Lunas sweep again
KAHULUI – Two weeks ago, Reilly Pasion was a B wrestler for Lahainaluna High School with the sand in the hourglass of his prep career rapidly running out.
Saturday night in a sweaty, packed Maui High gym, he became a Maui Interscholastic League champion at 147 pounds in his only shot at such a crown.
This week, he will be one of 10 Lahainaluna boys seeded in the state tournament as they shoot for the first team title for a Neighbor Island squad.
“My dad always just tells me, ‘You never know what is going to happen, you never know what’s going to happen,’ ” Pasion said after his 5-3 win over Baldwin’s Troy Waki in the 147 final. “Just the way things fell out this season, it is a tragedy to some, but for me it just so happened to find a place for me.”
Two former starters for the Lunas are suspended from school after an incident on a team trip to Hana two weeks ago and were ineligible for Saturday’s tournament.
Lahainaluna still rolled to its eighth straight MIL boys title with league champions in all but four weight classes – the team had the runners-up in three of those. The Lunas piled up 254 points, while Baldwin had two champions and 110 points. Maui High (83) finished third, just in front of Molokai (76.5) and King Kekaulike (74.5).
The Lahainaluna girls won a fourth straight MIL crown with eight champions and 181 points, 50 more than Molokai, which had four first-place finishers.
The Lunas girls got off to a big start with Malia Refamonte’s 13-9 overtime win over Kamehameha Maui’s Kiana Soloria at 99 pounds and were never challenged in the team chase. Refamonte is a senior boarder from Kauai.
“It’s amazing because coming from Kauai we didn’t have wrestling until my senior year, this year,” she said. “My match tonight was really tough because I have never beaten her since last year when I first started. Now, of course, we are thinking about a state team title.”
Lahainaluna coach Todd Hayase said his teams have two things in mind this week – boys and girls state crowns.
“Eighteen total champions, five runners-up is more than we expected,” Hayase said. “We are going to need each one of them to compete for titles for both the boys and girls. It has been a pretty tough past couple of weeks, but these kids jelled and came together and we are really looking forward to the state tournament.”
The boys team moved Wyatt Chism from 147 pounds to 137, where he won the title over King Kekaulike’s Lorenzo Angel and opened up a spot for Pasion.
“I’m not proud of what happened, but I am proud of my teammates and my coaches for pushing me to work this hard and achieve what I did today,” said Pasion, a senior with a 3.7 grade-point average who will attend the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in the fall to study education. “It is just a matter of time, things happen all the time – you can wrestle a guy eight, nine times a year and then you can beat them when it counts. I was prepared for anything to happen and I’m here today.”
Pasion has impressed teammates, including 142-pound champion Bubba Jaramillo, who ran his record to 34-0 with an 8-2 win over Molokai’s Noah Caparida in the final.
“At the beginning of the season, Reilly wasn’t sure what he was capable of,” Jaramillo said. “He really proved himself wrong. He won the title and he is going to states, everybody else should watch out.”
Jaramillo will likely be the top seed when the state brackets are revealed today.
“I had a game plan and I wasn’t going to let him, no doubt, beat me,” Jaramillo said of his battle with Caparida. “Before I even stepped on the mat, I knew I was going to win, I knew I was going to control the match, I knew I was going to attack and I was going to come out with the ‘W.’ “
The Lunas will travel to Oahu this week with competitors in 13 boys divisions.
“Although we lost two of our best guys, our team is still pretty stacked,” Jaramillo said. “Our team, no doubt, can take the title.”
Pasion agreed that this team will go to the state tournament focused on a championship.
“I think it all brought us a lot closer, closer than any team I have seen in my past four years,” Pasion said. “Maybe it is just the numbers, but I feel that this team is so much more closely bonded than any other team I have seen.”
Molokai will send 10 of the 21 wrestlers on its team to the state tournament.
“We didn’t expect that many qualifiers, so, yeah, it’s nice,” said Farmers coach Randy Manley. “The Lunas are the team to beat, every year you set your goal on trying to do damage to them. I think a girls state title is within their grasp out of sheer numbers – I don’t exactly know what else is out there, but they have some tough girls. Their boys, too, sometimes those low points can cause you to rise to the occasion.”
In one of the more dramatic finals, Baldwin’s Danny Welds-Ebanks outlasted Lahainaluna’s Joshua Coston 5-4 at 191.
“This will make me better for states,” Welds-Ebanks said. “I say, ‘Thank you,’ to him for that.”
Welds-Ebanks is 23-3 this season after finishing sixth in the state last year. He said his foe was emblematic of all the Lunas.
“I give them props, they make everybody in the league have to be better,” he said. “If you can’t beat a Luna, you have no chance at states.”
Baldwin’s Reggie Lo, who beat Lahainaluna’s Jared Panlasigui 3-2 in the 122 final, echoed his teammate’s feelings.
“I didn’t think I was going to win that match,” Lo said. “It feels amazing, this will help me a lot for state because I will be ready for great competition. The Lunas have the best conditioning – it is pretty much them against the island.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com