Team titles ultimate goal of McKinley teammates
Michael Fujiuchi is on a mission of a different kind.
The McKinley senior can become the first boy to win three individual judo state championships this weekend.
But that's not Fujiuchi's mission. He wants to lead the Tigers' boys team to its first Hawai'i High School Athletic Association state championship Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Fujiuchi, a co-captain, has been steadfast in his approach to his final state tournament.
"I want for our team to win more than anything else, because without them I wouldn't be where I am," said Fujiuchi, who will compete at 132 pounds.
Two weeks ago, the Tigers were 14 seconds from their first O'ahu Interscholastic Association boys team championship since 1993.
McKinley led Pearl City, 47-40, going into the 275-pound match. However, with time winding down, Pearl City's Tyler Lauifi pulled off a remarkable win with an ippon (full-point), snatching victory away from the Tigers.
"I felt a big part was my fault," said Fujiuchi, who won his 145-pound match by a waza-ari (seven-team points). "I wished I trained better and had another chance. Everybody was down, including myself."
Pearl City won its third title in four years and its eighth overall. The Chargers also have won all three previous state titles, but Fujiuchi hopes destiny is on the Tigers' side this year.
"I think Pearl City and Punahou will be on top, but I hope we can take home a team title for our boys and girls," he said.
"Two team titles and an individual title; that would be a perfect day."
Pearl City and Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Punahou figure to be the front-runners in the boys competition, along with McKinley.
Tigers' head coach Lance Iida is excited about the parity in this year's tournament.
"It'll be close between those three schools," he said.
A change in rules this year will allow just two entrants (down from three) from each school in each weight class. "The quality will be better that way," Iida said.
The change could have the most impact on Pearl City, which often fields teams with nearly 100 judoka.
In the girls competition, McKinley junior Lianne Tomishima will also be seeking her third state title, and the Tigers their first team championship.
Tomishima helped McKinley win its first OIA team title since 1998 and just third overall. The Tigers did so in convincing fashion when they defeated Kahuku, 70-30, in the final.
"I'm really proud of our team," said Tomishima, a two-time OIA champion. "We worked really hard this season and I think the difference (from years past) has been our team bonding."
Tomishima, who will compete at 129 pounds, is hopeful a third individual state title will bring awareness to the sport. "It should give girls a better status in judo," she said.
Other contenders for the girls' team title will be Farrington, ILH champion Iolani and Kahuku.