It’s qual­ity, not quan­tity this year for Kalani girls wrestling squad

MidWeek Islander (East Oahu) - - FRONT PAGE - By JACK DANILEWICZ E-mail­jack­ster.1969@ya­

Roy Ya­m­aguchi could see the signs early on, but even he wasn’t sure how far the com­pet­i­tive­ness of his daugh­ters would take them on the wrestling mat.

“They sur­prised us when they got into judo,” he said. “We couldn’t keep them away. They had to be the first kids at prac­tice, and when they weren’t, they were dis­ap­pointed.”

Fast-for­ward to now, and Mor­gan and Me­gan Ya­m­aguchi aren’t merely the first to Kalani’s girls wrestling work­outs. They are the only ones, mak­ing up the en­tire Fal­con team them­selves.

“When we have dual meets, it can be kind of in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially when we see Kahuku or Moanalua, which have a lot of girls,” said Me­gan, a se­nior.

Me­gan re­cently took first in the 114-pound weight class in the OIA East and sec­ond in the league’s over­all fi­nals, while Mor­gan claimed first in the 130-pound class in both the East and the over­all OIA. Both were to com­pete in their re­spec­tive weight classes over the week­end at the State Wrestling Cham­pi­onships.

While the Ya­m­aguchi sis­ters con­tinue to com­pete in judo in the spring, wrestling has be­come their pri­mary in­ter­est, and what was al­ready a strong bond be­tween the two has in­creased. They prac­tice to­gether, go to school to­gether, and are close off of the mat. They mir­ror each other also as model stu­dents on the Kalani honor roll.

“We have a dif­fer­ent set of friends, but we’re re­ally close,” said Mor­gan, a sopho­more. “We both like sports, we both like the out­doors, and we both like to eat — es­pe­cially af­ter weigh-ins.

“On week­ends, we’ll go out and eat things we wouldn’t nor­mally eat dur­ing the week. We al­ways re­ward our­selves with dessert af­ter a tour­na­ment. Our fa­vorite place is Just Ta­cos in Mililani.”

As for dif­fer­ences, “My sis­ter is more of a girly girl,” Mor­gan said. “She wears eye­liner and stuff.”

“She’s get­ting there (wear­ing makeup),” Me­gan added. “We were re­ally tomboys un­til we got to high school. Dad used to tease us, say­ing he raised boys.”

Their bond also helps in the wrestling arena. They’re coached by Kalani’ s head wrestling coach Racer Moody and head girls coach Brian So­lu­sod, but also give each other feed­back as needed. They wres­tle each other in prac­tice ev­ery day.

“We talk to each other a lot about wrestling, and we’re al­ways there when one has a match,” said Me­gan. “We check up on each other. We’re tight.

“It helps a lot (that both wres­tle),” she added. “When I first started as a sopho­more, it was harder. I was the only girl (on the girls team). Last year, when she (Mor­gan) joined, it made me feel so­much bet­ter — on an emo­tional level, too. We could talk things out. She knew ex­actly what was go­ing on (wrestling-wise).”

“We try to com­fort each other,” said Mor­gan, “and be­fore a match, we tell each other to leave it all on the mat. At prac­tice, we try to sim­u­late the up­com­ing op­po­nent. On the way home, we’ll talk about it quite a bit, and our par­ents will ask us what we learned that day.”

While both have ex­celled in wrestling, the ad­just­ment from judo wasn’t swift, ac­cord­ing to Mor­gan. “I didn’t like it at first; I grew into it. I started to im­prove and be­come more con­fi­dent, and my sis­ter started help­ing me and pushed me to like it more.”

The girls’ mother, Char­lene, still finds it “amaz­ing,” to see them com­pete at such a high level. “It’s ex­cit­ing to watch — there’s a lot of adren­a­line (in wrestling),” she said, not­ing how far the sport has come since her own high school days. “I even have co-work­ers still ask­ing, ‘What, wrestling?’ But we’re very happy with how they’ve pro­gressed.”

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