KAPAA —The Kauai Interscholastic Federation is relatively new to the sport of wrestling.
The KIF, which has had wrestling as a school-sanctioned sport for eight seasons, hosted the Kapaa Open Wrestling Tournament Saturday at Kapaa High School.
The tournament included Kauai High School, Waimea High School, and Kapaa High School and is designed to give wrestlers a head start on the season, and included a total of 38 participants at weigh-ins.
“This tournament gives our kids an understanding and real-time experience on the mat,” Warriors’ head coach Jess Jensen said.
Tournament director Mac Piggott said he matches like these not only amplify intensity for training but also prepare wrestlers for off-island competition.
He said thatcompetition will feature some of the best wrestlers in the country.
“This gives our wrestlers a chance to experience competition with officials before our season starts in January,” Piggott said.
Kauai High School wrestling coach Paul Shindell expressed optimism about his wrestling team headed into the season.
Shindell’s said part of his enthusiasm about the upcoming 2019-2020 season is the number of participants his team has.
“The quality of wrestling on our team is better, and it was exciting, and an excellent start to season,” he said. “I think the kids are just going to keep getting better and better through the season, and this tournament was a heck of a start.”
The sport is starting to gain popularity in Kauai, Shindell said.
“We are trying to instill the culture,” he said. “We are trying to get everyone involved in the culture of wrestling, and I believe we are getting better, and it seems like we have kids with a wider-range of abilities.”
Waimea High School wrestling coach C.J. Threat’s assessment of the preseason tournament was positive.
“I told my kids to ‘have fun, and try something they aren’t expected to do,’” Threat said. “I didn’t want them to take this tournament too seriously, and I thought they learned a lot, and this tournament allowed them to grow, and we still have some stuff to work on.”
The KIF League competition will begin Jan. 11 at Kapaa high school. It will kick off the season of five events with the team and individual championships Feb. 8 hosted this year by Kauai High School.
The individual KIF wrestling champions are seeded in the HHSAA Championships Feb. 19-20 at the Blaisdell Arena on Oahu.
“I’ve been here since the beginning, and we’ve noticed an increased level of competition before our KIF season,” Threat said. “We are still growing and trying to build a sport here, and in the past, we didn’t do any wrestling competitions until December, and tournaments like these keep the kids motivated to come to practice, and get some early on-island competition.”