Victoria Lee was the ultimate difference Saturday night.
The Mililani wrestler stepped up in the final match of the night with the score tied and got it done.
It was only an exhibition, but Lee delivered with a dominant 12-1, major-decision victory over Moanalua’a Codi-Jane Kamaka in a 122-pound match.
The win was worth four points for the combined Kapolei/Mililani team and it broke a tie for the final count of 46-42 over Na Menehune in the girls dual meet that was part of the Motown Showdown at the Moanalua gym.
Instead of multiple mats, there was only one center mat with spotlights shining on it. All eyes of the fans at the packed gym were on the competitors on that one mat, with no secondary matches going on as distractions.
Interestingly, Lee’s victory was the only girls match that didn’t end in a pin.
Lee is the sister of Angela Lee, the women’s atomweight world champion in One Championship, a martial arts organization. Victoria Lee placed third at 117 pounds at states a year ago. Angela Lee won the 121-pound state title in 2013 and placed second in the same weight class in 2014.
Their brother, Christian Lee, is the lightweight world champion in One Championship, making them the first brother-sister combination to hold world titles at the same time in a major martial arts organization.
Could a third be on her way?
Perez is coming on strong
Moanalua’s Lana Perez is determined.
She broke her arm and had surgery as a sophomore. And then she started to recover and gain her strength back, finishing her junior year with a third-place finish at states.
But then some really good stuff began to happen. She went all the way to the final match at 127 pounds in the Junior Nationals over the summer in Fargo, N.D., and finished second. She is now ranked third in the nation.
“This is the first time I’ve ever wrestled in the spotlight like that,” Perez said after pinning Ariana Morales in a 138-pound match. “As soon as states were over, I said, ‘The Grind doesn’t stop.’ I kept working and trying to get better and I progressed and it showed at Fargo for sure. I was bummed (about the loss in the final) because of all the training I put in. I deserved to win. But it was my first time being on that big stage and the nerves got the best of me. After I broke my arm, it turned the switch for me. Being away from the mat was the worst. I didn’t realize how much I loved the sport until I was taken away from it.”
Another Paguryan wrestling at Kapolei
A handful of years ago, Kapolei had Jayson and Andre Pagurayan doing some fine wrestling.
And then came their brother, Branden Pagurayan, who sprinted out of the gate firing and now has two state titles at 152 pounds and will be going for a third as a junior this season.
Now comes Brycen Pagurayan, a freshman who won his match by pin over Moanalua’s Buddee Jacobs on Saturday night at 145 pounds. Pagurayan dominated, going up by as much as 17-6 before ending it with the fall.
At the end of the night, you could tell that Branden Pagurayan (who didn’t wrestle Saturday and was ranked No. 3 in Hawaii Prep World’s pound-for-pound rankings of the season) didn’t want to prop up his little brother too much.
“My brother, he’s got a lot of work to do, a long way to go, a lot to improve on. He can work on his speed,” he said.
The older sibling is taking the business of continuing his career with state championships seriously.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about it during practice,” he said. “Training hard. Just keep training. Run every day. Practice even when the team practice is finished.”
The Kapolei boys beat Mililani 29-24.
Asuncion preparing for his season debut
Moanalua’s Elijah Asuncion did not wrestle Saturday, but he is working his way toward trying to get back to being a state champ.
Asuncion won the state 113-pound crown two years ago, but wound up placing fifth at 120 last year.
Asuncion will see his first action next week, when Na Menehune fly to California for a competition.
Placing fifth at states did not sit well with him.
“Last year was a downfall,” he said. “Right now, I’m trying to find out who I am as a person, not as a wrestler. I’m trying to clear my mind right now, so I don’t have to stress myself out. I want to go back and win and go to the top of the podium again. That’s what I want to do.”
About taking a breather Saturday, Asuncion said, “It feels good to relax. I feel healthier than I did last year. When I get out there for my first match, I want to be feeling good. I won’t feel tired and my mind won’t be tired and I won’t feel gassed.”