Punahou’s Casen Watanabe was down by an overwhelming margin and looking surely to lose against No. 2 seed Logan Garcia of Moanalua in the 126-pound semifinals at the Texaco/HHSAA State Wrestling Championships Thursday at Blaisdell Arena.
Yet, at the start of the third period, down 6-1, his Buffanblu coaches encouraged him. “This is the last two minutes, this is your time,” they said.
Sure enough, Watanabe turned the tables and pinned Garcia at 4:21 and the sidelines erupted.
“That’s why you don’t stop fighting,” one coach told Watanabe less than a minute after the win. “That’s why you don’t stop fighting.”
Garcia, a one-time state champion, is ranked No. 7 in Hawaii Prep World’s pound-for-pound rankings. He had his eyes on three-time state champion Corey Cabanban (No. 1 p4p) of Saint Louis, but now won’t get the chance.
After that momentous occasion for Watanabe, the Punahou junior is faced with another opportunity later Thursday. He’s the one who will face Cabanban for the state title. He can make history if he can win.
Watanabe had tears of joy for a few seconds before facing the media.
“I’m just so happy right now,” he said. “It’s good to know all the hard work paid off in the end. Cabanban’s a senior, right, so it’s my last time going against him so I just gotta leave it on the mat. Give everything I’ve got.”