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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 31, 2003

Hawai'i girl wrestlers capture national titles

Advertiser Staff

Moanalua's Caylene Valdez yesterday added a national championship to her four state high school wrestling titles and Mililani's Debbie Sakai brought Hawai'i a second national crown.

"This is icing on the cake for me I'm so, so happy," Caylene Valdez said.

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Valdez won the 114-pound division and Sakai the 110-pound gold medal at the U.S. Girls Wrestling Association high school championships at Lake Orion, Mich.

In addition, Nicole Fonda of Kahuku placed second at 100 pounds, losing a tiebreaker after a 3-3 tie in two overtimes.

Elizabeth "Kapua" Torres of Kahuku was third at 105 pounds, while Naomi Karlen of Punahou (100) and Jasmine Norman of Kealakehe (130) both finished fourth in their weight classes.

Of the 19 wrestlers representing Hawai'i, 13 finished ninth or higher in the tournament, which had 357 entries from 29 states. Hawai'i was third in state scoring.

For Valdez, victory was especially sweet after she finished a disappointing eighth in last year's nationals. "This is icing on the cake for me I'm so, so happy," Valdez said.

Two weeks ago, Valdez became the third person and first girl to win four Hawai'i high school state championships.

Although she lost only one match (an injury default) in six years in Hawai'i, Valdez's best previous finish at the national tournament was third place in 1999, when she was an eighth-grader.

In her semifinal match yesterday, Valdez dominated Yesenia De La Mora of El Cajon, Calif., 9-3. De La Mora had pinned her first three opponents, two in a minute or less.

In the championship match, Valdez avenged a loss last year to Rachel Groft of Abbottstown, Pa., 4-2, taking control with an escape and takedown in the second period.

"Today was hard," Valdez said. "It was colder inside the gym and it burned my throat way, way, way more, but I had to stick it out."

Joel Kawachi, who has coached Valdez since she seventh grade, said, "She doesn't like that pressure but once she gets on the mat she always performs."

Sakai, who finished third in Valdez's 114-pound division in the state tournament, moved down to 110 for nationals and was unseeded. She had to defeat the No. 3, 2 and 1 seeds to win her title, said her coach John Kerley.

Sakai was behind 8-3 after the first round of the final, but she turned Caitlyn Chase's aggressiveness to her advantage. When Chase shot in on her, Sakai pancaked the Bloomingdale, Ill., contender and pinned her in 20 seconds of the second round.

In her semifinal, Sakai buried Maika Watanabe of Napa, Calif., 17-3.

U.S. Girls Wrestling Association
National High School Championships

Places won by Hawai'i entries:

  • 1st Debbie Sakai , Mililani (110)
  • Caylene Valdez, Moanalua (114)
  • 2nd Nicole Fonda, Kahuku (100)
  • 3rd Elizabeth Torres , Kahuku (105)
  • 4th Naomi Karlen, Punahou (100), Jasmine Norman, Kealakehe (130)
  • 5th Danyelle Hedin, Kailua (122)
  • 6th Leilani Relator, Kahuku (122)
  • 7th Roslyn Maiava. Kahuku (118)
  • 8th Bernadette Javier, Leilehua (100)
  • 9th Sadie Kaneda, Roosevelt (100), Lauren Primiano, Punahou (122), Jazmine Cockett, Kamehameha (130)


• Hawai'i-Hilo splits: Leo Sing Chow spaced seven hits and Leinani Hashida batted 3-for-4 as Hawai'i-Hilo beat host UC San Diego, 5-3, yesterday in the first game of a doubleheader.

Claresa Asuncion and Kayla Kahuli each had two hits for the Vulcans (20-7), who lost the second game 3-0.

Stephani Kurz pitched a four-hitter for the Tritons in the second game.

Wendy Layton doubled and tripled for Hilo.

Game One

UH-Hilo (20-6) 002 030 0—5 12 2
UC San Diego (14-16) 000 010 2—3 7 2

Leo Sing Chow and Kayla Kahuli. Keri Hanley, Jodie Bland (5) and Kristen Hunstad. W—Sing Chow. L—Hanley.

Leading hitters: UHH— Claresa Asuncion 2-4; Leinani Hashida 3-4; K. Kahuli 2-4. UCSD—Kim Aggabao 2-4; Breanne Cop 2-2.

Game Two

UH-Hilo (20-7) 000 000 0—0 4 1
UC San Diego (15-16) 002 001 x—3 9 0

Kristine Kahoalii and Natalie Fujimoto. Stephanie Kurz and K. Hunstad. W—Kurz. L— Kahoalii.

Leading hitters: UHH—Wendy Layton 2-3, double, triple. UCSD—Jaime Hurst 3-4.

• Crowell, Kahaku honored: University of Hawai'i's April Crowell and Justina Kahaku were named to the all-tournament team of the Tar Heel Invitational, which was rained out yesterday.

Crowell led the tournament with an .800 batting average — hitting 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs. She was intentionally walked two times. Kahaku had the fourth-best batting average — hitting 4-for-7 — as UH finished with a 1-1 record.

Virginia, which beat UH 8-7 Saturday, won the tournament title with a 2-0 record.


• Kop, Sonnenberg lead way: Brandan Kop and Eric Sonnenberg each finished with 2-under 142 totals to lead the Amatour 2003 Qualifying Tournament yesterday at Makaha Resort Golf Club.

Kop shot a 71 yesterday while Sonnenberg closed with a 69.

Defending Amatour champion Joe Phengsavath shot 143, followed by Mark Chun and Brandon Abreu at 144.

The top 36 finishers in the 120-player field qualified for the second season of Amatour, a series of tournaments for Hawai'i's amateur golfers.


• Australia wins tourney: Australia scored six unanswered goals to beat the University of Hawai'i, 7-2, in the championship game of the Rainbow Challenge Water Polo Invitational yesterday at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex.

Australia finished the tournament with a 5-0-2 record. Hawai'i was 6-1, followed by Long Beach State (4-1-2), UC San Diego (3-3), Cal Baptist (1-5), and UC Santa Cruz (0-7).

The all-tournament team was composed of Sarah Bell, New Zealand; Kristy Bagnall, Hawai'i; Dana Tucker, UC San Diego; Alicia McCormack, Australia; Angelica Garcia, Long Beach State; Amy Hetzel, Australia; and MVP Bri Hawkins, Long Beach State.