Now that’s what you call a gripping wrestling match. And in more ways than one.
While perusing the Hawaii Wrestling Officials Association Scholarship Tournament brackets on the stage overlooking the Leilehua gym Saturday, it was hard to miss two high school behemoths going at it on the nearest mat.
One was wearing the teal singlet of the Kapolei Hurricanes. The other wore the forest green uniform of the Molokai Farmers.
The two boys looked somewhat alike. They were pushing and shoving, trying to get a grip on each other and slipping off. They were banging shoulders and heads, like two bulls. The only thing missing was the horns and the proverbial smoke coming out, like when Bugs Bunny was the matador.
Two relatively immovable forces, yet both were trying their damnedest to move the other.
Well, in the end, Kapolei’s Donte Keliiholokai scored the 5-4 triple-overtime victory over Molokai’s Kui Han with an escape in the 285-pound semifinals.
At one point in the match, a referee warned the two about how they were using their hands. Later, during overtime, the ref held Han’s missing contact lens in his palm and trainer was called to help the wrestler put it back in.
“We were fighting, clashing,” said Keliiholokai, who is also a guard and center for the Kapolei football team. “He got my ankle, but I cross-faced him with a forearm to the head and got away.”
Han described it like this: “I tried to hold his ankle down, but my hand slipped and he got away. He deserved it. He made his moves and won. It was two good wrestlers and a great match.”
It turns out that Keliiholokai grew up on Molokai, where he went to elementary school with Han, before moving to Oahu when he was 12. He wrestled for Kahuku last year and transferred to Kapolei for this, his junior year.
“But this is really my first year wrestling,” he said. “I didn’t make weight last year.”
Keliiholokai said he was up to 310 last year (well above the 285 limit). He got down as low as 250 this year, but bulked back up to 275 for football. He’s at 265 pounds now.
Han, a senior, is 260 pounds. In Saturday afternoon’s final, he faces Punahou’s Kanai Eldredge, who he lost to in the fifth-place match at states last season.
“We grew up together,” he said. “Typical Molokai boys. I had kind of forgotten about him, but I remembered when I saw his face Friday (the first day of the tournament). It got to be like it used to be all over again, friends, like no time has passed.”