KIF wrestling ready to kick off regular season

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    In this Jan. 12 photo, Kapaa’s Ini Marshall works to pin Thesa Lindsey in a girls 127-pound match during a KIF wrestling meet at Kauai High School.

KAPAA — The Kapaa High School Warriors will enter the first Kauai Interscholastic Federation regular season wrestling tournament with a lot of momentum gained from off-island tournaments in December.

The Warriors will host their first Kauai Interscholastic Federation regular-season tournament of the year on Saturday. They hope to gain valuable mat time in the three-team tournament that will include Waimea and Kauai High School.

“There will be a lot of wrestlers competing against each other, and our wrestlers will see the same competitors, who will compete in their weight class, several times during the season,” said Warriors’ head wrestling coach Jess Jensen. “They get to know the same wrestlers again, and again but there is a downside to not seeing different competition, which is why competing in the preseason is so important.”

The matches won’t count until the KIF championships Feb. 8 at Kauai High School.

Popularity explosion

Since the KIF became a school-sanctioned sport eight years ago, Jensen said the game has grown significantly in Kauai, especially in the female division.

One of the most recent success stories is that of Shanayah “Ini” Marshall. The Kapaa High School graduate now wrestles at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay, Ore. She was the first female scholarship wrestler in KIF history.

“We’ve grown quite a bit, especially on the girls’ side,” Jensen said. “Seeing her succeed in Oregon has allowed our girls to see there are possibilities to wrestle beyond high school. “I think there is some excitement about that among parents.”

Off-island success

Kapaa High School’s Jolette Miner-Ho is one of several KIF wrestlers that had recent off-island success.

Miner-Ho was one of 17 KIF wrestlers who participated in one of the most prestigious female tournaments in the country. She placed second in the 168-pound open competition at the Punahou Invitational Girls Wrestling Tournament on Oahu.

Kauai High’s Alana Takata placed fifth in the 155-pound open division, and Kayana Niheu-Kamaka, of Waimea, finished second in the 184-pound novice division.

Hawaii was also the first-ever state in the US to have girls’ wrestling as a school-sanctioned sport.

“Our team has gone up against some of the schools from the mainland, and we know there is tough competition off-island,” Jensen said. “Our girls’ wrestling has improved, and hopefully, that growth in both boys and girls will continue.”

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