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Estrella-Beauchamp excited for trip to US Olympic Trials

Baldwin grad to have in-person support from cousin Estrella

Midland University’s Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp (top) competes during the UWW Junior Nationals and U23 Tournament in November. Estrella-Beauchamp, a 2020 graduate of Baldwin High School, is set to wrestle in the U.S. Olympic Trials this week in Fort Worth, Texas. Greg Kaup photo

Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp is headed to rare territory for a Maui wrestler — the U.S. Olympic Trials this week in Fort Worth, Texas.

Her cousin Nanea Estrella will be along to provide support.

Estrella-Beauchamp, a 2020 Baldwin High School graduate who competes for Midland University in Fremont, Neb., qualified for the trials via her NAIA national championship at 143 pounds earlier this month.

She is the first trials qualifier from Maui since Grant Nakamura made it to the men’s event in 2008. Women’s wrestling was added to the Olympics in 2004.

“I have exactly one week left,” Estrella-Beachamp said Saturday via phone from Nebraska. “I’m very excited, this is a blessing and an opportunity. I have worked very hard to get to where I am and I’m just so grateful and humble and everyone else for helping me.”

Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp holds her championship plaque after winning the 143-pound title at the NAIA Wrestling Championships in Jamestown, N.D., on March 13. Ashlee Palimo‘o photo

She knows the level of competition in her 62-kilogram weight class will be the best she has ever faced. The division is led by two former world team members and the 2019 senior national champion.

“I’ve been trying to get prepared not just physically, but mentally and emotionally because in wrestling it’s not just the physical aspect, it’s the mental game as well,” Estrella-Beauchamp said. “So, I’m just preparing myself mentally and bringing my weight down as well because I wrestled at 43s and walk around in the 150s.”

She was at 140 pounds on Saturday and must be at 136 for each day of competition this week, Friday and Saturday. She also had the choice to go in the 68-kilogram weight class, but decided to go lower.

“I haven’t made 136 in a really long time, so I’m just trying to keep my weight down,” she said. “I just felt it would be better to go 136, if I cut the weight I will be faster and I thought that’d be better. … I just want to bring my weight down so I’m not as stressed.”

Estrella attends Menlo College in California — the school opted out of wrestling competition this year due to COVID-19 concerns, leaving the four-time state champion for Lahainaluna out of collegiate competition.

Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp (left) and cousin Nanea Estrella pose for a photo during Estrella-Beauchamp’s graduation party last year. Photo courtesy of Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp

“Honestly, it has been pretty tough, but I’ve decided that this was a very good thing for me because it’s something that’s going to allow me to build my character and find a life outside of wrestling so I can love my life in wrestling more,” Estrella said Saturday.

Estrella won a national title at the United World Wrestling Junior Nationals in November. Before that, in May, she was named the winner of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

She will be at the trials as a training partner for Menlo teammate Tiana Jackson, who was the 2019 Senior Nationals runner-up at 57 kilograms. Estrella, who has been training consistently all year, thought about trying to qualify for the trials at a last chance tournament over the last couple days, but decided that her best path was to just remain in training until the summer circuit rolls around.

“In the end I decided that right now is not my time and taking into consideration COVID and all of the restrictions and everything, I decided that it was a year for me to reflect on who I am and where I want to go and where I want to take my career,” Estrella said. “So, I decided it would be best if I didn’t compete at the last chance tournament.”

Just being at the trials, “I think is going to be a great experience for me,” Estrella said. “I’m just going to be happy to see such high-level wrestlers at the top event in the nation. It’s going to be so exciting and such a good experience for me to watch that and also to watch my cousin Wai compete. I think that it’s just going to be amazing. It will really help me get back in touch with what I want as a wrestler and with my passion for the sport.”

Both cousins know that Estrella will be like another coach next to the mat when Estrella-Beauchamp is competing, simply because of how well they know each other. The two have wrestled together — many times facing off against each other — since the sixth grade.

“I’m super excited for that and I cannot wait to see her do her thing — I know she’s going to have a great tournament,” Estrella said. “I can’t wait to see the spotlight all on her.”

Estrella-Beauchamp is excited for the chance to wrestle the best in the country for a spot in Tokyo this summer. At just 19 years old, she knows her best shot to make the national team may be in 2024 or beyond.

“I see it as an opportunity and something that I can learn and gain knowledge from,” she said. “I’m just trying to absorb and learn as much as I humanly, possibly can. I talked to my coaches, they’ve never been to Olympic trials before, this is a first for them as well as it is for me.

“Just getting the experience, getting the knowledge as much as I can … to get me better.”

Estrella-Beauchamp, a two-time state champion for the Bears, does not go to any wrestling tournament to finish second.

“If I make the team, that’d be amazing,” she said. “That is the goal, honestly, but if I don’t make it, that’s OK. At least I can say ‘OK I did it, I know what it’s like. I learned, I gained knowledge,’ just to get prepared for the next trials, to better prepare myself for the next round.”

Estrella-Beauchamp didn’t know she had climbed to the No. 1-ranking in her NAIA weight class until talking to her cousin in early March.

“I didn’t know I was ranked No. 1 in the NAIA and she called me and said, ‘Congratulations,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, for what?’ “ Estrella-Beauchamp said. “She was like, ‘You don’t know your ranking?’ And I was like, ‘No, what am I ranked?’ She said, ‘You’re ranked No. 1 right now. You’re going into nationals ranked first.’ I didn’t even know that.”

Estrella-Beauchamp knows her cousin will help her this week, but she is looking forward to the future when both are on the mats. Estrella celebrated her 19th birthday Friday.

“She told me how proud she was of me and I told her I just can’t wait to have her compete and have her in the trials, have her wrestle nationals with me,” Estrella-Beauchamp said. “It’s weird because we’ve been competing with each other and against each other since sixth grade. I just can’t wait for the Estrellas to take over the world.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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