Wrestling not child's play for Hokoana
by Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
Kameona Hokoana has kept his eyes on the prize.
The Kamehameha senior wrestler put in the work and is poised to defend his 160-pound state title at the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association/Chevron Wrestling State Championships.
Competition begins today at the Neal Blaisdell Arena and wraps up tomorrow. Matches start at 10 a.m. on both days.
For Hokoana, who began wrestling at the age of 5, the goal has always been simple: Be the best.
"That got instilled in me around 7 or 8 years old," said Hokoana, who is captain of his team. "By the time I was in middle school actually before that, I was 10 I was already pretty serious about wrestling. Every year, my dad and I went to the Mainland for tournaments. I already knew it was my thing from a young age."
When he joined the Kamehameha wrestling team, Hokoana quickly experienced success, placing fourth in the state as a freshman at 145 pounds. The following year, he wrestled in the state finals in the 152-pound division. Hokoana lost the match, but according to his coach, Chris West, he gained much more from the defeat.
"When he lost in the finals as a sophomore, he really matured in that he realized that he couldn't just depend on his athletic ability any more," West said. "He went right back into training. He's always in the weight room and he has the initiative to do these things on his own."
Hokoana broke through with a state title last year, but refused to rest on his laurels.
"I felt like I had to put in more work after that, because I have more expectations of myself," Hokoana said. "I wanted to be a dominant wrestler this year and I know that there is a target on my back and I have to be prepared for everybody."
Hokoana has done just that, dropping just one match all season when he met Punahou's Patrick Sheehan the defending 171-pound state champ in preseason at the Officials' Tournament.
"He's not a physical specimen by any means, but he wrestles at a collegiate level," said West, who describes Hokoana as the "hardest working kid I've coached in 12 years here."
Punahou coach Matt Oney, who has coached Hokoana at several national tournaments with Team Hawai'i, also offered high praiser.
"His talent is superb. He's got a really good feel for the sport and excellent control of his hips and body position," Oney said. "He's very talented, obviously, but he's also a great kid."
West said what he will miss most about Hokoana is the work ethic he brought to practice every day.
"He's just absolutely relentless. He's got cardio through the roof," West said. "Kameona only has one speed: all out."
However, Hokoana said mental preparation is the most important aspect to a wrestler's game.
"When you're in those tough matches, tired and down by a point or two, you've got to be mentally tough," Hokoana said. "I think it's more about mental toughness than physical ability. You've got to give 100 percent every time of you're going to lose."
Which is the exact approach he will take today.
"This is my last tournament, so I'm going to go all out and treat every match like it's my last match like it's the state championship match," Hokoana said. "Winning last year felt so good, knowing that my hard work paid off. That's what motivates me to keep working. I always think of the end goal of winning that state championship."
Defending team champion Punahou is again the favorite to win it all. The Buffanblu, who tallied a state-tournament record 255 points to capture their third consecutive state title last year, are just one of three schools to qualify for all 14 weight classes.
Punahou beat Kamehameha by more than 30 points to win last weekend ILH's championship, but will face a tougher test this week.
The Buffanblu have a tournament-best five No. 1 seeds in Jordan Ng (114 pounds), Todd Murakawa (125), Galen McCleary (140), Patrick Sheehan (171) and Jonathan Fuimaono (285).
The Warriors also will be represented in each weight class. Top seeds for Kamehameha are Shaydon Terukina (130), Jacob Luning-Hoshino (135) and Hokoana (160).
Maui Interscholastic League powerhouse Lahainaluna is the only other school to fill each weight class and has a seeded wrestler in seven of the 14 divisions, but just one top seed in Holden Mowat (152).
"I think each of those three teams has its own horses guys you can count on to be in the finals but I think it will come down to the guys who rebound from the disappointing loss and come back through the backside and still earn points for their team," Oney said. "The extra bonus points for pins, tech falls and major decisions, they make a big difference, too."
OIA champion Campbell qualified nine weights, but has no seeded wrestlers.