WAIMEA — For Kauai High School senior Matthew Tamanaha, learning from a world champion was “really awesome.”
“To have somebody so talented, to be able to learn from him and work with him, is really special,” Tamanaha said. “You don’t really get that much exposure here on Kauai. So, I was really happy that he came out here.”
Westside Wrestling Club held a clinic Thursday evening headed by Logan Stieber, of Ohio, at the club’s wrestling room at Waimea Baptist Church.
Among his accomplishments, Stieber is a 2016 World Champion, a four-time NCAA champion for Ohio State University and a four-time high school state champion.
Stieber is one of just four wrestlers to win four NCAA national titles.
“It was fun. I was impressed because of how small the area is,” Stieber said of working with the local wrestlers. “I know there hasn’t been a ton of success, but the kids did a good job. They picked up things fast, and hopefully they learned a thing or two.”
About 20 of Kauai’s young wrestlers participated in the clinic — a USA Wrestling-sanctioned event. A few local wrestling coaches also attended as well as family members and friends who watched.
Tamanaha helped Stieber demonstrate moves for the group.
“Actually, I felt really grateful to be wrestling with him,” Tamanaha said. “Even if it wasn’t live — even if I was his (practice dummy) — just being able to wrestle with somebody that great, it was fun. I got to feel firsthand what it’s supposed to feel like, the pressure and techniques. I think that it’s something that you need to be able to feel in order to do the move right. I thought that was good for me.”
Westside Wrestling Club director Ray Pigott said having his club work with an athlete of Stieber’s caliber was great.
“Also, the fact that they all came on a school night, that’s good,” said Pigott.
“It shows they really respected who he was. I believe they got a lot out of it in a short period of time. So for the students who came, it’s really beneficial,” he continued.
After the two-hour clinic, the young practitioners had the chance to ask questions. Among the subjects brought up was the fact that Stieber came from a small town and small school in Ohio — similar to where Kauai’s youth are from.
“(I hope I) built the fire inside of them to want to keep getting better at wrestling, and hopefully picked up a skill,” Stieber said. “But really, just keep trying to get better at wrestling and that they continue to keep doing it. Wrestling has brought me to so many places.
“This was for vacation, but this is the second clinic I’ve done here. The first one was on Oahu, and then Kauai,” he continued. “Anytime I’m on vacation, I try to do a clinic. Wrestling has brought me to Hawaii for the first time a couple of years ago for a clinic. It brings me all over the world. So wrestling, it’s pretty special to me. If they can keep loving it and keep trying to get better, it can bring them to special places.”
Tamanaha said hearing Stieber’s story was inspiring.
“Coach Mac’s practices are always open on the Westside, but a lot of people don’t really come out,” he said. “It’s like him. Even if he comes from a small town, he still finds a way to work through it somehow. He finds a way to improve himself. I think that’s really something that I can take into myself and try to work on.”
The preseason for Kauai’s high school wrestlers is set for December, and the first Kauai Interscholastic Federation meet is set for January.
The upcoming KIF season will be just the sixth since wrestling became a league-sanctioned sport.
“We’re revving up on the high school season now,” Pigott said, who’s also the KIF wrestling tournament director. “We’re looking forward to that. This was kind of like a kick-start. I heard some of the other high school coaches talking with their students about, ‘When are we going to start practice?’ They’re hungry.”