(Note: The Chevron/HHSAA State Wrestling Championships have been postponed due to a tsunami warning. Weigh-in will be at 7 a.m., Sunday, Blaisdell Arena.)
By Paul Honda
The Civil Defense sirens went off at 6 a.m., waking up some roosters in pockets of Honolulu and points elsewhere.
The sirens wailed again at 7. I slept right through. Didn’t hear them, but I did hear my trusty digital alarm clock (trusty as long as electrical power is available) and got up for Day 2 of the Chevron/HHSAA State Wrestling Championships. Kind of pumped. Day 1 had its share of upsets. So many new faces and contenders.
Grabbed my stuff, got in the car and hit the road. The gas station nearby had traffic out to the street. How strange.
En route to Blaisdell Arena, I got a call. It was Jason Kaneshiro, fellow sportswriter, asking me if I heard about wrestling. Actually, it was tough to hear him so it sounded more like, “Har, der mar borg belebbling?”
Finally, my foggy brain caught on. He was asking about wrestling. He got a call from the HHSAA announcing the postponement of today’s competition. The tsunami caused by a whopping 8.8 magnitude earthquake off Chile last night is expected to hit the islands by 11 a.m.
No wrestling? Tsunami? I remembered then the news about the earthquake last night. All the tsunami information I’ve seen through documentaries (thank you, PBS, I Love You) has stuck with me, and when I got to Blaisdell, I found tourney coordinator Keith Matsumoto there. I also found the Baldwin and Lahainaluna wrestling teams, nomads in a faraway place.
The Lunas sat and relaxed together. The Bears? The four who were scheduled to wrestle today were put to work on the mat by coach Malakai Panuve. With no home gym to call their own on Oahu, the laid-out mats in Blaisdell sure came in handy. The wrestlers — Eleomar Cabbat (108 weight class), Ernest Sumabat (114), Brady Carone (152) and Hailey Namauu (155) — stretched, jogged and started on warm-up drills in the empty facility.
The Blaisdell, apparently, is in a tsunami-free zone, which surprises me since it’s less than a mile from the ocean. The Bears had time, though, and even with a bonus of one more pound permitted for the rescheduled weigh-in (tomorrow morning), it was best to get a light workout in.
Oh yes, the extra pound. Wrestling coaches and administrators nationwide have gotten wiser over the years, and now, the youngsters get more leeway as the season trods along. A 135-pound division wrestler, for example, gets an extra two pounds by this time of year. The extra day caused by the postponement — weigh-in was set for 8:30 a.m., but was pushed back to 7 a.m. tomorrow — makes it tougher for kids struggling to make weight.
“They get one extra pound,” Matsumoto said. “This is not their fault.”
Manuve is in his 10th year of coaching at Baldwin. They left their hotel this morning knowing about the earthquake, but unsure about the tourney’s status.
“Word is Blaisdell is a safety zone, so we came here to be safe,” he said.
Assistant Gardner Ivey has seen a lot since he began coaching at Baldwin in 1964. He stepped away and became an official in ’81. That lasted one season, and he returned to coaching.
“I’ve never seen anything stop a sport,” he said.
His family, like many of the Bears’ ohanas, live fairly close to the ocean.
“My wife (Mary Helen) is evacuating. My son is there, so it’s no problem. I’m not worried about her,” Gardner said.
The general tone was cautious, but composed. Teams from the neighbor islands now have 24 hours to figure out what to do, how to keep occupied in the best-case scenario.
“It’s crazy, a whole day of monitoring weight,” Manuve said.
His goal for the morning was to get his four qualified wrestlers a good workout so they could eat later and not worry about tomorrow’s weigh-in, even with the extra pound alloted.
Lahainaluna didn’t stick around long.
“We just found out when we got here,” assistant coach Lindsay Ball said. “We’ve got 37.”
There are all kinds of logistical adjustments to make. Hotel. Car rental. Airline.
“It’s the same thing for Molokai and Lanai. They have to go on Island Air, which has fewer flights,” Ball noted.
Matsumoto has seen nature conflict with wrestling before. He was a wrestler at Penn, riding the team bus when a snowstorm struck New York state.
“It was in the mountains. We were delayed and got there late. We had to dress and wrestle, all bus sick, like, bad. The wall was moving and you want to throw up,” he recalled. “That was not one of the highlights of my career.”
Matsumoto doesn’t remember a postponement of the wrestling state tournament.
“My biggest concern, you know, is that the kids can stay together,” he said.