By not looking ahead, Moanalua’s Elijah Asuncion has something new he can look fondly back on.
Asuncion beat Waianae’s Branson Magsayo 3-1 in overtime on Saturday night to secure his third OIA championship, becoming just the third boy from the school to do so along with Logan Garcia (2018) and Joey Bareng (2000). The accomplishment came just under a year since he lost to Magsayo to prevent him from repeating as state champion.
“I’m super happy right now, but it was expected to win three,” said Asuncion, ranked No. 9 in Hawaii Prep World’s pound-for-pound rankings. “I am now officially the third Moanalua wrestler to be a three-time OIA champ. So happy and grateful for this moment.”
Asuncion avenged his loss to Magsayo at Officials by another close score, 3-2, but this one meant a lot more. He said he went through a “deep depression” after states and wasn’t sure he wanted to continue wrestling. He eventually got back into the wrestling room and became a model teammate for a Moanalua squad that defended its OIA team title.
“It always hurts when you lose and expectations are so high,” Moanalua boys coach Lucas Misaki said. “But he has handled it really well this year. Every day in practice, being a good teammate and helping everybody else be a better wrestler and not just himself. That also helps him get better.”
Misaki has now led two schools to repeat OIA boys titles after doing it at Campbell in 2015 and 2016. He is the first to do it at multiple programs.
Misaki knew his senior leader would need everything he had to get past his rival, seeing his charge fall behind 1-0 on a stalling call in the first period but getting it back with an escape in the second. After a scoreless third period, Asuncion surprised Magsayo with an escape 23 seconds into overtime to be declared the winner. Magsayo didn’t agree with the call and gave Asuncion a little nudge with his shoulder on his way off the mat after Asuncion gave the crowd a deep bow.
Asuncion and Magsayo won’t face each other again unless it is in the state final, which is a real possibility. If it does happen, expect it to be another war that the boys will reminisce over together years from now.
“I wrestled him my whole middle school and high school career since we were young,” Asuncion said. “You know, right now, I have to say we are probably not on pretty good terms but he is one of my good friends. In my heart, he is still my friend but when we are on the mat we are enemies out there. I love him like a brother to my soul and my heart. I will appreciate that he is in my life. I train with him, I have suffered with him and cut weight with him before. He is a brother.”
It will be a long road to a rematch, which Asuncion knows so much more than he did at this time last year before the state shocker. Even if he falls short, he can become the first Moanalua boy with four state medals since Antonio Ruiz, but make no mistake that he has his eyes on being the fourth boy on the wall of the team’s wrestling room with multiple state titles.
He would join Anthony Calvan (1979-80), Aukai Pruett (1992-93) and former teammate Noah Wusstig (2018-19). Boltyn Taam could join the list with a title this year or next year. There is no next year for Asuncion.
“In two weeks I am just going to take it match by match,” Asuncion said. “I am not going to see ahead unless I am in the finals. There is a long road ahead, and you have to take it minute by minute and second by second. You have to take it slowly.”
Blaze Sumiye in an absolute war with Pookela De Santos of Leilehua, Karter Nitahara and Andrew Adiniwin joined Asuncion on the top step of the podium on Saturday, giving Na Menehune four boys league champions for the first time since 1998. Moanalua has never won a state team title and finished fifth last year.
“It’s brutal, we have to run a two-day tournament and everyone else doesn’t have to run a two-day tournament to get to the state tournament so everybody is hurting,” Misaki said. “We are going to do some things to heal up and get ready for the state tournament.”
Should it not happen, either individually or as a team, Asuncion seems more equipped to handle it.
“It didn’t happen (last year), it’s wrestling,” Asuncion said. “This is life.”