HILO – It was gold-collecting day, otherwise known as the BIIF individual championships where Waiakea senior Raelyn Ai-Yoneda and Hilo senior Hula Kahookaulana stamped their legacies as four-time champs.
On Saturday, Waiakea junior Samantha Yamamoto remained on a similar track with her third gold medal at 98 pounds at the Warriors gym.
The day was a dominant one for the Waiakea boys, who captured eight of the 10 weight divisions.
Kolby Namnama (108 pounds), Aden Leyson (114), Timothy Nakamoto (121), Dean Miura (178), Isaac Ingall (198), and Kalsey Nacis (220) all won their second BIIF crowns.
Waylon Spain (145) and Roger Kirkland-Obra (161) won their first BIIF titles.
“The boys did excellent,” Waiakea coach Jason Tanaka said. “They won eight titles out of the 10 divisions. That’s really good. We’re looking forward to states. Hopefully, we can represent the Big Island well and take first or second place.”
Konawaena sophomore Hailama Anakalea repeated at 275, and Hilo junior Seth Wilson pocketed his second championship at 132 in what was considered the best and toughest match of the day.
Last season, Wilson competed at 121 and at that weight class was stacked with four judoka who owned medals. He later defeated Waiakea’s Cayden Rillon, a two-time gold medalist, for his first BIIF title.
His opponent as 132 was equally as tough. Waiakea Caleb Shimaoka, a junior, was the BIIF player of the year last season and finished undefeated when he won the 132 title.
They both go to Shudokan for club judo and knew each other’s moves. The met three times. They tied the first time, Shimaoka won the second time in overtime, and the third meeting was for a gold medal.
Each time one pulled a move, the other was waiting with a counter-attack. Shimaoka got a late flip, but Wilson grabbed his arm and went for a pin. Shimaoka was in a tough spot, on his back while Wilson kept trying to push him down.
The seconds ticked away, then it was over. Wilson got the pin and the title. Shimaoka later had to go through the consolation round to battle for second place and a state berth.
“It was pretty good,” Wilson said. “We go to the same club, but it’s different. I didn’t really have much of a plan. I just went out. I got an arm hook, got him on his side, and pushed for the pin.”
Last year, the league had three state spots, but Maui picked up the BIIF’s berth. So a runner-up finish meant consolation action for everyone to earn a trip to states.
There weren’t any major upsets, though Kirkland-Obra pulled a mild surprise for the 161 title. The Waiakea junior was the No. 4 seed and defeated Hilo’s Hanalei Kahookaulana for the gold.
Konawaena senior Kapoina Bailey and sophomore Anakalea were named the BIIF’s players of the year. Hilo’s Kerwyn Tokeshi was selected as the girls coach of the year, and Waiakea’s Jason Tanaka was the boys coach of the year.
4 for 4
Ai-Yoneda jumped up a weight from last year to 122. She was at 115 last year, and her opponent, Konawaena’s Kitana Heinicke, was at 109 last year and the BIIF runner-up.
One reason the experienced players like Ai-Yoneda, Kahookaulana, and Yamamoto keep winning is that they don’t make mental mistakes, at least on the BIIF level.
They don’t hit their golf ball in the water or leave an arm unguarded to be grabbed for an easy takedown. They’re mentally focused, one reason the matches are over in an eye-blink.
Ai-Yoneda got an ippon, a good feeling but not a complete one. She quickly understood that states is where the best of the best tangle. She finished fifth the last two years.
“To put in all the had hard work for the past four years paid off,” she said. “You can do well here, but it’s at states where I want to get to the finals. I just have to come to practice and work hard and do my best up there.”
Kahookaulana won her first three BIIF titles at Keaau. Then she transferred to Hilo and faced a former Keaau teammate, Shayla Isabel, in the finals.
“It was had but everybody has to go,” Kahookaulana said. “I had her head and arm. That’s how I got my pin. Everybody at Keaau and Hilo helped met to get where I am. She’s a good opponent.”
Kahookaulana had an excellent training preparation during last week’s BIIF team championships when she lost to Ai-Yoneda at 129.
“She had more moves than me,” Kahookaulana said. “I definitely learned to not stand after you get thrown.”
Yamamoto got an ippon against Hilo’s Lilliana Campbell and is seen as one of the league’s bright stars. She was third at states last year and runner-up as a freshman.
“I feel happy,” she said. “I’m hoping to follow in the footsteps of my sister (LiAnn), who won four titles.
“The key was I got the right grip on the arm throw and made sure to follow through.”
Bailey defeated Kamehameha’s Anela Manuia for her second title. She’s the defending state champion at 172, too.
She’s got a nice medal collection from wrestling too. She’s a two-time BIIF champion and won gold as a junior.
Bailey has to work on her mental game. Butterflies even bother gold-title contenders.
“I try to keep calm. I kind of get nervous, but I try to focus,” she said.
But like the rest of her BIIF counterparts, she takes comfort in practice, where she’ll sharpen herself for states.
“I know the girls are good at states,” she said. “I have to work hard and keep trying at states.”
Keaau sophomore Natalie Grider defeated Hilo’s Luana Chung-Hulama for the 154 crown. She won by pin in dramatic fashion.
“It was unexpected and I didn’t know what to think,” she said. “With 20 seconds left, I looked at the clock and pushed my hardest. I could hear my teammate cheering and held her. My teammates were screaming and helped me.
“It was amazing. I couldn’t sign my card because my hand was shaking.”
Grider drew nothing but praise from Keaau coach Davida Caves.
“She works really, really hard. She shows up at practice, does all the run and exercises,” Caves said. “She doesn’t complain, and she’s a smart player.”
Grider is a BIIF champion, too, a special member of the gold club of 20.