LAHAINA - Connor Mowat glances at his name on the wall - under "fifth place" - in the Lahainaluna High School wrestling room and shakes his head.
"It's really pushing me to be the best I can be, I don't want to get fifth any more," Mowat said before practice Wednesday. "I want to be the best in the state."
Mowat, who finished fifth in the state heavyweight division last season as a sophomore, will get a start on that quest as he opens the season at the Garner Ivey Maui Invitational Wrestling Tournament this morning at War Memorial Gym. Finals are set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
The 6-foot, 230-pound standout defensive lineman for the Lunas football team gives up 55 pounds to some competitors in his 285-pound class. A 20-9 loss to Kaiser in the Division II state football tournament that ended a 10-0 start still weighs on his mind.
"We had a good season, but we fell short," Mowat said. "I just want to finish it out and be champs for something."
A state wrestling team championship is a goal Mowat believes is possible for Lahainaluna with returning 140-pound state champion Bubba Jaramillo and fellow state medalists Christian Balagso and Wyatt Chism also back in the fold.
Garner Ivey Maui Invitational
Weight classes to watch
120-Four state-placers will battle at this weight, including three from the MIL: Christian Balagso of Lahainaluna (second at 108), Josten Saribay of King Kekaulike (fifth at 108), Jahfrey Akina of Baldwin (fifth at 108 in 2012) and Jake Nakasone of Iolani (fourth at 114).
130-This is the deepest weight class. Josh Terao, a three-time state champion and national champion from Mid-Pacific, is one of the top wrestlers in the country and the defending state champion at 130. Brayden Akeo of Mililani was the state champion at 125 while Wyatt Chism of Lahainaluna was the runner-up at 135.
152-This weight has three state-placers returning: Jacob Solomon of Kalaheo (third at 145), Alec Conner of Kaiser (sixth at 152) and Hunter Dehlin of Liberty (third at 152 in Oregon 5A).
109-Defending state champion Aarica Barcina of Kahuku is the favorite and Kelly Rivera of Mililani (third at 105) is another top contender.
121-Returning state champion Angela Lee of Mililani is the favorite, but two Pearl City girls could challenge: Joen Tominaga (third at 117) and Asia Evans, who lost to Lee in the state finals.
Note-The 10 returning state champions are the most in Garner Ivey tournament history. Among them are three from Lahainaluna: Carly Jaramillo (140), Bubba Jaramillo (145) and Lalelei Mataafa (220) and three from Pearl City: Breanne Takaesu, (105), Alex Ursua, (126) and Blake Cooper (160). Ursua wrestled for University last year.
"This team right here, we can take it, I believe so," Mowat said. "We just have to keep pushing and pushing and have that can-do mentality and never stop and push, push, push. We'll get there."
Jaramillo was 38-0 last season and is being recruited by Cumberland University of Kentucky for wrestling. He sees something special in Mowat.
"Connor brings a whole different level of intensity," Jaramillo said. "He gets so angry when he gets taken down or when someone's pushing him and that's what drives me more. He is such a big inspiration. He's a big factor on this team and how far we will go this season."
Last season, Mowat weighed 213 pounds, but wrestled in the 285 class so Hercules Mataafa, a two-time state runner-up, could start in the 215 division. Mataafa, a fellow defensive lineman for the Lunas, has football scholarship offers from Oregon State, San Diego State, Washington State and New Mexico State and is not wrestling this year to concentrate on getting stronger for football.
"If he wants to be a football player, he has to focus on that," Mowat said.
So, the upper level of brute strength in the Lahainaluna wrestling room this season belongs exclusively to Mowat, who likes to compete against heavier competitors.
"It feels good being the lightest guy because I'm quicker than most and in better shape," Mowat said. "The best part is I can eat whatever I want."
Mowat said the Ivey meet will be the springboard for the season.
"It is really important," he said. "If you can just pound your guy, show them what you're made of, they'll worry about you for the rest of the season."
Mowat's older brother, Holden Mowat, has his name where Connor wants his - on the state champions list. Holden Mowat won the 152-pound state title in 2010.
"Right after football, I didn't want to come out, I didn't want to wrestle, I was pretty bum-med that we lost," Connor Mowat said. "He was like, 'That's you, but you have to. I know if your heart's not into the sport, you're not going to push yourself, but it will help you for football. Most of the NFL guys are wrestlers.' I think Ray Lewis was a state champ.
"(Holden) said, 'It's all up to you.' I'm glad to have him. Now, I'm pushing harder than ever to be a state champ."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org