Mataafa verbally commits to Washington State football

Hercules Mataafa has his sights firmly set on the future.

Mataafa, a Lahainaluna High School senior defensive lineman, verbally committed to Washington State on Monday. The Cougars (6-6) qualified for a bowl game for the first time in a decade and will play Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 21.

“I just thought they are a program on the rise,” Mataafa said Tuesday in his first interview on the subject. “It was the best thing for me.”

Mataafa, who is 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, said he chose the Cougars over Oregon State in the end.

“I wouldn’t be in the spot I am today without my brother Saumalo or my dad (Uluao) guiding me the whole time,” he said.

Mataafa is projected to play defensive end for the Cougars.

Mataafa also had offers from San Diego State, New Mexico State and Nevada-Las Vegas. He took official visits to Oregon State, Washington State and San Diego State.

“It’s a big relief because I can focus on football now and lifting weights,” he said. “And doing what my training coach (Chris Pino) says.”

Mataafa is a two-time state runner-up wrestler at 215 pounds, but has chosen not to compete this season for a team that has state title possibilities.

“Football was always my first love and that’s what I want to prepare for for the rest of my life,” he said.

The Lunas’ 10-0 start to the season was derailed by a 20-9 loss to Kaiser in the state Division II semifinals.

“Of course, it’s my senior year – I was looking for something bigger than losing in the state semifinals,” he said.

Now, snow and Pac-12 Conference football await in Pullman, Wash.

“It’s scary, but I think I will get used to it,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to bigger and better things,” Mataafa said.

* Robert Collias is at