Pearl City’s Raynald Cooper and Radford’s Kevin Corbett strapped on their headgear and the spotlight on the center mat seemed to intensify a bit.
The folks who crowded into Leilehua’s gym for the OIA wrestling championships generally devoted their attention to matches involving their respective schools. But when the boys 171-pound final was called, all eyes focused on the matchup between Cooper, a two-time OIA and state champion, and Corbett, his closest rival in the league.
"There’s electricity in the air," Pearl City coach Mike Lee said. "Every time (Cooper) wrestles in the finals that’s how it is."
The buzz turned into a roar over the next 6 minutes as Corbett took a 5-4 lead into the final period. But a two-point reversal about 40 seconds into the third period gave Cooper the lead and he hung on for a 7-6 win to claim another individual title while helping power Pearl City to its first OIA team championship.
"It feels awesome because Pearl City never had an OIA championship," Cooper said. "We knew we could. That’s what I was striving for, pushing every day, telling them we can do it. Everybody just helped each other out and came out with the win."
Cooper was among six Chargers to reach the finals in their weight classes yesterday to help Pearl City rack up 223 points and fend off Campbell, which finished with 198. Sophomore Jonathan Kamaka won the 114-pound division and Devin Ching closed the night by winning the 285 final.
"We knew it was going to be between us and Campbell," Lee said. "They’re a great team, but our kids really stepped it up."
Pearl City came up just short of a sweep, as Kahuku claimed the girls championship with 140.5 points to the Chargers’ 137.
Kahuku’s Kristy Rabaino won at 114 when Aiea’s Samantha Higa couldn’t finish the match due to an injury. Reigning state champion Anela Santiago claimed a 15-0 win over Nanakuli’s Joslynn Kahala-Minczer at 155.
The Red Raiders also picked up pivotal points when Aarica Barcina, who was trailing in her third-place match at 103 pounds, pinned Pearl City’s Joey Nanhta in the second period.
"When we started the season we weren’t even considered in the race," Kahuku coach Reggie Torres said. "We were able to close the gap and they got better. And the biggest thing is they’re improving, hopefully enough to compete next week (at the state championships) because it’s going to be a battle."
The highlight battle of the night, though, was the duel between Cooper and Corbett.
Cooper dominated Corbett in a 16-6 win at the OIA West championships, but was locked in a tight one in the rematch.
"That was the first time I wrestled him all season. I kind of went more heart than brains," Corbett said. "This time I came out and used my game plan and came out with a better outcome."
Corbett took a 5-4 lead going into the final 2-minute period, due in part to Cooper being penalized twice during the second period. ("A little too hot-headed," Cooper conceded later.)
With chants of "Cooper" and "Corbett" filling the gym, Cooper tied the score early in the final period, then pulled off the reversal, though the two points didn’t initially go on the board. After a conference between the coaches and officials, Cooper was awarded a 7-5 lead. Corbett’s escape with 20 seconds left heightened the drama, but Cooper held on for the win.
"You can hear it, it’s hard to block out," Corbett said of the atmosphere during the match. "It motivates me in a way and sometimes it takes me out of my mind. It does make the matches more intense."
OIA WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Team standings–1. Pearl City, 223.0; 2. Campbell, 198.0; 3. Kahuku, 137.0; 4. Mililani, 129.5; 5. Farrington, 95.0; 6. Kaiser, 93.0; 7. Castle, 86.0; 8. Moanalua, 84.5; 9. Radford, 83.5; 10. Kapolei, 77.0; 11. Waianae, 69.0; 12. Kaimuki, 60.0; 13. Aiea, 53.0; 14. Waipahu, 42.0; 15. Kalaheo, 41.5; 16. McKinley, 41.0; 17. Leilehua, 37.0; 18. Waialua, 26.0; 19. Roosevelt, 20.0; 20. Kalani, 17.0; 21. Kailua, 10.0; 22. Nanakuli, 0.0.
104 pounds–1. Treylan Kobayashi, Wail; 2. Tristan Kamaka, PC; 3. Braydon Akeo, Mil.
114–1. Jonathan Kamaka III, PC; 2. Zachary Kido, Camp; 3. Dennis Taira, Kaim.
120–1. Ryan Nakagawa, Kais; 2. Jacob Palimoo, Moan; 3. Gabriel Iereneo-Baring, PC.
125–1. Stefan Fujimoto, Kais; 2. Rodel Buhain, Farr; 3. Cody Uyejo, Mil.
130–1. Robert Kim, Mil; 2. Derek Lee Loy, Moan; 3. Bryson Pantastico-Banaay, Camp.
135–1. Chase Tantog, Mil; 2. Scott Santiago, Kah; 3. Tyler Kono, Kapo.
140–1. Sean Hew-Len, Cast; 2. Keanu Richardson, Camp; 3. Cory Okuda, Aiea.
145–1. Isaac Johnson, Cast; 2. Michael Gallagher, Rad; 3. Joshue Rivera, Farr.
152–1. Chaeden Grace-Reyes, Farr; 2. Stalin Myers, Aiea; 3. Kalei Kinimaka, Kapo.
160–1. Michael Lankford, Camp; 2. DJ Moe, PC; 3. Norman Galacgac, Aiea.
171–1. Raynald Cooper III, PC; 2. Kevin Corbett, Rad; 3. Jesse Carney, Kalh.
189–1. Jeffrey Sanchez, Mil; 2. Kahu Sebala, Camp; 3. Mason Loo, Kah.
215–1. Jheryl Makaiau, Kah; 2. Evan Greenleaf, PC; 3. Sheldon Maae, Camp.
285–1. Devin Ching, PC; 2. Isaiah Thompson, Camp; 3. Kuukamlaniokealoha Aalona, Kah.
Team standings–1. Kahuku, 140.5; 2. Pearl City, 137.0; 3. Aiea, 103.5; 4. Mililani, 94.0; 5. Campbell, 91.0; 6. Farrington, 78.0; 7. McKinley, 57.0; 8. Roosevelt, 55.5; 9. Castle, 50.0; 10. Kapolei, 45.0; 11. Waianae, 41.0; 12. Moanalua, 40.0; 13. Radford, 28.0; 14. Kailua, 23.0; T15. Kaiser, 16.0; T15. Nanakuli, 16.0; 17. Kalaheo, 15.0; 18. Waialua, 14.0; 19. Kalani, 11.0; T20. Kaimuki, Leilehua, Waipahu, 0.
98 pounds–1. Allene Somera, Kail; 2. Angela Enos, Roos; 3. Kaelynn Canyete, Kapo.
103–1. Lauren Dias, Mil; 2. Kayla Gayer, Moan; 3. Aarica Barcina, Kah.
108–1. Shayna-Marie Oliver, Farr; 2. Brittany Balanay, McK; 3. Selena Ryder, Mil.
114–1. Kristy Rabaino, Kah; 2. Samantha Higa, Aiea; 3. Ayame Higa, McK.
120–1. Marisa Fukunaga, Roos; 2. Kaimiloa Evans, PC; 3. Hiilani Souza, Aiea.
125–1. Morgan Yamaguchi, Mil; 2. Keani Sebala, Camp; 3. Brianne Jhun, Moan.
130–1. Elizabeth Chong, Aiea; 2. Kristine Haga, Camp; 3. Caitlyn Chandler, Kais.
140–1. Charmagne Monis, PC; 2. Rachel-Jean Factora, Camp; 3. Dakota Truitt, Mil.
155–1. Anela Santiago, Kah; 2. Joslynn Kahala-Minczer, Nan; 3. Kuuleilani Lankford, Camp.
175–1. Darcie Manning-O’Brien, Aiea; 2. Joreece Peapealalo, Kah; 3. Janelle Fuamatu, PC.
220–1. Sanoe Spencer, PC; 2. Libby Petrie, Kah; 3. Brayanne Moe, Rad.