OIA champ Farrington inspired by late coach
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
There are 11 weight classes in high school girls wrestling, but Farrington coach Charles Williamson told his team there may have been an invisible 12th wrestler pushing the Governors over the top last Saturday.
"I think somebody up there must have been watching us," Williamson said.
The Govs pretty much came out of nowhere to win their first O'ahu Interscholastic Association championship, scoring 146 points to edge Moanalua (143.5) and Kahuku (142). As for that "12th wrestler," everyone at Farrington knew whom Williamson was referring to.
Sandy Obra, who took over the Governors' girls program in 1997 and was its head coach through last season, died on Sept. 13 at age 56 after collapsing while working the concession stand at a Farrington-McKinley volleyball match. Williamson said Obra's sudden and unexpected passing was a tough blow for his team then, and the loss still is felt today.
"He wasn't just our coach, he was like a father and a good friend to us," said Malia Segundo, a senior co-captain. "He always sacrificed a lot to always be there for us, and we could talk to him about anything."
Darren Reyes, who has been primarily an on-mat coach for the girls, has since added many of Obra's duties as adviser and fundraiser.
"He was the center point for all of us," Reyes said. "He did a lot of things that nobody else wanted to do, and when we would ask him, he would say, 'Done.' We had been trying to get a brand new mat for years, because at Farrington we've always had hand-me-downs.
"The day after he passed away, I went to school and the new mat came in, that same day. I'm usually not an emotional person, but when I saw it, I just bawled. I knew that if he was there, he would have been smiling and saying, 'We got the mat! We got the mat!' "
The mat cost about $8,000.
Obra collapsed while cleaning up the concession stand after the volleyball match. Selling food at the concession was one of many fundraisers the team participated in to pay for a preseason trip to Castro Valley, Calif.
Several of the girls were still there when Obra collapsed, but Segundo was not.
"I left early, and he looked normal," Segundo said. "I got the call at home, then I went to the hospital."
Obra died that night of cardiac arrest.
"It took a heavy toll on the kids," Williamson said. "He was so close to them, it was hard for them to recover and they were in a lull for a while. They were missing his presence. Even now, the memory is so vivid because they walk into the gym and see the (state championship) trophy from (2004)."
As Obra no doubt would have insisted, however, the training and practices went on as scheduled. All the hard work eventually paid off in Saturday's victory.
Tani Ader (114 pounds), BN Alafonso (140) and Ashley Lilo (220) won individual titles for the Governors, but Williamson said it was a total team effort.
"Jane Matto pinned her opponent at 175 pounds (to take fifth place), Malia did a good job (taking fourth at 103) and Taylor Ibera (98-pound runner-up) is someone to watch at the state tournament," Williamson said. "We were losing at the beginning and it looked like Kahuku or Moanalua would win and we might finish third or fourth, but then everybody pulled through."
Alafonso's sister NB also scored points, finishing fourth at 130.
When the team went to Castro Valley for the preseason tournament, the host school had T-shirts made for the Governors and for Kahuku (which also participated) with Obra's picture on the back. And just before Saturday's championship matches, the entire OIA observed a moment of silence in Obra's honor.
"I thought that was really cool — it helped the kids take deep reflections before they wrestled," Williamson said. "The kids have gone through a lot of adversity. The girls still miss Sandy; when we ride the bus, they're always singing the song they sang at his funeral and the song that was written for him after he died."
But when the whistle blew and it was time to wrestle, the Govs were able to focus on the task at hand.
"Everybody took care of business," Williamson said. "That shows the impact (Obra) still has on the girls."
Segundo said Obra's memory remains the team's driving force.
"We dedicated the season to Coach Obra," she said. "This is for him."
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.