaena, 90; Hilo, 77; and Honokaa, 79.
Kealakehe, 122; Hilo, 100; Kamehameha, 84; HPA, 76; Waiakea, 58; Honokaa, 57; Pahoa, 52; Keaau, 23; and Kau, 18.