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KIF’s results a barometer for future success

The Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation wrestling group has been sanctioned in the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association for eight seasons now.

With each wrestling event attended, it was hard not to think of the conference’s future in the sport.

The wrestling scene here is still small, but lively.

All three KIF wrestling teams — Waimea, Kapa‘a, and Kaua‘i High, have dedicated kids and coaches that have taken the time to cultivate their talents.

Warriors’ coach Jess Jensen, Menehune coach CJ Threat, and Red Raiders’ coach Paul Shindell, along with KIF coordinator Mac Pigott, dedicated a significant amount of time to make these kids successful.

The fans and parents are small in number, but also are a group very dedicated to building this scene.

Threat is one of the original coaches since KIF wrestling first originated in the area.

When Kaua‘i kids go off-island to compete at the state tournament, they are fighting against more-established traditions.

“We are competing against schools that have had programs for 50 or 60 years, and this is only year eight in the KIF,” Threat said. “This was a banner year for the KIF, and in the long-run, we have to keep building that. We are a small island, and we are still trying to find our footing. I was happy and proud of the schools because it feels like we (as a conference) are starting to build.”

Making a statement

This year the KIF had more wrestlers placing at the state tournament than any other season since the inception of the KIF-sanctioned wrestling.

The success of the Kaua‘i kids had at the HHSAA Texaco Wrestling Championships last weekend at the Blaisdell Center in Honolulu was a statement in itself.

The Red Raiders’ Alana Takata (155 pounds), and Warriors wrestler Jolette Miner-Ho (168) both placed fifth at state.

Kaua‘i’s Kaimiloa Padrones (195) finished sixth.

Even qualifying for day two of the state tournament is an accomplishment within itself.

Kaua‘i’s Mason Stoll-Tolentino (120) made it to the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket before losing to Atalbert Debrium of Kapolei High School.

Waimea High School’s Barak Aviguetero, who lost in the consolation quarterfinals to Kahilihiwa Joy in the 126-pound class, was another KIF wrestler who represented the Menehune and KIF well.

Shindell has coached in the KIF for just three years.

Setting a precedent

Shindell made sure to cite the success of former Kaua‘i High wrestler Madison Leanio, who placed fourth at the state tournament in 2017. Shindell admits he is still new to the KIF, but has seen a recent improvement, more specifically in the depth of talent in the KIF.

“Over the past three years, the quality of the wrestling has gotten better as far as the number of participants,” Shindell said. “That has increased because other kids and other families have seen what is possible, and are inspired. Hopefully, wrestling becomes a tradition in the community and with families.”

Threat sees the KIF’s addition to the state tournament creating more parity and increased competition for the other islands in the state competition.

“I hope we keep seeing our team improve,” Threat said. “It’s really neat to see that the Hawai‘i state tournament is now a legitimate state championship with all of the islands represented.”

Jensen has also seen improvement in the increased level of competition in the KIF, and is hoping the youth wrestling continues to build a stronger foundation to continue to add to the competitive dynamic of the off-island wrestling event.

“I do feel like wrestling is growing, and of all of the islands, we are the babies of the group,” Jensen said. “There are various families and successful programs who have been involved for decades. It takes a lot of support from the community, and we will continue to see the program build.”

One area Jensen mentioned was growing the sport of wrestling through youth wrestling programs.

K-PAL (Kaua‘i Police Activities League) has locations in Waimea, Kapa‘a and Lihu‘e.

“We hope to see our program become as successful as those in Lahainaluna, because they do well in wrestling and with the youth programs,” Jensen said.

“That is something that we would like to replicate, and get our youth interested in the sport and to start competing at a young age. Some people think, when they hear of wrestling, of the actors going out there and wrestling,” said Jensen.”

The KIF has a lot of room to grow, but it is evident from this year’s success that it is headed in the right direction.

The proof of this is in the results.
Source: The Garden Island

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