Mat 1 was a rough place to be in Mills Gymnasium on Friday night.
Most of the night’s ILH judo matches proceeded without more or less than the usual fanfare (like a bloody nose). ‘Iolani’s defending state champion, Dane Yamashiro, breezed through with three wins, completely unchallenged.
Kamehameha’s formidable Jaclyn Fontanilla was absent due to illness.
But on Mat 1, a Kamehameha player got thrown headfirst, his face bouncing off the surface before he wound up almost motionless on his back. Within 15 minutes, trainers allowed him to sit up and slowly walk back to his bench. He managed to turn and bow as he stepped off the mat.
Due to a combination of illnesses and spring break-related absences, first-time judoka got playing opportunities.
“This was his first time out on the mat,” coach Scott Motoda said. “A lot of the first stringers weren’t out there so our other guys got on the mat.”
Earlier, in another match, one player nearly choked out another despite apparent attempts by the losing player to indicate that he was tapping out. Once the match was stopped, the losing player was woozy but never lost consciousness.
Even winners take the good with the bad. Mid-Pacific’s Mako Ushijima rallied for a win in a late match, but suffered a knee injury.
Legendary Punahou wrestler and judoka Daniel Chow — a three-time state champion in each sport — is now in his fifth season as an assistant coach.
The rewards outweighs the risks when it comes to contact sports, he said, but it’s never easy to gauge the right time to give a new player experience. Nor is it always easy for officials to see a maneuver than may be borderline illegal.
“It’s a contact sport and there’s some gaps in inexperience that can make injuries more likely. In regular judo there are choking techniques and submissions, but we don’t have them in high school for safety reasons,” he said. “If it’s international or national, kids as young as 12 or 13 use choking (techniques).”
“In the ILH, the problem is the teams are in general a lot smaller. Kamehameha only has half the team back since spring break. ‘Iolani still has solid team with almost all their wrestlers,” Chow said.
“It’s knowing how to take a fall and when you can take the fall safely. But it’s a pretty unnatural motion to get thrown over someone’s shoulder,” he said. “In competition, inexperienced guys tend to revert to instincts.”