Early matches to watch at state wrestling

Moanalua's Faith-Joy Okubo (top) will wrestle in one of the best first-round matches at today's state championships. Cindy Ellen Russell / Star-Advertiser

The Texaco/HHSAA State Wrestling Championships begin today at Blaisdell Arena.

For our latest coverage, check out our state wrestling tournament page.

Here are a few intriguing matches to watch in the opening round.


Corey Cabanban (Saint Louis) vs. Weiyi Zheng (Aiea)
This is a matchup to watch like the aftermath of a car crash is something to watch. Cabanban is the state’s finest male wrestler and has never lost in the tournament and can expect a quick result as the top seed here. He pinned Pahoa’s Dylan Olson in 49 seconds to begin last year’s tournament and has never allowed an opening-round opponent past 3:55. You still want to see how he looks, though, as the last two years he was pushed in the second round: a 2-0 win over Mililani’s Casey Nitta last year and a 3-1 decision of Andre Pagurayan of Kapolei the year before. Zheng won the JV championship as a freshman last year but won’t repeat after earning a spot in the big show on Wednesday. Those who remember the Aiea girls go on their state title run in 2012 know not to be surprised by anything that comes out of Na Alii wrestling room.

Elijah Diamond (Mililani) vs. Ansen Ursua (Saint Louis)
It’s not a matchup of the best wrestlers in the state, but it is a competitive row between established guys. Diamonds have been seemingly everywhere in the state bracket but Elijah comes with something no other member of his family has: No expectations. But Diamond is not here on name only, he blew through the bracket at the OIA championships to reach the final before a 3-0 loss to top seed Kaena DeSantos of Leilehua after beating him at Officials. Ursua knows his own heartbreak. He suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to Triston Santos of Campbell in last year’s semifinals and wrestled back to reach the podium but missed out on moving up a step with another close loss, this one to ILH rival Nick Stefanelli of Punahou. Both of them are looking up at Estrella, who gets the winner of this battle, but that might be the toughest quarter in the entire tournament.

Kaysen Takenaka (‘Iolani) vs. Sitaleki Tongi (Kahuku)
Takenaka is a three-time ILH champion and has finished second and third previously in states, but has a dangerous first-round opponent. Tongi has had to compete in the toughest boys weight class in the OIA this year and narrowly lost to OIA champion Keanu Punley in the semifinals, losing a lead late. Tongi also made it to the final at Officials before losing to Punley making him as tough of a first-round opponent for a three-time league champion as we’ve seen.


Tahlia Lewi Ohashi (Konawaena) vs. La Howard (Halau Ku Mana)
Neither of these girls have much in the way of accomplishments yet, but what makes this one intriguing is the schools involved. Halau Ku Mana has not had an entrant in the tournament since 2015 and has never had a girl win a first round match. Lewi-Ohashi represents Konawaena, which seems to be on a resurgence after putting Kapoina Bailey in the 168 final last year, the first time a Wildcat had made it that far since Tanalei Louis in 2011. Howard is not just happy to be here, she won a tough 11-10 decision over Waianae’s Sadie Reyes to get into the OIA championship third-place match and collected some impressive wins at Officials as well. The winner of this gets OIA champion Makana Cooper of Pearl City, but any medal for either of these schools would be something to see.

Tessa Jensen (Kapaa) vs. Viviana Barcina (Kahuku)
It’s easy to forget the ancient time of two years ago, when Barcina reached the state final and ruled the OIA. Well, the Red Raider is back and in position to possibly bust one of the most top-heavy brackets in the tournament with Roselani Ikei of Kaiser, Kamehameha’s Paige Respicio and Kauanohi Keahi of Lahainaluna. Barcina started the season strong by reaching the final at Officials but slipped 10 days ago at the OIA championships. That put her just where Barcinas excel the most, Aarica Barcina threw the tournament upside down by beating top seed Sarah Grace Alegria of Pearl City in 2013 and riding the momentum to a state title. Viviana Barcina’s struggles give Jensen and her small school some hope, Shanayah Marshall won in the first round last year to break through that ceiling for Kapaa and Jensen will be looking for more after winning the KIF by pinfall as a sophomore who wrestled as a novice as recently as January’s Pa’ani Challenge.

Teniya Alo (Kahuku) vs. Alysdsa Payanal (McKinley)
Alo is the finest female wrestler in the state and Payanal probably doesn’t have a chance, but it is still worth watching to see HOW Alo will dispatch of her first round foe. Alo is so well-schooled in the game that she is liable to show you something you have never seen before and sends other wrestlers scurrying to their coaches to learn about what they just saw. Alo is going for her third state title and has never failed to pin her first-round opponent in the first period and seven of her 12 wins in the tournament have come in the initial stanza.

Tayler Pelegrino Hayase (Lahainaluna) vs. Faith Joy Okubo (Moanalua)
This is the one match in the first round of the girls tournament you do not want to miss. Both girls have been on the medal stand twice at states and both have won Officials in their careers. This match is only happening so early because Baldwin’s Jahnei Miguel jumped up to take Pelegrino-Hayase’s MIL title. They shared this bracket at Officials but did not face each other because Okubo, a judo star, fell in the semifinals. These two avoided each other at states in their careers because Okubo was at 127 and Pelegrino-Hayase was at 132, but they hooked up at the Pa’ani Challenge after the calendar turned and Pelegrino-Hayase stuck Okubo in the second period.


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