K-PAL wrestling fills Tuesday nights with excitement

LIHU‘E — Jannell Puplava was the only female wrestling Tuesday night but that did not deter her enthusiasm.

Grappling against Elijah O’Day, Jannell battled, but could not outlast O’Day, succumbing to a pin during one of the many matches on the card for the Kaua‘i Police Activities League wrestling program at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center on Kapule Highway in Lihu‘e.

“We’ve been wrestling every Tuesday since February,” said Kaua‘i Police Dept. Sergeant Mark Ozaki, the K-PAL coordinator. “Next week, the kids are having a break because we’ll be taking about 15 of them to the state wrestling meet on Maui.”

On its return, Ozaki said K-PAL will host the island championships on May 21 starting at 6 p.m. at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center.

“This is a fun and physical sport,” Jannell, who also plays goalie and forward for the Kaua‘i Soccer Association GIFC U10 soccer team, said. “Sometimes I lose against the boys, but I always win against girls. My brother Joe is undefeated.”

Earlier in the night, Joe Puplava was pitted against La‘akea Aceret, both combatants ending in a draw.

The K-PAL wrestling program was open to youth 5 years old to seniors in high school and was available on the Eastside in Kapa‘a, Central in Lihu‘e and on the Westside in Waimea, Ozaki said.

“This year, the program was not that big, but next year, I think we’ll have a lot more kids because a lot of the youngsters who participate in other sports come over to wrestling,” Ozaki said, noting that Jannell will also be part of the K-PAL flag football when that season starts in the summer.

Kaulana Kaui, a senior at Kapa‘a High School, was a Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation football defensive standout and plans on wrestling when he goes to college, Ozaki said.

Kaui, who has been wrestling with K-PAL from the program’s inception, plans on attending a college where he can play football and wrestle at the same time.

Both Kaui and his coach, Erin Cobb-Adams, presented an exhibition match, Kaui eventually dropping to his coach on points in the three-round match.

Ozaki said the KIF is planning on initiating wrestling in the near future and K-PAL fully supports the initiative, noting there are people who have been wrestling with K-PAL who can move up to the KIF program.

“We fully support this program with the KIF,” Ozaki said. “We even offered them the use of our mats. We also have facilities they can use to train in. Kapa‘a has the K-PAL Youth Center on the Mahelona Hospital grounds, Lihu‘e has the Kaua‘i Veterans Center and on the Westside, there is the Waimea Baptist Church and the Hanapepe Armory is also available.”

Ozaki said the public is invited to watch the wrestlers in action when the K-PAL island championships unfold on May 21 starting at 6 p.m. at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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