Clash Encounters

Boys Varsity Wrestling Scores in Minnesota

Department: Athletics

by James Takatsuka ’82, wrestling coach

Minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit – that was the temperature when we landed in Rochester, Minn. on January 2, 2008. If you’ve ever experienced temperature like that, you’ll know it’s cold. Very cold. Windchill brought the temperature down to almost 20 below zero that day. Why would any sane person fly from Honolulu (78 degrees) to Rochester in the dead of winter? Well, I’m not sure about sanity, but the Boys Varsity Wrestling team did it to compete in one of the premier team tournaments in the country: The National High School Duals, known in the Midwest simply as “The Clash.”

Jordan Ng ’10 bests the competition at The Clash. Photo by Rick Dang.

Thanks to the great season we had last year (Punahou won the state championship for the first time in 39 years!), we became the first team from Hawai‘i to be invited to this prestigious tournament. Ten of the top 40 teams in the country competed and most of the other 31 teams rounding out the field had won state championships.

Although we went to Minnesota to wrestle (and we did quite well), we were also treated to an incredible travel experience thanks to the warm hospitality of the people of Rochester. Between our workouts in the two days leading up to the tournament, we were featured in the newspaper four times, on TV twice, and were treated to a morning of snowmobiling on the Minnesota-Rochester campus.

The Clash was probably the best-run tournament we’ve encountered: the tournament staff was top-notch (and even wore Aloha shirts the first day to make us feel welcome); the officiating exceptional; and the competition at a level we had never before experienced.

Our first match was against a team from Illinois that at the time was ranked No. 9 in the nation. Although our wrestlers have never faced a challenge they haven’t relished, Glenbard-North easily handed us our first loss of the season.

The highlight of the match pitted Punahou All-American Daniel Chow ’08 against the No. 4-ranked 145-lb. wrestler in the country. Daniel started slowly and gave up an early takedown, which proved to be the difference in the match. Though he lost, he finished the match in a controlling position and caught the attention of several other teams. Daniel went on to finish the tournament an impressive 5 – 1, including a win over another nationally ranked wrestler from Nebraska.

The team bounced back from the loss to Illinois, but still dropped the next two matches against teams from Missouri and Georgia. The second day of the tournament went much better. Though we narrowly lost our first match against a team from Minnesota, we won our next two, against Nebraska and then Colorado. The victories were good enough for us to win our division and bring home a nice trophy for the wrestling room. Of the 17 wrestlers we took, 15 had matches and all had at least one win. Quite a solid showing for our first national tournament.

Our journey home also proved eventful. A “heat wave” followed us to Minnesota and on our departure day, the temperatures climbed into the 40s. Well, when you mix warm air with cold ground, you get fog. Lots of dense fog.

Our flight home was delayed and we ended up stranded in Rochester then Chicago. Getting home in time for finals seemed like a long shot until we called Patty Kort, mother of former wrestling team captain Jeremy Kort ’04. Patty, who works for American Airlines, helped reroute our travel to get us home on time for the finals.

Stopping off in Chicago, Koa Holiona ’82 and his family cooked up an incredible buffet of local food: barbeque chicken, rice, edamame and home-cooked desserts were waiting for us when we got to our hotel for the layover. Thanks to the Holionas, we found a little bit of home in Chicago.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience for the kids. The wrestling was outstanding and it showed that although we can compete against some of the better teams in the country, we still have a long way to go. Just as memorable was the adventure of traveling - from the cold and snow to the wonderful people of Rochester to an impromptu dinner with old friends. People thought we were crazy to travel from Hawai‘i to Minnesota in January, but the truth is, we can’t wait to go back!

Girls Varsity Basketball

Punahou’s Girls Varsity Basketball team traveled to Arizona December 19 – 22, 2007 to compete for the first time in the Nike Tournament of Champions, the largest and most prestigious in-season high school girls basketball tournament in North America. The showcase drew more than 100 elite teams from across the country, including the preseason top 25, giving Punahou girls a chance to compete among the very best. The tournament’s competitive intensity was eye-opening. “Every game was like a state championship,” said coach Mike Taylor. “Every possession counted. We watched and learned from how hard they played and how focused they were.” Punahou girls won an overtime game against a top-ranked team from Washington, D.C. with a preseason ranking in the top 10.

Other teams will be competing in national competitions this year, including Boys Varsity Baseball in the Katy Invitational Baseball Tournament in Katy, Texas, February 21 – 23; Boys Varsity Volleyball in the Best of the West Tournament in San Diego, Calif., March 7 – 8; and Boys Varsity Track in Santa Ana, Calif., March 20 – 31.


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