Garner Ivey Invitational celebrates 50th year

Ivey

Ivey

The Garner Ivey Invitational wrestling tournament turns 50 today at War Memorial Gym.

The event has long been regarded as one of the top tournaments in Hawaii outside of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships, which is only two years older than the Ivey meet.

The meet, named in honor of the former Baldwin High School coach who died in 2012, was formerly known as the Maui Invitational Tournament.

“I wrestled under Garner for four years,” current Baldwin coach

Malakai Panu­ve, a 1996 Baldwin graduate, said outside of practice on Wednesday. “I won the Garner Ivey my senior year at the 152-pound weight class. It’s always been a special event, it’s always one of the greatest events here on Maui. You’ve got teams from all over the islands, Mainland, we even had in the past international teams come here and attend this event.

“To just think about it as the 50th anniversary, it’s as special occasion.”

Preliminary bouts begin at 10:30 a.m. today and Saturday — finals are set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

As usual, the event will provide a state tournament preview — state powers Kahuku, Waianae, Campbell, Saint Louis and Punahou join all eight Maui Interscholastic League teams plus Kealakehe, Konawaena and Hilo from the Big Island, and Kapaa and Kauai from the Garden Isle.

But it will be Ivey, dubbed the “Father of MIL Wrestling” by many still in the sport, who will be on the minds of the attendees.

Race Hozaki, a 1987 Baldwin graduate, wrestled for Ivey and coached alongside him as an assistant.

“Just being around him, he was such a well-respected man within the wrestling community and outside in the community,” Hozaki said. “My dad actually worked for him — he was my dad’s boss at (Alexander and Baldwin). I kind of knew him prior. When I found out he was wrestling coach, I told my dad, ‘Hey, you know that old man, your boss? He’s my wrestling coach.’ “

Todd Hayase has led Lahainaluna to the first three state team titles ever for the MIL, all coming in the last three years. Hayase wrestled for Ivey before graduating in 1983 and competing at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore.

“Ever since we changed the name to honor Coach Ivey, someone like me who wrestled under him, it definitely means a lot. Everything that this tournament stands for, everything that the MIL and Maui and where we’re at in our league — a lot of it goes back to Coach Ivey,” Hayase said. “It’s such a nice thing to have the tournament named after him after all these years. There was a time when this was the premier tournament in the state.”

Kim Ball coached against Ivey for many years, both as a Lahainaluna head coach and assistant coach.

“Garner was all about wrestling — he gave back in a lot of ways that people don’t even know,” Ball said. “If kids ask about him we tell them: He’s basically the father of MIL wrestling. He obviously got a lot out of wrestling, he wrestled at Georgia Tech. He was always one that could see that this sport can change a kid’s life.”

Ralph Medeiros wrestled in the first Maui Invitational Tournament in 1968 as a Baldwin sophomore, and will be a referee at the tournament this weekend. He has missed only “two or three” of the tournaments over the years.

“I was out for the track and field team and then Garner Ivey grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘I need a 95-pounder,’ “ Medeiros recalled. “My mom and dad had to sign the permission papers, and my mom said, ‘No, you’re going to get killed.’ So, my dad signed both signatures. … It was a pretty tough tournament.”

Baldwin senior Celine Gomes won the Ivey title last season at 225 pounds before finishing second in the MIL and sixth at states.

“I think that’s pretty cool,” Gomes said of the 50th anniversary. “Wrestling, it may not be the most well-known sport, but seeing it come this far is pretty awesome.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

COMMENTS