Ewa Beach Girl Wins Gold In National Wrestling Tourney

Eleven-year-old Paige Respicio remembers well the moment she realized she had a future in wrestling.

“It was when I started to beat people I used to lose to,” said Respicio, who is a student at Ewa Beach Elementary School.

“Wrestling was hard for me at first, but now it is my favorite sport. I used to do judo, but I stopped to concentrate on my wrestling.”

Respicio has been on a steady incline ever since. In addition to already earning four straight state titles, she recently traveled to Oklahoma City, where she won a gold medal (at 70 pounds) at the USAW Girls Folkstyle national championships. The event marked her first USA-sanctioned national wrestling tournament, and she found herself the youngest girl in her weight class at age 10.

When her 11th birthday arrived last week, there was much to celebrate with her extended family. It was by way of her family, in fact, that Respicio found her way to wrestling.

“We have a lot of family and friends who wrestle, so that’s how we started,” father Clifford said. “In the beginning, when she was 7, we were driving all over the island looking for wrestling clubs. Finally, Daryl Terukina started the Ewa Beach Wrestling Association. He’s a real good coach, and he’s been her coach for years now.

“After winning four state titles, we decided to go to the Mainland (accompanied by Terukina), but that was after three years of hard work. Hawaii wrestling is really well-known now because of (U.S. Olympians) Clarissa Chun and Stephany Lee. They look for us (Hawaii-based wrestlers) to come.”

Respicio also plays with Rush Soccer Club (Nike and Swoosh teams), but wrestling consumes much of her time and focus these days. She now practices two hours a day every day except Saturday. “She does well with soccer, too, but wrestling she takes really seriously,” Clifford said. “Wrestling is all about hard work, since it’s more an individual sport. It has become a lifestyle for her. Winning the Folkstyle national tournament was an early birthday present.”

When she first began training in wrestling, Respicio recalled, “I didn’t know what to do, and I was nervous.” Even with her successes to date, winning the nationals caught her by surprise. “I didn’t know I was going to do that well.”

Respicio won all five of her matches by pinning her opponent, including the finals, where she defeated Kaya Kuokkanen of the Waukesha Wrestling Club (Wisconsin).

“It’s tough, and you have to work hard,” she said. “I became a wrestler because I wanted to get a scholarship, go to college, and someday get onto the (U.S.) Olympic Team.”

While soccer, wrestling and school fill up her schedule, Respicio also has made time to give back to the Ewa community. A week before she flew to Oklahoma, she participated in a community service beach cleanup through the Ewa Beach Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

“I like to help make the community cleaner,” Respicio explained.