KEAAU — Keenan Greenbaum’s opening match provided a friendly reminder.
Locking horns with Kamehameha’s Pono Davis, the Hawaii Preparatory Academy senior heavyweight was tested before taking a 4-2 decision Saturday during a Big Island Interscholastic Federation wrestling meet at the Warriors’ gym.
“It’s all about getting it in gear again,” Greenbaum said. “I have to stay disciplined and have to remember not to get overzealous. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day.”
His afternoon got progressively easier after beating Davis. Greenbaum was ahead 11-0 when he pinned Kealakehe’s Winton Palik, and he hardly broke a sweat in pinning two more opponents — one of those matches only took 11 seconds.
Greenbaum is the defending BIIF heavyweight champion, but he failed to place at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament last year.
Two weeks ago, he stamped himself as one of Hawaii’s top contenders when he won his division at the Officials Tournament on Oahu, a preseason tuneup that’s considered a sneak preview to the state meet.
“It’s a big deal,” HPA assistant Paakaula Kalawaianui said. “Keenan’s been working really hard. He went to camp over the summer and put in a lot of time.”
Perhaps most encouraging for Greenbaum was his one-point victory in the semifinals against Campbell’s Toese Tia, last season’s state runner-up. Jaryn Villegas, the 2013 state champion, graduated.
“I wanted to test my meddle against someone who was a great wrestler, and it worked in my favor,” said Greenbaum, who isn’t giving up as much weight in matches as he was last season. “I want to see what I need to work on, and get better.”
Keaau’s Zephaniah Pavao, one of the other top heavyweights on the island, didn’t wrestle Saturday. Pavao beat Greenbaum at a meet last year, but Greenbaum returned the favor at the BIIF championships.
With a big roster and wrestlers such as Greenbaum and Russell Laros, Kalawaianui and fellow assistant Hamilton Ford are cautiously optimistic Ka Makani can contend for boys and girls league titles. HPA never has won either.
“This is the best chance we’ve ever had,” Kalawaianui said, “because we have the numbers.”
Laros also won a title at 195 at Officials, and that was coming off a performance at a Maui tournament in which he gave up weight but took the 220 title. Laros, who didn’t wrestle Saturday, will compete at 195 in the BIIF this season.
“He’s hugely improved,” Kalawaianui said. “He didn’t play football, so he’s been concentrating on wrestling after training all summer.”
The coaches tabbed Cannon Greco-Hiranaka (160) as another BIIF contender.
“We almost have the full weight brackets, which is unusual,” Ford said. “Kealakehe is the biggest, for sure, but we might be second biggest.
“Especially on the girls side, that’s a huge advantage.”