For the Kamehameha girls wrestling team, there are high expectations this season after the Warriors won the state title a year ago.
It helps to have junior Teshya Alo, the reigning FILA Cadet world champion, leading the way. She is also a two-time state champion.
For head coach Bill Vanenciano and assistant Chris West, keeping the girls focused and ready is the top priority.
The Warriors have been tested early. They placed second to Campbell at the Hawaii Wrestling Officials Association Scholarship Tournament and they lost to Lahainaluna by one point at the Moanalua Duals.
According to West, if the team is going to lose, now is the time to get it over with.
“It shows them that we’re not going to walk to a state title,” West said.
Kamehameha was beset by another kind of loss at Punahou’s Paani Challenge, when state contender Pomai Yamaguchi suffered a torn ACL and won’t wrestle again this season. She placed third in the state at 125 pounds last year.
“That’s bad news,” West said. “But the good news is that she’s only a junior, so she’s got another year to wrestle.”
Donavyn Futa, a sophomore who won the states at 113 pounds last year, hasn’t seen much action this year for various reasons.
For all of his girls, Vanenciano said he wants them to “love the challenge” in front of them.
“It is a constant effort to stay the course. When you win a state title, there are expectations,” Vanenciano said. “We are constantly working with them on it. Can they live up to those expectations with the right preparation, the right mind-set? Can they keep the hunger?”
Specifically in Futa’s case, “We’re trying to find that path, find the course in that sense. It’s like you are voyaging in the Hokuleia and you’re being guided by the stars but the skies are cloudy.”
Futa wrestled on the first day of the Moanalua Duals, but sat out the second day and also missed the Paani Challenge and the Officials.
As for Alo, who hasn’t lost a state match in this her third season wrestling at the high school level, things are getting tougher, if only by the slightest of margins.
The Lunas’ Breanna Dudoit Vasquez has twice taken Alo past the first period, something no other Hawaii high school wrestler has done.
But the third time they met, at Moanalua, Alo won with a first-period pin.
West knows why the third time worked out better.
“When the coaches said to her, ‘Wow, that was a little bit of a tough one. She said, ‘Yeah’ and walked away. You could tell it was eating away at her.”