Bears ready to start season at Ivey meet
Rivalry with Lahainaluna motivates Baldwin wrestlers
WAILUKU — The Baldwin High School boys wrestling team snapped Lahainaluna’s 10-year stranglehold on the Maui Interscholastic League team title 10 months ago. Now, the Bears girls want to challenge the seven-time defending league champion Lunas.
The Bears will get their first chance to face the Lunas today and Saturday in the Garner Ivey Invitational at King Kekaulike gym.
“That is definitely a goal for us because last year we didn’t have that much girls,” said Baldwin senior Saydie Kala, the defending MIL girls champion in the 168-pound weight class, a Baldwin captain and the upper-weight girls wrestler of the meet in the 2015 Ivey tournament. “Now this year all of my new girls are coming up, so I want to get them motivated. It’s a lot of underclassmen, but they have a lot of potential.”
The powers in Maui County will mix it up with strong contingents from Benicia (Calif.) High School and St. Thomas More Academy from Ontario, British Columbia, along with 14 off-island teams from throughout the state at the Ivey meet, formerly known as the Maui Invitational Tournament, which annually kicks off the prep season in Hawaii.
The Baldwin boys took 10 wrestlers on a trip to Las Vegas in July before school started. The trip helped the team bond and focus on defending their MIL crown.
“You know, it was an 11-year drought and I was at Lahaina for two years and just switching over to Baldwin, it was definitely a different pace and we definitely were much hungrier last year and we’re trying to continue passing down the torch,” said Souta Nardi, a Baldwin senior who is the 126-pound defending MIL champion.
The Baldwin-Lahainaluna rivalry is just heating up, Nardi said.
“That rivalry is the biggest in the state, I’d have to say, at least,” he said. “That’s what makes Maui better, we have the big competition together and we push each other. That’s what helps us get ready for Oahu and the other outer islands.”
Jayden Ferreira, another senior Baldwin captain and the defending MIL champion at 195 pounds, said the fact that the event carries the name of Ivey, the man credited with starting MIL wrestling, makes the event more special to the Bears. The longtime Baldwin coach died in 2012 at the age of 84.
“At this tournament, knowing that it’s named after one of our coaches, we really take it to heart,” Ferreira said. “It’s really important to us.”
Ferreira said that the opportunity to make a season-opening statement is large.
“Us winning the (MIL) title last year is our biggest motivation right now, defending our title is important to us,” Ferreira said. “Right now, I don’t see the Lunas as that much of a problem because their team is still so young, even though they have a lot of good wrestlers.”
Laakea Joy is a senior who stepped up from 152 into the 160-pound weight class won at state last season by Baldwin’s Thomas Stevenson, who graduated. Joy, Nardi and Baldwin teammate Noah Feitosa all finished in the top 10 in the Las Vegas tournament that featured 64 wrestlers in each weight class.
Joy had a shoulder injury at state last year after winning the MIL 152 title.
“I’m coming back this year harder and better, so it’s making me try even harder this year, just trying to make it worth it,” Joy said. “Can’t wait to get going this weekend.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.