Wrestling standout killed in crash
A state and Maui Interscholastic League wrestling champion from Lahainaluna High School, Chanse Uyeda also was funny, humble and smart and inspired others, his friends and coaches said.
“He was one of those kids that a lot of kids looked up to,” said Kim Ball, who had coached Uyeda in wrestling starting when he was in the 2nd grade. “He had that rare quality. Everybody really respected Chanse Uyeda.”
The 19-year-old Lahaina resident died Thursday night after the moped he was operating collided with a car on Lower Honoapiilani Road in Lahaina, police said.
The head-on collision occurred at 8:17 p.m. fronting the Kahana Reef condominium complex. Police said the 2003 Yamaha Zuma moped was traveling south when it crossed the center line and hit a 2011 Ford Fusion traveling in the opposite direction.
Uyeda suffered life-threatening injuries and was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he later died of his injuries, police said. He wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, according to police.
The Fusion driver, a 37-year-old Arlington, Va., man and his 37-year-old wife, who was a passenger in the car, weren’t injured. Both were wearing seat belts, police said.
The traffic death was the ninth this year on Maui County roads, compared with 15 fatalities at the same time last year.
On Thursday night, word that Uyeda had been badly injured quickly spread among his friends, who gathered at the hospital with family members.
Ball said he got a call at about 10 p.m. from another wrestler.
“He asked me to pray for Chanse, he was in critical condition,” said Ball, who headed to the emergency room to wait with family members and others. “It was a pretty sad evening.”
Uyeda had graduated in 2012 from Lahainaluna, where he was a three-time MIL wrestling champion and state wrestling champion in 2011 during his junior year.
“He was probably one of the most accomplished wrestlers we have ever had,” Ball said.
In the title match that Uyeda won to take the state championship, he wrestled at 145 pounds and beat the two-time defending champion from Iolani by a score of 9-4, Ball recalled.
“Nobody really gave him a chance to win that match,” he said. “It was a crushing win. That was the highlight of his career.”
Uyeda injured his ankle during his senior year, making it difficult to repeat the feat.
Uyeda began wrestling in the 2nd grade with the Napili Surfriders Wrestling Club at the Napilihau Recreation Center.
“It just happened to be right next door to where he grew up, so it was kind of a natural thing for him,” Ball said. “His stepdad, Buff Nakoa, brought him to practice one day. He was one of the stars ever since. He was probably one of the most gifted wrestlers we ever had.”
In addition to coaching the Napili Surfriders, Ball has been an assistant coach for Lahainaluna, including while Uyeda competed.
“He was a quick study. You could show him something a couple of times and he had it,” Ball said. “And the one thing about him is he gave everything he had. If he had any gas in his tank, he gave it to you. He never quit.”
He said Uyeda was a natural wrestler.
“He was super quick and had an awesome shot. He’d get in deep. When everything’s working, nobody could stop him.”
Along with being talented athletically, Uyeda was quiet, unassuming and humble, said Todd Hayase, head wrestling coach at Lahainaluna.
“Chanse was an incredible, incredible wrestler, an incredible athlete,” Hayase said. “Outside of wrestling, he was a rascal. He was a ladies’ man, always with that smile on his face. He was very, very popular at school and among his friends.
“He always knew that he had a special place in a lot of the coaches’ hearts.”
Momi Ball, who got to know Uyeda both through wrestling and her job as a behavioral specialist for the Department of Education, said he was smart.
“He’s just an all-around neat young man, kindhearted, polite,” she said. “He was a jock, but yet he had a sensitive side. He was loved by many.
“He comes from a big, loving family. We’re still in shock.”
She worked with him on his senior project to create a website for Lahainaluna wrestling that drew on his passion for the sport.
“He wanted to make it unique for Lahainaluna. He worked hard on it,” she said.
Uyeda attended one semester of junior college in Sacramento, Calif., before returning to Maui, Hayase said. After that, Uyeda had moved to Oahu and was working there before again returning home recently.
After Uyeda graduated, he and Momi Ball kept in touch, usually by texting, she said.
Kim Ball said Uyeda showed up at a wrestling practice this year and helped coach. When Ball asked what Uyeda had been doing, he said he had been hunting, which was one of his pastimes.
David Arcangel, who is one year older, grew up with Uyeda in Lahaina, and their families also were close.
He remembered Uyeda for having the “biggest heart.”
“When I was in trouble, he was there. When he was in trouble, I was there,” Arcangel said. “We competed against and with each other. Win or lose, we were always there for each other. We were just so close. He would always catch my back.”
Arcangel said he had talked to Uyeda on Wednesday.
“He was happy, he told me he just got a job,” which he was supposed to have started Friday, Arcangel said.
Uyeda also talked about future plans to move with another friend to Las Vegas, where Arcangel now lives.
“He was just fun to be around, had the biggest smile,” Arcangel said. “He always was joking around, never meant to hurt anybody. He just loved having fun.
“I’m just in shock, miss him. I stayed up all night heartbroken. He definitely had a bright future ahead of him.”
His coaches said Uyeda’s legacy was secure, with his name appearing on the wall of honor in the Lahainaluna wrestling room three times – twice for placing in the state wrestling competition and once for being state champion.
“We will have Chanse looking down on us,” Ball said. “We’re always going to think of him when we see his name up there. It’s just unfortunate that he’s not still with us.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.