Aiea knows attrition.
The boys and girls wrestling teams were 70 strong combined, varsity and JV, before Christmas. Now down to 22, including five on the boys varsity and six with the girls, Na Alii didn’t lose strength. Instead, they’ve become leaner and better.
The girls, led by 98-pound Candace Segi and Samantha Higa (114), placed a surprising second at the ‘Iolani Invitational last week. Yesterday, they dominated two opposing teams in the Oahu Interscholastic Association West dual meet at Campbell High School gym.
"They doubt us all the time, all the teams, just because we don’t have a lot of girls," Segi said.
Higa, fifth in the 114 division last year, insists that Na Alii will compete for the OIA title. Aiea lost 120-pound state champ Joy Yamashita to graduation, but all six wrestlers are returnees.
The boys provided pin action in the morning against a mix of foes that included Pearl City yesterday. Returnee Stalin Meyer, who placed third in the state tourney last year at 140 pounds, is back and more powerful at 152.
Meyer is 14-2 overall and 8-0 against OIA competition. A name like his gets plenty of reaction. Stalin is the Russian word for steel, and his middle name, Puuwaihaokila, translates to "heart of steel."
That heart was good enough to register a pin in his first match yesterday when Aiea met Pearl City.
He has refined himself by training with Tactical Strength and Conditioning, a program that provided specific exercises for the sport.
"That’s really helped me a lot. It helped my strength. My sophomore year, at 130, I was a scrawny twig compared to now. It’s specialized lifting," Meyer said. "Using air pressure, ropes attached. Continuous motion for 6 minutes, which is what a wrestling match is all about."
Meyer counts on his single-leg sweep and arm bar for success, but he’s working on a "stacks" move.
"You smash their head into the mat and throw their legs over, but not completely over," he said, noting that Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson is his favorite wrestler.
As a group, Na Alii boys did well yesterday. Cory Okuda (145) won his first match, as did other teammates.
Boys coach Greg Williams sees the same letdown in numbers every holiday season, as does girls coach Ason Abe.
"They’re quality kids. We’re just having trouble keeping kids on the team. Wrestling’s a tough sport," Williams said. "We don’t cut for ability. I didn’t cut anybody this year."
The girls get plenty of competition at practice despite the lack of depth. Segi, Higa (114), Lindsay Villarmia (120) and Elizabeth Chong (125) are close enough to battle daily. Hiilani Souza is a natural at 120, but has met foes at 125 and 130 already this season. Souza’s favorite move is the souffle, a risky and rarely seen maneuver.
Darcie Manning-O’Brien, at 175, trains with the boys team.
"They have their moments, but they’re a bunch of hard workers," Abe said, noting that the extra six points for each pin make a major difference. "They know to go out there and wrestle their hardest every single match. In a tournament like (‘Iolani), in order for our team to advance, it doesn’t matter if four of our six girls win when (other) teams have 11 girls."
Returning two-time state champion Ray Cooper of Pearl City did not wrestle yesterday. Neither did his teammate, Evan Greenleaf, a 215-pounder who transferred from Virginia. Greenleaf, who is deaf, won all five of his matches last week at the ‘Iolani Invitational, but had no opponents yesterday at the dual meet. He is 25-2 overall this season.
His older brother, Adam, who is also hearing impaired, wrestled for the Chargers in 2005. The Greenleafs moved to Virginia, but returned to Oahu recently.
"The weather here’s nice. There’s no blizzards, so matches don’t get canceled," Evan said via an interpreter. "Three of our matches got canceled (in Virginia) last year."
OIA RED EAST BOYS
Castle 42, Kaiser 31
Farrington 51, McKinley 24
Castle 54, McKinley 18
Farrington 53, Kaiser 21
Farrington 49, Castle 30
McKinley 42, Kaiser 24
Kahuku 42, Kalani 6
Moanalua 54, Kalani 9
Kahuku 30, Moanalua 24
OIA RED EAST GIRLS
McKinley 24, Farrington 12
OIA WEST BOYS
Campbell 47, Kapolei 27
Kapolei 51, Waianae 21
Campbell 76, Waianae 0
Radford 54, Waipahu 30
Pearl City 51, Waipahu 18
Pearl City 56, Radford 12
OIA WEST GIRLS
Pearl City 48, Kapolei 6
Kapolei 30, Waianae 24
Pearl City 51, Waianae 21
Aiea 30, Campbell 21
Aiea 30, Mililani 15
Campbell 30, Mililani 13