Quinn Nagatani is pretty sick of silver by now.
Three times in 2010, Nagatani wrestled her way through her weight class to reach the final of a major event only to settle for second.
So when she needs a little extra boost when things get tough in training or a match, the Pacific Buddhist Academy junior can draw from an ample well of motivation.
"I placed second for ILH and states and Fargo (site of the junior national championship) last year, so it’s killing me," Nagatani said after last night’s season-opening dual meet. "I really want to take first. … It’s driving me a lot."
After finishing just short of the top step of the podium in the 103-pound weight class last season, Nagatani got off to a quick start to the ILH season last night, helping Pac-Five to a 24-24 tie with defending state champion Punahou before the tiebreaker officially gave the Buffanblu the match victory.
She’s moved up to 108 this season, and opened the season with a pin of Punahou’s Miki Kubo at the 1:17 mark of the first period.
Nagatani was certainly effective at the lower weight, placing second at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo, N.D., in July, but hopes she can break through in her new class.
"I feel better, I feel stronger at 108 because I had to cut about 14 pounds to make 103," Nagatani said. "There’s a little more confidence because I have more strength and I can keep my muscle instead of having to cut so much at one time."
But earning those elusive ILH and state titles will likely mean having to get past Punahou’s Nicole Taniguchi, her Team Hawaii teammate and training partner last summer.
Taniguchi, who placed second to Kamehameha’s Bree Rapoza at 108 in last year’s state championship and third at nationals, missed last night’s meet due to illness, pushing back a matchup with Nagatani at least another week.
"At that weight class, that’s the one everybody wants to see," Punahou head coach Matt Oney said.
While competing for Pac-Five during the dual-meet season, Nagatani takes particular pride in representing PBA (located just outside downtown Honolulu off Pali Highway) and its high school enrollment of 65, "because it’s so small and no one knows about it.
"All my teachers are very supportive, so I like to do well for them," she said.
Nagatani was among four members of Team Hawaii who were at Hemmeter Fieldhouse for last night’s ILH opener.
Kamehameha sophomore Bree Rapoza gave the Warriors a pin in the 114 division in a win over short-handed ‘Iolani. Punahou’s Chrissy and Mindy Chow, co-national champions at 124 pounds last summer, didn’t compete last night due to illness and a lack of competition at Mindy’s class.
Rapoza, the state champion at 108 last year, placed fourth at 116 at the national meet and Kamehameha coach Bill Venenciano is looking to her for leadership for a team of four juniors, six sophomores and 11 freshmen.
"Once you get to the national level you don’t really panic as much," Venenciano said. "The more confident you are, the more calm you can be on the mat."
Kamehameha opened with wins over Pac-Five (36-21) and ‘Iolani (42-12), which had only four wrestlers available. Punahou defeated ‘Iolani 42-6.
Last night’s meet opened what figures to be a quicker wrestling season than usual with the state championship — held in late February or early March in past years — set for Feb. 11-12.
"You have to make sure you’re getting the technique taught and the conditioning done and you have a lot less time to get both of those things done," said Oney, who led Punahou to the past two state team titles. "It means you have to be a lot more efficient with your time in practice."