Sometimes, Nanea Estrella taps into the power of music to recalibrate on the mat.
Pre-match. Mid-match. The music flows in her mind, and she starts dancing as a way to refocus. On Saturday, it was, appropriately enough, a tune from an old Nickelodeon TV show, Victorious.
Estrella did just that on Saturday at the Pa‘ani Challenge. Estrella, of Lahainaluna, outpointed Jahnea Miguel of Baldwin, 12-9, in a action-packed, entertaining 138-pound final between the Maui Interscholastic League’s highest-ranked wrestlers in Hawaii Prep World’s pound-for-pound rankings.
“When you’re in those situations, your nerves are so high that you tend to freak out. When I dance and when I sing, it just calms myself down. It gets me in my own zone,” Estrella said.
Estrella is currently No. 3 pound-for-pound and Miguel at No. 4. There’s a good chance the two talented wrestlers will meet again soon.
“I probably will bump up a couple of times in the (MIL) season to get the competition. She’ll be at 138,” Estrella said.
The opening period was classic feeling-out time. Miguel led 4-3 after the first 90 seconds.
“The first period is always just kind of getting your butterflies out that first 30 seconds or so, just blow it all out,” Estrella said. “From there you’re getting your feet together and all that kinds of stuff.”
Estrella had scouted her friend and foe.
“I’ve seen videos of her doing blast doubles, but she tried a high crotch on me. It’s a risky move, but it works. She’s powerful,” Estrella said.
The second period was pivotal. Estrella racked up seven points and took a 10-8 lead. She then shut down Miguel in the final stanza.
“I didn’t really adjust anything. It was just really up and up. I think I started out on top and then it was just stand-ups, reversals, everything was just happening all at once,” Estrella said. “The third period, that was a good one. That’s when the mental strength and the heart come in. Do I really want to win this match? And we both were a little bit gassed out. We both had a really good mind-set.”
What made this even more intriguing:
>> The two had not faced each other in high school season or club season since they were freshmen two years ago. Estrella won that match.
>> They traveled together to compete in tournaments last summer.
>> They have been battling on the mat since they were young keiki. Estrella competed for Upcountry, coached by her dad, Isaac, and Miguel wrestled for Central Maui.
“We grew up wrestling each other as kids,” Estrella said. “I just remember us being up and up. When we were young-young, I would beat her. When we started getting older, she would crush me. Now we’re here at the higher level, and we’re so up and up. It’s funny to see how we grew so much.”
Estrella’s array of moves was no surprise, but her strength certainly was. She won state championships at 117 and 122 pounds in her first two years, but opted to move up to 138 for a chance to face better competition.
“She was hoping for a chance to wrestle Paige (Respicio of Kamehameha),” Lunas coach Todd Hayase said.
Instead, Respicio didn’t make the weight at 138 and wound up winning at 145 on Saturday. Respicio is No. 7 in the P4P rankings. That made Estrella-Miguel practically a done deal if they reached the final.
Miguel’s resume is robust, with state titles at 127 and 145. She has wrestled this preseason at 138.
Estrella weighed in on Saturday at 132.3, giving away more than five pounds to her old friend. A common thread: at 132, Miguel won the Pa‘ani gold in 2016 and Estrella took gold in the 132 class in ’17.
“I’m probably 135 right now,” Estrella said. “I ate a lot after the weigh-in. I had good competition, but I wanted to challenge myself more and see how I do against the big dogs.”
Estrella’s teammate, Sami Saribay, defeated Nohea Moniz of Kamehameha 10-1 to take the gold in the 107 weight class. Saribay, ranked No. 10 in the P4P, is coming off a state crown in 107. She repeated as Pa‘ani 107 champion.
“Here on Oahu, there’s a lot more competition than there is on Maui. Girls are closing the gap, trying to take me out and giving me hard rubs sometimes,” Saribay said.
Her daily routine at practice includes helping many of the younger wrestlers. The roster has shrunk for both the Luna boys and girls, but the numbers are healthy among the younger classes.
“We support them, they support us,” Saribay said.
Lahainaluna isn’t quite done with its trip. The Lunas will compete in an informal dual meet at Moanalua on Sunday.
Kamehameha senior Ashley Gooman, a two-time state champion (102, 107), took the 122-pound title at Pa‘ani. Gooman, ranked No. 2 in P4P, edged teammate Alana Vivas 2-0 in the final.
“I bumped up for this tournament,” Gooman said. “Alana and I are really, really good friends. We do know each other’s moves, but we’re still do what we have to do.”
The two points came on a counter move.
“I got a duck on her in the first (period). She tied me up and I ducked underneath and behind and wrapped her up,” Gooman said.
Vivas moved up from 117 to wrestle at 122. Gooman ranges from 112 to 122.
“Just because our lineup is pretty full, I don’t want to step of any of my teammates’ weights. I’m also following my descent plan,” Gooman said.
Gooman is now 11-0 in preseason.
“I feel like I’m adding more moves,” she said. “I don’t try to complicate things. Whatever’s there. If I need to improve on, I work whatever move is best for that position. There’s definitely so much to work on.”
Kamehameha’s status as the favorite to win the girls and boys state team titles hasn’t diminished the hunger.
“As a girls team, we won my freshman year and then these past two years we got second, so we definitely want this last one. I want this last one,” Gooman said. “I’m grateful for second, but it really hurts, too. Our coaches still remind us, even if we get these (early) wins, it’s not over yet.”
Three-time state champion Kelani Corbett of Leilehua dominated, taking Shayna Kamaka of Baldwin 11-2 (maj.) in the 168 weight class final
“There are people who say, ‘You’re a state champion.’ I was like yeah. I say thank you. That was last year and I’m focused on this year, winning my fourth,” Corbett said.
Corbett suffered her first loss in ages a month ago against Kaleinani Makuaole of Waianae 6-5, then got her revenge with a 14-4 victory a week later (at the Maui Invitational). Makuaole won the 155 class at Pa‘ani, defeating Sunni Chow of Molokai 9-1.
“My freshman year when I would lose, I’d cry my eyes out, but I’ve learned that mistakes happen. Things happen. Not everybody will have a perfect season. Usually, I have at least one bad day out of the whole season,” Corbett said. “Last year, my bad day was first day of Officials. This year, that was my bad day. She wrestled a great match.”
She bounced back with the help of a good week of practice, working out against several of Leilehua’s boys wrestlers — the team that won the state title last season.
“I talked with my dad (coach Kevin Corbett),” she said.
The support of a massive team doesn’t hurt, either.
“We broke 90 kids on our team this year. We’re down to 84. We took two full buses to hydration. I recruit a lot of people. Wrestling isn’t a sport for everybody. Nobody comes to wrestling because it’s fun. They come because they love it,” Corbett said.
She injured her left ankle at in the semifinal round at the Officials Tournament and has kept a brace on it since.
For complete results from Pa’ani, click here.