Growing up in Punaluu, Reginald Torres was a busy, active boy.
“Reggie” knew everybody. Everybody knew Reggie. Above all, he grew up playing multiple sports with a love for learning that was matched by his love for competition. These days, he and wife Lita have a new love: 10 grandchildren.
“I like to stay young at heart, to stay busy. I’m lucky enough that I can still move with my grandchildren, so I want to keep moving with them as long as I can,” said Torres, who turns 56 in April.
Decades of coaching football, wrestling and judo are somewhat behind Torres now. The state championships — three in football, six in wrestling and two in judo — will always be part of his legacy. He helps out with wrestling and judo because the daily grind is his comfort zone.
“I love running wrestling practice. I just love making them move. You bring passion and energy to the room,” he said. “But we haven’t had it. We closed it down for the past year. Watching them move, it’s fun.”
Son Richard and daughter Elizabeth became state wrestling champions. On the gridiron, he last coached at Kahuku in 2013, and as a “free agent”, joined Punahou’s staff as an offensive line coach until ’17. In one sport or another, Torres has been a coach since 1984.
“He loves to teach, the guy. I respect him,” said former wrestler Alen Phillip, a ’92 Kahuku graduate. “I helped coach when my son was wrestling. You walk around the tournaments and everybody respects the guy. A well-liked guy.”
Phillip also grew up in Punaluu and eventually was coached by Torres.
“His mom and my mom are good friends. We kind of grew up together, and when I started wrestling in sixth grade, he was our coach. I had an older brother wrestling on the JV,” Phillip said. “Our head coach let us on the mat.”
These days, the two friends meet weekly at Kahuku Municipal Golf Course for 18 holes by foot. The muni is a nine-hole course, so they — Torres, Phillip, Mike Kim and Byron Jeremiah — go two times through. Occasionally, Berto Vendiola joins them.
“Berto is 72 and he walks that course and he moves. That’s my idol,” Torres said. “I like the fourth hole coming off the hill. I got close to a hole-in-one there, maybe (missed) by eight inches.”
Torres relishes the challenge, learning the nuances of the game.
“I like it because I can’t compete like I used to,” he said. “My body won’t allow me to wrestle or play judo, but golf allows me to compete.”
Back in the 1980s, Torres wrestled in the now-defunct Aloha State Games. He played judo at the senior level.
“With my arthritis and age, I can’t anymore. I’ll roll with the kids, but not in a major way,” he said. “I move slower, so I do more walking and running. A little cardio with some of the circuits I do. Instead of a shorter routine, I do a longer one so I can still burn calories. I try to do stuff for two hours. In the past, I could do it in 30 minutes.”
His penchant for being active is still intact. The COVID-19 pandemic means he has multiple roles at Kahuku High School every day. Torres helps with grab-and-go meal distribution during lunch hour. A normal day is around 180 meals. They once had 1,400 meals to go in a day.
Before and after that, morning to afternoon, Torres is in the cafeteria at a table by a window. The site transforms into a learning lab where students bring in their Chrome books when they need updates or repairs. The coach is in charge of packet distribution — books and assignments — to students. It is a gentle authority he carries that students feel comfortable with. Coach. Uncle. Friend.
“We do learning labs every day. They come in the cafeteria, 23 kids right now,” Torres said. “It’s kind of good for them to get away from home. Their parents send them if they need more help. On Fridays around 150 kids are registered, but not all come. It’s open for them. Half-hour classes, seven periods. It gives them interaction. Some kids need to see their teachers to learn. They need it.”
Versatility makes Torres a valued utility man.
“He works so hard. He’s my go-to guy,” Kahuku Vice-Principal Patricia Macadangdang said. “And in between, he’s cleaning the cafeteria. It is spotless. Wiping down the tables, mopping, empty the trash. I mean, he does everything.”
There is also mobility. In the cafeteria, he will walk around the dozens of tables each day. His co-workers usually join him.
“Yeah, they put on the music and they get their exercise. They get their steps in. He encourages and inspires the other guys in there,” Macadangdang said.
Educational Assistant Joe Brock is part of the learning lab/cafeteria culture.
“He just stays active. Sometimes, you can’t sit still. You’ve got to do something more, so you follow in his footsteps, so to speak,” said Brock, who depends on a wheelchair for mobility and says his nickname is “Hot Wheels.” “We don’t keep count of our laps. Ten or 15, maybe more, depending how we feel, how much time we have.”
Twice a week, Torres works at Kualoa Ranch. The graveyard shift means the normally busy site is silent as he makes the rounds by foot, though he has a cart available. He doubles the effectiveness by working out as he walks.
“I bring my dumbbells and do mostly shoulder work. My shoulders are messed up. That’s why I do other sports like golf. I injured my rotator cuff years ago, but I don’t have time for surgery. I can’t coach with my shoulder in a sling for six months, so I do shoulder work,” he said.
It is a 15-pound dumbbell. Sometimes he uses a 12 pounder.
“Shoulders, biceps, triceps. The main concentration is the shoulders. Upright rows, flys. Sometimes, I’ll hold two in one hand for shrugs. Just high repetition. That’s better for me, and now my shoulder feels better when I golf,” Torres said. “I don’t want sagging shoulders.”
Kualoa’s legendary history is always in the air.
“The biggest thing is I try to avoid the night marchers,” he said. “There’s so many legends and ghost stories, things that my boss saw. The Pepsi driver saw things. Dang! A lot of spiritual things surround it. My tutu said, ‘You just got to respect.’ So that’s what I do.”
His dedication to exercise is modest compared to workouts in the past. As a football coach, he had access to the school weight room. Morning workouts with cardio work on the treadmill. Now, he is still focused on burning calories, but in an old-school way.
“I do daily weight checks. When you’re a wrestler, you see your gains and weight goals. You always think about the scale,” said Torres, who is 5 feet, 9 inches and 215 pounds.
“I started at 234 in August. I even got down to 210, but I want to keep it from getting back up. I’ll get to 220, but that’s about all,” he said. “I try to stay away from the sodas. I don’t eat heavy meals. I eat smaller meals and I watch what I eat.”
That doesn’t mean he deprives himself completely.
“A cheat meal is a No. 1 at McDonald’s. A Big Mac Meal. Small fries, large Coke,” he said.
The rest of the time, he is in motion, the better to keep up with his grandchildren.
“Just trying to stay young, stay busy. That’s what it is, keeping your heart young. Trying to age slowly,” he said. “My oldest boy has five kids. They just moved into our cul-de-sac. They’re two houses away, so I see them almost every day. They’re constantly around. They keep you busy. My 2-year-old, Rocky, says, ‘Papa, let’s play.’ Sometimes I take him on walks if he’s cranky.”
On the links of Kahuku muni, there is occasional crankiness, but mostly good-natured fun.
“It was actually me and him, I believe, around 10 years ago. Golf was just to go out and have fun. Then it became competitive after a while,” Phillip said. “Then we really wanted to learn. We put the beer on the side and really got into it. We caught the bug bad. We used to golf 36 holes in one day, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Just hitting balls.”
Phillip doesn’t view his longtime friend as a workout fiend.
“I don’t think he’s an exercise nut, but his practices were. Now, I think he’s keeping it in motion. Use it or lose it, trying to keep his body fresh,” he said. “He’s where he should be. Walking when we golf instead of riding a cart. Stuff like that.”
Since this interview with Coach Torres, more of his co-workers at Kahuku are stepping up, so to speak.
“The funny thing is, a bunch of us at the school have entered a challenge with other groups. We have to have so many steps each day, do a video of weightlifting exercise and meet some nutritional requirements,” Torres said. “This week is no starch for at least one of our meals, and our group is winning with two weeks to go. Because of what I’ve been doing, making the step requirements has been a breeze.”
That doesn’t mean the challenge is simple.
“One of the workers that exercises with us in the cafeteria had entered us in. It’s easier for us since we do movement daily and we eat pretty good anyways,” he said. “But, it also means five weeks without a Big Mac.”