Consider it the Open Division of the state wrestling tournament.
Kapolei’s Branden Pagurayan beat Moanalua’s Boltyn Taam for his third OIA championship on Saturday, cementing the two state champions in the 152-pound class at the state tournament in two weeks. Kamehameha’s Kanai Tapia, who beat Pagurayan in overtime at Officials, won the ILH with a forfeit over injured Stone Franczyk of Hanalani earlier in the day.
The HHSAA seeding meeting doesn’t happen until Saturday, but Pagurayan and Tapia will be in the top two spots. Barring upsets, that puts the Warrior in the unfortunate position of meeting Taam in the semifinals while Pagurayan gets Franczyk or a league champion. Just as much as the OIA title, that is what Pagurayan and Taam were fighting over.
“It’s great,” Moanalua coach Lucas Misaki said. “I am a fan of the sport first, so I am enjoying it just as much as everybody else.”
It took a lot of moving parts to make this dream class happen. First, that class belongs to Pagurayan and has ever since he burst on the scene as a freshman. Desperate for competition, he had a tough choice to make to either move up to challenge Taam at 160 or sit still and hope competition would come for him.
It sure did.
Emboldened by a successful showing at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman in Ohio, Tapia made his move on Pagurayan at Officials and upset him in overtime. Tapia walks around at 147 and could have had a much easier time picking up his first title at that weight.
“I think it’s awesome,” Kamehameha coach Rob Hesia said. “I think its good for the sport and good for his college recruiting to show that if he does pull it off he is in a class with capable competitors. That’s why these guys wrestle. That is the only way we can see the best out of them is if they challenge other people.”
Taam started the season fully intent on defending his title at 160, but after close losses to Pagurayan and seeing Tapia’s intentions, he wanted to get in on the fun, too. His slam hopes died as a freshman at Saint Louis, but you can bet that if he was in Pagurayan’s position he would welcome it just as the Hurricane has.
“He wrestled tough,” Misaki said. “He doesn’t feel pressure, he just goes out and wrestles. He doesn’t get too high or too low. We are excited for Boltyn in the 152 weight class at states. He wanted this challenge to just see how good he can really be.”
Don’t discount Franczyk if he is healthy. He finished third in then state at the weight class last year and has an ILH championship to his credit. Hilo’s Hanalei Kahookaulana won Officials at 160 and has state cred but it is not known yet if he wrestled at 152 or 160 at the BIIF championships. Nainoa Flores of Baldwin absolutely dominated the class at the MIL championships on Saturday, winning his matches by a pin in 32 seconds and a 19-11 major decision.
With so many top wrestlers coming for his title and chance at a historic slam for his school, it would be easy for Pagurayan to feel threatened. He says it is just the opposite, a true slam comes when you take on all comers.
“It’s not that I want four titles,” Pagurayan said. “I just want to be the best in that weight class and having the titles proves it. It’s great to have that accomplishment under your belt.”