Sunday, March 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

Moanalua girls win 3rd straight wrestling title

By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Moanalua High School gymnasium will soon be home to a third girls’ state wrestling championship banner.

Moanalua won three individual titles en route to winning its third consecutive Data House Girls State Wrestling Championship last night at the Blaisdell Arena.

The Menehune have won all three official girls state championships. McKinley won a pilot tournament in 1998.

"The girls really worked hard for it this year," Moanalua coach Joel Kawachi said. "They enjoy having those two banners up on the wall. They set their goals early to put a third one up there."

Moanalua finished with 134.5 points. Castle placed second with 116 points and Punahou third with 83.5.

"We have 19 girls on our team that work together and helped each other," Kawachi said. "We’re lucky enough to have great wrestlers and supportive parents."

The champions for the Menehune were Caylene Valdez (108 pounds, pin at 1:35), Stephany Lee (140, pin at 3:10) and Gabrielle Nicholas (175, won 8-6).

"Caylene’s goal has always been to be the first four-time girls state champion ever," Kawachi said. "She worked really hard for that goal."

Valdez is currently a sophomore.

"It’s a great feeling being known as the only team that ever won states," Lee said.

The match of the night was the unseeded Nicholas defeating top seed Margot Kimura of Pearl City with a two-point, double-leg takedown with nine seconds remaining in the final round.

"(Nicholas) lost twice to that girl this year," Kawachi said. "I knew she could do it. It was a tough match that went to the end. Gabby in the end pulled off the big takedown."

Late in the first round, Nicholas took down Kimura, but the official ruled it took place out-of-bounds.

"I took her down, but I didn’t know he didn’t give me the points until everyone started booing," Nicholas said.

Kawachi, who spent the entire final round sitting among the fans in the upper level, said: "I saw it as two, but then again I’m way up here in the stands. I don’t have a clear angle like the referees do."

Eight of the 10 top seeds won individual titles. Both top seeds who lost advanced to the finals.

Beating top seeds were Nicholas and third-seeded Iwalani Fonoimoana of Kamehameha, who pinned Lauren Phillips of Kealakehe at 41 seconds in the 220 final.

Wrestlers who defended their state titles were Melissa Orden of McKinley (103 pounds), Valdez (108), Cathy Migita of Castle (121), Lee (140) and Ashley Gaspar of Nanakuli (155).

Fonoimoana won a state title at 175 last year.

"I felt there was a lot of pressure coming back as the top seed," Orden said. "I like to be the underdog."

Said Gaspar: "It feels great since I’m Nanakuli’s first two-time state champion in girls."

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