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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 16, 2003

State tourney is first of its kind

By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer

A dream that was born nearly 30 years ago becomes reality tomorrow when Hawai'i holds the first sanctioned state high school judo championship in the United States.

Tournaments for boys and girls will be held at McKinley High School Gym, off lower Pensacola Avenue in Honolulu. Matches will start on several mats at 1 p.m. and officials estimate the championship and third-place matches will begin after 4:30 p.m.

An official state championship became a possibility only this year when the Big Island and Maui leagues sanctioned the sport for the first time, bringing the number of leagues sponsoring judo in Hawai'i to four. State rules require at least three.

The O'ahu Interscholastic Association — the public-school league — has conducted boys' judo since 1977 and it has long been one of the OIA's most popular sports. A girls' championship was added in 1996.

"This program has progressed each year. It's a really, really great program," said Leigh Nakamoto, who coached Pearl City High to the first four OIA championships (1977-1980) and is now commissioner of officials.

The private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu organized its first official season in 2001. The Big Island Interscholastic Federation had an unofficial league last year and the three leagues conducted a "good will" state tournament on O'ahu that was a rousing success, said long-time OIA judo adviser Roy Miyoga of 'Aiea High.

"We are really looking forward to Saturday," Nakamoto said. "It's a big thing. And people from national judo are looking, too, because no other state has this."

Takao Fujitani, 70-something Moanalua High judo coach and the highest ranking judoka in Hawai'i with an 8th degree, will "bow us in" with the opening ceremony tomorrow, Miyoga said.

Hank Kibota, retired Moanalua athletic director who was the founding force of judo in the OIA, and other judo pioneers in Hawai'i will be present, too.

"It's like a dream come true," Nakamoto said.

"The competitive spirit increased when the ILH came in and it really came alive when BIIF came in last year. It was an eye opener to see some of the talent from the Big Island show their stuff," he said.

Among the most accomplished judokas competing tomorrow will be Moanalua senior 200-pounder Shingo Katsura, who won several national junior championships, and Pearl City junior 180-pounder Everett Pavo.

Mililani has four black-belt players but Saint Louis may be the boys team to beat despite having no No. 1 seeds.

Moanalua senior Caylene Valdez, first girl to win four state wrestling championships, will attempt to win the very first girls state judo title at 115 pounds.

There are 10 weight categories each for boys and girls and the format is double elimination, with championship-round losers moving into the consolation bracket and a chance to finish third.

The tournament is sanctioned and sponsored by the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association, and was enthusiastically endorsed by HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya.