Taamu wrestling with heavy heart

LAHAINA – Tekau Taamu needs wrestling right now.

The Lahainaluna High School senior is seeded second at 140 pounds for this weekend’s Chevron State Championships, and is a key for the Lunas’ quest to become the first Neighbor Island team to win a state crown.

She will arrive at the Blaisdell Arena on Friday on the heels of winning the Maui Interscholastic League title on Saturday.

“That was a first, I was really excited – I mean, hard work pays off,” Taamu said moments before the team’s final practice Wednesday. “I thought I deserved it.”

About a month ago, Taamu’s mother, Faara Burns, uncle and a 17-year-old first cousin were involved in a car accident in their native Tahiti – her uncle and cousin died in the wreck and her mother was in a coma for four days.

“She’s doing fine, she’s just in a wheelchair right now,” Taamu said of her mother. “Hopefully, she’ll be here for graduation. I wish they had cable TV so she could watch me for states as I try to get into the finals. Yeah, she’s doing good. She should be able to recover in, like, two months.”

Taamu said wrestling has been a saving grace for her. She heard of the accident in a phone call from one of her brothers.

“It was really hard, I mean, I was devastated,” Taamu said. “She kind of made me stronger by just working hard. If she wasn’t there, I can just show her that I can finish my goal, accomplish the goal that I really want to, and that will be a dedication to her.

“When you first hear it, it is a shock. I just had to deal with it and hope for the best, be positive about things, not worry about what is going to happen. Me and my cousin were super close – we grew up together. I was supposed to see him at graduation, but it’s OK. I know he’s watching me on top.”

Taamu was in the school’s wrestling room for the final time for a high school practice. Her name is on the wall for her fourth-place finish last season at 155 pounds, which capped her first season as a wrestler.

“I have been wrestling for them,” she said. “It kind of made me want to do more, work super hard. All my hard work is dedicated to them.”

She was overcome with emotion at the ceremony at the beginning of the season when her name went up on the wall with Lahainaluna’s other state placers, dating to the 1960s.

“It will stay there forever,” Taamu said. “It is, like, a big accomplishment for myself and my family, so I got all emotional because it means so much to me. It is something that I really worked hard for.”

The ceremony where her name was unveiled brought tears to several onlookers.

“She can be a state champ, she has got the heart,” Lahainaluna assistant coach Conrad Bolor said. “She always shows up for practice, she has a goal, with the team support she hung in there. The team has made her stronger and she has made the team stronger.”

Taamu is 20-2 this season.

“I am not going to think about how I’m going to do, I am just focusing on one match at a time,” she said. “I don’t want to over-think things, but that is my goal – state champ.”

Taamu is one of eight seeded Lahainaluna girls. Precious Jaramillo is the lone No. 1, at 121.

“The team has a chance, we just have to work hard,” Taamu said. “This is the last day and we will see at states.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com