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Wrestlers head to Mainland after long layoff

Western States will be first meet since start of pandemic for most of Maui contingent

Iao Tiger Style Club coach Grant Nakamura uses a stick to indicate to wrestler Josiah Watson which way an opponent might approach during a practice Wednesday morning at the 4G Wrestling room in Happy Valley. A total of 45 wrestlers from seven Maui County clubs are set to compete in the Western States Championships in Provo, Utah, next week. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

WAILUKU — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tobey Ravida hasn’t competed in a wrestling tournament since winning the Hawaii High School Athletic Association 113-pound state title in February 2020.

That will change next week when Ravida is slated to compete in the Western States Championships in Provo, Utah.

Ravida, a rising senior at Baldwin High School, is one of 45 wrestlers from seven Maui County clubs who will compete in the meet.

“I’m looking forward to it, it’s been over a year since I last competed,” Ravida said from the 4G Wrestling room in Happy Valley on Wednesday morning. “Over the pandemic I’ve been slacking, but I’ve tried to get myself motivated to train harder, get back in shape and get ready for the next high school season.”

The tournament — set for June 16-19 — will include competitors from Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Ravida

“I’m looking at all the kids who are wrestling at this tournament — they’ve been wrestling nonstop and just this year alone, they been wrestling 15, maybe even 20 tournaments, every weekend they’re wrestling,” said Grant Nakamura, the Iao Tiger Style Club coach and an assistant for Baldwin. “Us, we haven’t wrestled for a good year, two years almost. That’s why this tournament is very important to us, we’re behind now and we’ve got to catch up. Hopefully the state opens up and we can start wrestling a little bit more and have a tournament here.”

Nakamura was a state champion for Baldwin and wrestled collegiately at traditional power Iowa State.

“This is a pretty important tournament for them,” Nakamura said. “We will probably do a couple more tournaments this year after this one, maybe Freak Show and then some people might be going to Fargo, that’s the big one.”

Ravida will have a chance to show his prowess in all three wrestling disciplines — folkstyle, freestyle and greco-roman.

“I’m going to compete in all three categories,” Ravida said. “I like folkstyle best because I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. I’m more comfortable doing it, but I also like freestyle because I get to lock hands, which you can’t do in folkstyle.”

Ravida said he has ramped up his training since the beginning of May.

“It’s been a month or two, but, yeah, we’re getting ready to wrestle for three days,” Ravida said. “Personally I feel ready because I’ve been doing the work and I’ve been trying to cut down what I eat, so yeah, I feel ready.”

Liana Ferreira, a Baldwin senior, placed third in the state at 97 pounds as a freshman and second as a sophomore, the last time she wrestled competitively.

“This trip I’m excited to just compete and just whup butt because I train so hard every day,” Ferreira said. “I go to the gym, I work at Crossfit and then I come to practice.”

Like Ravida, Ferreira dreams of college wrestling.

“I’ve been to like six colleges right now,” Ferreira said. “I think it’s just important for me to focus on doing my best. I don’t really focus on winning the whole thing, but just getting better and trying to do the things that I learned at practice.”

Ferreira will also do all three disciplines.

“I’m not very experienced for greco or freestyle, but I’ve been practicing a lot on it to get the hang of it,” Ferreira said. “Folkstyle, I’m pretty confident in it.”

Ferreira knows next week could be a solid chance to show her skills to college recruiters. She is well aware of the pathway paved in front of her by several impressive Maui County collegiate female wrestlers.

“I think it’s just very exciting to keep Maui very strong for the girls division, make us look good because we’re really hard working,” Ferrerira said. “I’m older and I’ve been working with these coaches for a very long time and I think it’s important to show that my coaches are very good.”

Marcus Marinas is a junior at Baldwin and will be wrestling in a tournament for the first time since he was a freshman.

“It’s kind of big because I want to use it as an experience for next season,” Marinas said of the meet that he previously attended in 2019.

Josiah Watson, who will be a seventh grader at Iao Intermediate School in the fall, is one of the few Maui wrestlers making this trip who competed in a tournament in Arizona in March.

“I’m kind of nervous, mostly nervous — I’m going to wrestle every day,” Watson said. “I’m excited and nervous at the same time.”

In addition to Nakamura’s Iao team, Team Maui, Team Lanai, 808 Wrestling, Napili Surfriders, 4MG Wrestling and Lahaina Roughnecks are sending competitors to the Western States meet.

“I know they’re ready, they have trained hard the last few months, we’re in shape, our technique’s good, we’ve been doing a lot of greco,” Nakamura said. “When I was in high school we never did greco, so a lot of these kids, they’re learning a lot of greco and they’re going to be ready, They’re going to bring home some medals for sure.”

Nakamura said practicing all three disciplines will make these youngsters better in the long run.

“They’re going to be definitely inexperienced compared to them, but they’re going to learn and they’re going to get to wrestle some good kids, so that’s important,” Nakamura said.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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