Kapaa girls edge Kauai for title

LIHUE — Kapaa grappler Jaylin McDowell defeated Kauai’s Rhea Michelle Gambeng, and the Kapaa girls took the Kauai Interscholastic Federation girls division title by a three-point margin Saturday at the Kauai High School gym.

Overall, the Kapaa Warrior wahine took the top spot on the podium five times during the championship tournament to earn a total of 46 points, three points better than Kauai High School girls who finished with four girls taking the top spot on the podium to gain 43 points. Island School finished with 6 points, just a point ahead of Waimea’s 5 points.

“Since KIF wrestling was sanctioned in 2012, Kauai girls has won four consecutive team championships,” said Mac Pigott, the KIF wrestling tournament director. “The Kapaa girls’ win Saturday is their first after edging past the Red Raider girls.”

On the boy’s mat, Kauai High School repeated as champions, picking up 46 points to Kapaa’s 29 points. Waimea finished in third with 25 points, and Island School rounded out the team leaders with nine points.

Pigott said following the KIF wrestling championships, 10 girls and 11 boys from the KIF member schools qualified to compete in the Chevron Hawaii High School Athletic Association state wrestling championships which will be Feb. 17 and 18 at the Blaisdell Center on Oahu.

“I am very proud of our team,” said Jess Jensen, Kapaa wrestling coach. “They have worked hard this season. I’m especially proud of the girls who won Kapaa’s first-ever KIF wrestling title. They deserve the title and I am so happy for them. They are a great group of kids and it has been an honor to coach them. They are young, most of them being freshmen and sophomores, and are a great core group to continue building the program at Kapaa. We are looking forward to the next few weeks as we prepare for the state tournament. I am excited to see how they perform at that level.”

Kauai senior Jordyn Kahananui at 112 pounds was the only girl athlete to finish the season undefeated in KIF wrestling this year.

She joins Kauai freshman Mason Stoll-Tolentino who ended the season with an 8-0 record at 113 pounds, and Red Raider senior Madison Leanio who also finished with an unblemished record in the 152 pound class.

Waimea’s Corey Agena, grappling in the 126 pound class, defeated his teammate Noah Espanto to preserve an undefeated season along with Andrew Evans, wrestling in the 195 and 220 pound classes.

“Kauai’s Madison will be making his fourth and final run at a coveted high school state championship,” Pigott said. “Last year, he was a KIF wrestler who made it to the podium, finishing fifth.”

Pigott said at the Chevron HHSAA tournament, wrestlers will be seeded in the bracket of 16 in each weight class. The seeding criteria included previous years finish, current year record, and head-to-head match ups at pre-season tournament.

“Wrestlers from all leagues, representing communities across the Hawaiian Islands have about 10 days to train for states,” Pigott said. “Some have been to the big show before; for others, it is the first time. For all, this is a chance to achieve their maximum potential.”

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