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Estrella captures crown at UWW Junior Nationals

Nanea Estrella, a Lahainaluna High School graduate, holds her national championship plaque after claiming the 55-kilogram title at the United World Wrestling Junior Nationals on Friday in Omaha, Neb. JOSE CAMPOS photos

Special to The Maui News

Nanea Estrella’s road to nationals wasn’t an easy one. But the 2020 Lahainaluna High School graduate didn’t let that stop her from attaining her ultimate prize.

Despite difficulty getting to Omaha, Neb., Estrella had no problems in winning a national title at the United World Wrestling Junior Nationals on Friday.

Estrella, a four-time Hawaii state champion for the Lunas and the reigning Maui News Maui Interscholastic League Girl Athlete of the Year, won by technical fall (11-0) over Vayle Baker, of Benton, Pa., in the 55-kilogram weight class final.

“It was amazing,” Estrella said. “It felt so good to win. Especially after everything I went through to get there, all the trials and tribulations.”

Nanea Estrella (left) defeats Vayle Baker (right) of Benton, Pa., in the final.

Estrella is a freshman at Menlo College, a women’s wrestling powerhouse in Atherton, Calif. The 18-year-old from Makawao is a full-time student despite the campus being closed during the pandemic and is taking online classes while she trains with American Falls Wrestling Club in American Falls, Idaho.

While traveling to Nebraska by car with her club coach and two teammates, they ran into a snowstorm in Wyoming which made it impassable. Her coach drove Estrella to Salt Lake City to catch a plane in order to make weigh-ins. The coach then drove back to Idaho with the other wrestlers.

Estrella then flew to Denver to make a connecting flight to Omaha. One of her flights was canceled, another flight had mechanical issues.

“Everything was such a mess,” Estrella said. “But all the hard work paid off.”

Her older brother, Kainalu, a redshirt sophomore at Utah Valley, also competed and went 1-2 in the U23 portion of the tournament.

Her cousin, Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp, a 2020 Baldwin graduate and freshman at Midland University, placed seventh in the UWW tournament at 59 kg, and was third at 62 kg in the U23 tournament.

Kamehameha Maui graduate Ashlee Palimo’o, Estrella-Beauchamp’s teammate at Midland, also competed at 62 kg.

Several other Hawaii wrestlers placed at the tournament, including Oahu’s Tiare Ikei, who won the 53 kg title in juniors and placed third in U23.

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