Let your soul stand cool and composed in front of a million universes. — Walt Whitman “Song Of Myself, 48”
The 2022 high school wrestling season is here and Bedrock Sports plans to follow the action around Hawaii from now until the state tournament in March.
These athletes have been waiting quite a long time to return to action. The last important meet was the state tourney in March 2020. That was about a week before the shutdown of athletics due to COVID-19, which wound up wiping out all of the 2021 season.
Wrestlers Jacinta Fonoti and Erin Hikiji of Mililani and Anissa Wright of Campbell got together for a photo on Saturday outside the Mililani gym.
On Saturday, the OIA held round-robins at three separate locations — McKinley, Mililani and Leilehua — without fans due to a surge of COVID-19 cases. The ILH will get going in about one week with no fans and with athletes wearing masks. We will also report any happenings from the Neighbor Island leagues (BIIF, MIL and KIF) as soon as they become available.
Bedrock went to both Mililani and Leilehua on Saturday to catch up with some of the returning state placers.
Let it be known that over the past four or five years, not surprisingly football was the No. 1 most-read high school sport on the HawaiiPrepWorld.com website. The second most-read sport? Surprisingly, wrestling!!
One man who kind of represents the unofficial passing of the torch from football to wrestling season is Waianae football coach Matt Murakawa, who is also Waianae’s wrestling coach.
And when Bedrock caught up with Murakawa on Saturday at Mililani, he gave great insight into what wrestling is all about for him.
“I coach wrestling for the long-term benefits it gives to the kids,” he said. “One of my sons who coaches with us now (Todd Murakawa) was a state champion (in 2012). His practice partner had a bad concussion the year before, so his parents did not want him to wrestle. He said, ‘You know what? I’m going to practice with my friend (Todd) every day because he’s my friend. He went to practice every single day and my son won a state championship because of that guy. The moral of the story is not that my son won. That guy’s name is now preceded by ‘Dr.’ He’s successful in life. That’s what wrestling gets you.”
Right before that conversation, Murakawa was talking to one of his athletes who had just wrestled in competition for the first time.
“We have a bunch of those guys,” he said — a good reminder to anyone who is thinking about trying the sport that it’s not too late to start.
And Murakawa gave more on his particular philosophy for the sport: “We like to say that in wrestling there are two things that don’t lie, the mat and the skill. It’s a two-fold sport. If you cheat the sport at all, it shows up on the mat and in the skill. The cool thing I think is that there’s only two things we ask for, effort and attitude. If you give me those two things, everything else is my fault. Just give me those two things every day. They will take you a lot farther than a gold medal in anything.”
Erin Hikiji, a Mililani senior who won the 97-pound state title as a sophomore and placed fourth at states as a freshman, was back in action at her home gym Saturday.
After the long COVID-19 break, she realized how happy she was to get back on the mat and wrestle.
“I want to win states again,” added Hikiji, who has received interest from college coaches at Gannon University (Erie, Pennsylvania) and Texas Wesleyan (Forth Worth, Texas).
Two other state placers of note — Campbell’s Anissa Wright (2020 runner-up at 145 pounds) and Mililani’s Jacinta Fonoti (third place at 184 pounds in 2020 and fourth place in 2019) — got their seasons underway Saturday at Mililani.
Darnell Arceneaux, the former Saint Louis and Utah quarterback who is currently the Waialua athletic director and the OIA wrestling coordinator, was at the Leilehua site and he talked a bit about his commitment to helping the sport grow, adding emphatically:
“It’s like Hawaii’s own MMA.”
Moanalua’s Blaze Sumiye is looking forward to getting another state title to add to his 145-pound championship in 2020.
“Obviously, I want to repeat,” he said. “And not just for myself. We’ve got a lot of kids in the room who look up to me. I like to help them out and make sure they’re heading down the right path, both on and off the mat. For this season, I don’t plan on changing anything. I plan to follow my coach’s (Lucas Misaki) lead. He brought me to the finals to win that state title. There’s nothing more I want to win than that.”
When he was younger, Sumiye looked up to Mid-Pacific’s David Terao (two time state champion, four-time state placer) and younger brother Josh Terao (four-time state champion).
“They were really good and now I look up to guys like Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State,” he added. “He’s a fast wrestler and that’s what I try to wrestle like.”
A video of Bravo-Young winning the 2021 133-pound national title for the Nittany Lions is below.
Sumiye wrestled at 180 at Leilehua on Saturday, but could go anywhere from 152 to 182.
“Wherever the coach and team needs me,” he said.
One long-shot possibility is meeting up against Leilehua’s Pookela De Santos, who wrested on his his home gym at 170 on Saturday. In 2020, when Sumiye won his 145-pound state title, De Santos was third in that division one year after finishing as state runner-up at 152 pounds.
“I want to go out there and smash everybody,” De Santos said, “That’s all I gotta do. I’m going to take the title this year and hopefully get into a college like my brother (Kaena De Sant0s). I may want to go to Colby Community College (Colby, Kansas) like him, but if I get other good options I may take it.”
Added Mules coach Kevin Corbett: “I’m looking at Pookela winning another state title. His brother (138-pound state champion in 2019) is back working with him and he’s definitely hungry for it. Hopefully we do the right things and he accomplishes his goal. And Blaze is a fantastic, hard-nosed kid who works really hard and who is definitely going to be one of the guys standing on the podium this year.”
Wrestlers Pookela De Santos of Leilehua and Blaze Sumiye of Moanalua got together for a photo outside the Leilehua gym on Saturday.
If it ever happened, Corbett thinks thinks a De Santos vs. Sumiye match would be a blockbuster.
“If those two met up, it would be one helluva match, definitely one I’d pay to watch, a main-eventer,” he said. “Definitely two studs right there.”
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