Waiakea is every judo team’s worst nightmare.
The Warriors have fastened a tight grip on the boys Big Island Interscholastic Federation championship, pocketing the last eight.
They have seven returning BIIF medalists in Adam Onishi (108, silver), Joshua Ohara (121, bronze), Dayton Towata (132, gold), Alan Ikehara (145, silver), Ben Camero (161, silver), Kayed Rodrigues (178, gold) and Justin Gray (198, bronze).
Even better, none of the guys are seniors. Onishi, Ikehara, Rodrigues and Gray are juniors, while Ohara, Towata and Camero are only sophomores.
“I think we’ll have a good shot at the BIIF title. We’ll be able to fill all but one of the 10 weight classes,” coach Jason Tanaka said. “The boys always have that drive to do well. I don’t have to get on them too much. It’s an easy bunch of kids to coach.”
It also helps when players step up to make others better, the best sign of good team chemistry. Tanaka pointed to Onishi and Towata as a pair of good examples.
“Adam is one of the team captains. He’s been in club judo for six or seven years and is really focused,” Tanaka said. “He’s the one trying to keep practice going as it should. He’s a good role model, even though he’s smaller. He takes initiative.
“Dayton is a good role model. He sets the tone for the team, and he’s really good, both ways, at judo and as a student. He’s one of the captains as well.”
A lot of familiar faces return in the 10 weight classes. Each division will have interesting matchups. Let’s take a quick tour:
c 108 pounds: Konawaena’s Lihau Matsuoka is the defending champ. He and Onishi will likely be the two finalists again. Matsuoka will be around for a while because he’s only a sophomore.
c 114: Konawaena senior Justin Raymond is the defending champ. Last year, he beat Hilo’s Julian Tongpalan for the title and finished 14-0 in the BIIF. Raymond is on a quest for four golds; he took the 108 crown as freshman and sophomore. He was second at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament last year.
c 145: Kamehameha-Hawaii senior Ikaika Villanueva will likely defend his title against a Waiakea judoka, either runner-up Ikehara or Towata. However, Kamehameha coach Jenna Aina said Villanueva may announce his candidacy at 161.
c 161: The title is vacant. Camero, the runner-up, figures to be the favorite. But maybe Villanueva, who played soccer instead of wrestling, turns into the new front-runner.