KAANAPALI - The imaginary scoreboard was not kind to the Lahaina Wrestling Club, but the experience was.
The club, made up entirely of Lahainaluna High School wrestlers, lost a dual match to an all-star team from Nebraska 62-3 on the grounds of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel on Thursday.
The lone winner for the West Maui grapplers was sophomore-to-be Connor Mowat, who beat Jason Leinemann 6-1. Leinemann, a sixth-place finisher in Nebraska last season, bounced back to pin Lahaina's Wayne Alibin in the final match of the day.
Lahaina’s Connor Mowat wrestles Nebraska’s Jason Leinemann during an exhibition dual meet Thursday at Kaanapali Beach Hotel
The Maui News / ROBERT?COLLIAS photo
The Lahaina wrestlers have set goals of state team titles - boys and girls - this season and just returned from a two-week trip to the Mainland, where they won a tournament in Estes Park, Colo., and finished second in a tournament in Spokane, Wash. The Maui Interscholastic League has never won a state team wrestling crown.
"I think these guys are really technical, so we will learn way more," said Mowat, who was 9-3 on the Mainland trip. "We got better the last couple weeks."
The Nebraska team featured three state champions and six other state medalists. The Midwest team will face a combined team of wrestlers from Baldwin and King Kekaulike today at 6 p.m. at the Baldwin gym. Nebraska swept a Big Island all-star team earlier this week and will go to Oahu for a pair of duals this weekend.
Nebraska 62, Lahaina 3
120 pounds-Isaac Stanbury, Neb., def. Christian Balagso, 12-3.
120-Stanbury def. Aaron Barca, 16-0.
125-Jacob Sebade, Neb., pinned Jansen Panlasigui-Domingo, 4:15.
130-Hunter Bamford, Neb., pinned Christian Carbajal, 2:49.
135-Garrett Bowder, Neb., def. Mark Alamon, 6-0.
135-Erick Vargas, Neb., def. Robert Campos, 6-1.
140-Parker Ridgeway, Neb., pinned Kahi Tihada, 4:21.
145-Adam Willman, Neb., def. Bubba Jaramillo, 8-4.
145-Alexander Metzler, Neb., def. Jaramillo, 8-2.
152-Marcus Dodson, Neb., def. Reilly Pasion, 11-3.
160-Kalen Mazankowski, Neb., Giovanni Perez, 4-0.
165-Grant Holscher, Neb., pinned Justin Taylor, 3:19.
170-Cody Merchant, Neb., def. Joshua Coston, 6-1.
185-Connor Mowat, Lah., def. Jason Leinemann, 6-1.
185-Leinemann, Neb., pinned Wayne Alibin, 4:13.
Lahaina's Bubba Jaramillo was 23-2 at 145 pounds on the Mainland trip and lost a couple of hard-fought matches on Thursday, 8-4 to Adam Willman and 8-2 to Alexander Metzler. Willman has been a Nebraska runner-up and third-placer, while Metzler finished fourth in the state last season.
Other Lahaina competitors to hang tough were 135-pounders Mark Alamon, who lost 6-0 to Nebraska state champion Garrett Bowder, and Robert Campos, an MIL champion who lost 6-1 to Nebraska state qualifier Erick Vargas. At 160, Lahaina's Giovanni Perez lost 4-0 to Kalen Mazankowski, sixth place in Nebraska last year. At 170, Nebraska's Cody Merchant battled past Joshua Coston, 6-1.
"We had no idea what to expect," Lahaina coach Todd Hayase said. "Returning from our two-week trip from the Mainland we kind of just told these kids about the cultural exchange, goodwill. It is a great experience though."
The setting was unique on the luau grounds of the hotel with the Pacific Ocean less than 100 yards away and a picturesque sky throughout the evening.
"I mean, to be here on the grounds of KBH with the sun setting, incredible," Hayase said. "We told the Nebraska kids, 'We have never done this in our lives before either.' So, it is a special moment. I think these are things that kids are going to remember. From a wrestling standpoint, we got humbled a little bit. This is a tough group of kids from Nebraska."
Nebraska coach Tom McCann, a five-time state coach of the year and the 2001 national high school coach of the year, agreed with Hayase on the setting. McCann recently retired after a 42-year career at Kearney High School and will be an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the fall.
"I have taken teams to Romania and Iran to wrestle, but it is more beautiful here," McCann said. "I honestly have never seen a setting like this."
Dale Hall, a two-time Nebraska coach of the year and brother of three-time Olympian Dennis Hall, was an assistant coach for Nebraska.
The summer has been productive as the Lahaina team prepared like it never has for the high school season.
"I think they turned the corner from the wrestling standpoint, but the life experience that they got - the memories - was incredible," Hayase said. "It was just such a great experience up there. State title, that is what we are saying, we have got them talking about it, taking that as our team goal, both boys and girls.
"What you do in the summer is going to pay off in March at the states. They bonded, they had each other's backs, and that is part of winning state titles."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com