Moanalua girls celebrate team title in state wrestling; Kahuku's Esera wins third title

Feb. 25—They couldn't have known it at the time, but the rebirth of Moanalua's second dynasty in girls wrestling had its roots in a reserve languishing on the bench.

They couldn't have known it at the time, but the rebirth of Moanalua's second dynasty in girls wrestling had its roots in a reserve languishing on the bench.

Senior Kaitlyn Fong won a state title at 110 pounds and Zaira Sugui (155 pounds ), Sky Ramos (105 ) and Nahenahe Kalamau (125 ) added more at a packed Cannon Activities Center in Laie to lead Na Menehune to their third straight Texaco /HHSAA State Wrestling title.

Moanalua dominated the early days of state girls wrestling, taking team titles from 1999 to 2001 under coach Joel Kawachi. The current athletic director had six state champions during his run. Sean Sakaida's group has 13.

This reign started after the COVID-19 year wiped out the event, and a young sophomore couldn't crack the starting lineup. Three years later, Fong has blossomed into a state champion and the entire team seemed to celebrate her accomplishment. Who was happier, the new queen or the mass of bodies that rushed to celebrate with her ?

"I wouldn't be lying if I said were were equally happy, " Fong said. "Moanalua's team is so special and we just love each other the most amount. Not making the lineup (as a sophomore ) broke my heart, but it was enough to get me here. The failures are a blassing."

Fong, who scored 29.5 of her team's points, won't be around for the team's try for four, but the club seems to be in good hands. Ramos and Kalamau are freshmen, Sugui is a sophomore and Nohilani Kokuno is a junior. She took second to Jahlia Miguel of Baldwin after earning a state title last year.

Na Menehune scored 283.5 points to Kamehameha's 157 and 136 for Baldwin.—PHOTOS :

Kahuku's Maia Esera spent more time waiting for the broken scoreboard to get switched than she did in actual competition, pinning Waipahu's Janelle Mattos in 36 seconds. The delay only gave the darling of the arena more time in the spotlight.

Esera, a senior, picked off her third state title in three years after missing out on her freshman year because of COVID-19. Even though there are plenty of girls in state tournament history with four, she takes most pride in becoming the first Kahuku girl to win three. Only three Red Raiders have won more than one.

"In the middle of my junior year I was like 'I know I work harder than anyone, so I know I deserve this, ' " Esera said. "School history was my goal, I love my school more than anything. I am so happy to just represent."

Jax Realin (130 pounds ) of Kamehameha doubled up on state titles, shutting out Crystin-Dior Treu of Lahainaluna, and will look for her third crown next year with a runner-up finish as a freshman her only blemish. Eloise Woolsey of Kapolei remains perfect, taking the title at 140 pounds with a 4-0 win over Kaleialo Yasumura of Moanalua. Woolsey is a sophomore and on her way to the grand slam.

The 2024 tournament was a redemption song for more than one wrestler.

Bethany Chargualaf of Campbell, a senior, beat top seed Jezney Chang of Pahoa 4-2 in a tight final, finding her first success in her third state final. Taydem Uyemura of Pearl City was in the same boat as Chargualaf except she has one more year to play with. She beat Baldwin sophomore Teata Mata'afa Grove 5-1 for her first state title after two misses. She can become a multiple-time state champion next year.

Other state champions included Rylie Nishida of Kamehameha, who beat Baldwin freshman Sanairee Hasegawa, and Elle Mizue of 'Iolani, who shook off a second-place finish last year with a 10-5 win over rival Joy Jeremiah of Kamehameha in a battle of seniors. Campbell's Zoe Ahue-Bolosan took first, at 235 pounds, as did 100-pound queen Kaylie Zeller, who dropped state champion Angelina Daoang of Moanalua in the semifinals before pinning Waiakea sophomore Shaniah Ferreira in 2 :38 for her first state crown for the Sabers.