By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Their rookie wrestling campaigns went off without a hitch, so Hilo’s Shaylyn Arakaki and Kaitlyn Funai aren’t planning on changing much in Year 2. Their main focus is to continue to work hard and learn on the mat, an approach that worked wonders last season.
“I listen to my coaches and whatever they tell me, I do,” said Funai after she, like Arakaki, finished 2-0 at the final preseason meet Saturday at Waiakea. “I just go out and give it my all.”
So far, so good for Arakaki (97 pounds) and Funai (109), who each went undefeated last year as newcomers en route to winning Big Island Interscholastic Federation titles. The Vikings are the defending girls champions, largely because of their stranglehold on three of the four lowest weight divisions.
Nina Bean won a title in the 101 class but has transferred to a school Oahu, but the Vikings also return Kaylan Kanakanui, a two-time champion who didn’t compete Saturday.
“It’s just the start of the season, and I don’t want to say we’ve gotten better,” coach Alex Kalawe said. “Still trying to get back in the swing of things, but so far it looks promising.”
With a compact frame at 4-foot-7, Arakaki excels by overpowering many of her opponents in the lowest division.
“I don’t think size matters, I just like pins,” the senior said. “We’re trying hard to win that (team) title again. We have a reputation to keep.”
Funai, a junior who was drawn to the sport because of its aggressive nature, said she could stay at 109 or move up to 113 depending on how she manages her weight. During the cross country season she filled up on pasta, but she’s since substituted celery, bread and tuna into her diet.
“Shaylyn’s strength is that she takes the direct approach,” Kalawe said. “She doesn’t fool around too much. She just goes in and works.
“Kaitlyn’s a hard worker. That’s why she had success last year.”
Kanakanui prevailed at 140 pounds at BIIF last season but could compete at 155 this year.
Honokaa graduated all four of its BIIF champions, but while coach Dan Whetstone says his numbers aren’t as high as in recent years, he believes the the Dragons have good quality.
“We’ve got 10 wrestlers — five boys, five girls — and I think all are contenders,” he said.
Brandy Ilac-Wong pinned both of her opponents at 121, while Payton Cawagas finished 2-1 after suffering his first loss of the preseason.
First-year wrestler Kaleo Holt stood out with a 3-0 day for Konawaena, which is going through what coach Wally Nakashima called a rebuilding year.
Not only did the Wildcats graduate four BIIF champions, but they’ll also be without senior Aimee Shiraki. Nakashima said after Shiraki suffered her second concussion she was advised by doctors to cut short a stellar high school athletic career that saw her win two BIIF wrestling championships and a Hawaii High School Athletic Association gold medal in judo.
“I told (Aimee) to concentrate on academics and college,” Nakashima said.
With the BIIF regular season set to start next Saturday at Kamehameha, Waiakea coach Stan Haraguchi took the meet for what it was worth.
“We got our reps and our matches in,” Haraguchi said. “We won’t be able to field all the weight classes. It’s a disadvantage, but most don’t.”
Winners of the last three BIIF boys team titles, the Warriors return three champions: Conrad Parks (135), Alan Ikehara (152) and Kayed Rodrigues (171).