The Kauai Interscholastic Federation wrestlers who earned a spot at states at the championship meet last month were given KIF all star honors.
Of the 21 all stars, 12 of them represent Kauai High School.
“This group of kids have been with us since they were freshmen. We’re just glad they’re sticking it out and continuing to work hard,” said Red Raiders wrestling coach Matt Ballard. “We’ve ramped them up. A lot of more intense practices at this point. Just working them harder than the rest of the season to bring them to a peak.”
Among the Red Raiders who are returning to the state tournament is girls 97-pound KIF champion, junior Kaisa Ishikawa.
Ishikawa was just short of making the podium last year and has her sights set on getting on it this time.
“Practices have been going really good. We’ve been practicing our moves so we can do really good at states,” she said. “I have to practice more because the girls at states are more experienced and they know what they’re doing.
“I think that I’m way stronger than last year, and I have more experience,” she added.
Over on the Westside, boys 220-pound KIF winner, senior Ian Garcia, has also been getting ready for another appearance at states.
“Preparing for states has been going great. I’ve been working on my condition and my takedowns,” Garcia said. “It’s going to be different. The other schools are going to know more than I do, but I just got to go up there and do my best.”
Garcia added he’s happy to be a KIF all star and participate at states because be feels he’s making his family and school proud.
“I’m wrestling for my family, and for the man above for letting me wake up every day and allow me to play the sport,” he said. “It’s my senior year. I just want to do my best and do what I got to do to win.”
The Chevron Wrestling Championships will begin Friday at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.
Ballard said the KIF’s best pound-for-pound wrestlers will be up against stiff competition. Of the KIF representatives, he believes Ishikawa, Garcia and Kauai sophomore Madison Leanio, the boys 138-pound winner, should have good showings because they’ve won at least one match at states last year.
“Ultimately, we’d expect to see them at least do that again, plus probably win one more,” Ballard said. “It’s tough to determine who’s going to have the best performances at states. Some of our most talented wrestlers are in the toughest weight classes.”
Leanio added he’s been working especially hard and hopes it will result in wins because he wants to show that “Kauai is in it to win it.”
“I’ve just been working on my take downs and my pinning combos. I get those down, it should help me win matches, and my cardio too,” he said. “I look forward to states because it’s the big show and you get to show what you are made of.”
“This year, I know what I’m up against. Last year, I was new to it. I didn’t know how difficult it would be,” Leanio added. “This time around, I know I have to go out there my first chance and give it my all.”