Supporters Spur Chargers To Third Straight Judo Crown

Thirty five teams from across the state took part in the recent Hawaii High School Athletic Association state judo championships at Stan Sheriff Center, and 34 of them began with the same mantra: Defeat Pearl City.

Indeed, the Chargers entered as overwhelming favorites and did not disappoint, despite the avalanche of pressure to perform, claiming their third straight girls state crown and the fifth overall in their proud history.

For his part, longtime head coach Robin Puahala shunned being tapped as the favorite. “We actually took a big hit to graduation last year,” he said. “In my opinion, I thought it would be a lot closer. Everyone considered us the favorites, but I didn’t think of us as front-runners.

“The girls proved everybody right and proved me wrong,” he added with a laugh.

The team had a total of 14 players qualify for states and were the lone school to have someone in every weight class. By the time it was over,

Pearl City had placed in the top six in all 10 weight classes en route to a record state tally of 104 points. Kamehameha-Kapalama and Moanalua finished a distant second with 41 points each.

Of the 12 that placed for Pearl City, only two (Megan Ramos and Trudi Eltagonde) will graduate this month, making the team an early favorite for 2015. Leading the way was freshman Chastyne Dolor, who took home the team’s only individual title as she outlasted Mililani’s Kaylin Castro by a penalty in the final seconds of their epic battle in the 109-pound class. (Dolor also defeated Castro for the OIA and West Division titles this year.)

Depth ultimately put the team over the top, as Louise Pekelo (103 pounds), Netanya Kang (129), Kayla Arakaki (139), Ramos (154) and Eltagonde (172) all were runners-up. Additionally, Kim Mendez (154) and Ashlyn Antonio (220) placed third, Mikayla Abe (115) and Joen Tominaga (122) fourth, Adrienne Nazareno (98) took fifth and Sara Kaaiakamanu (139) sixth. (Senior Breanne Takaesu closed out a fine season at states, but did not place this year.)

As in past years, Puahala credited his large staff of assistant coaches and former players with having a huge impact on his current team’s success. He called Andy Toyama, who led Pearl City to three boys state titles during his own prep days, the Chargers’ “head” assistant coach.

“Most of the pressure comes from the players from the previous teams,” he said. “The biggest thing we have is alumni support – everyone always comes back to help (work with the kids). We have anywhere from 13 to 26 (coaches and helpers) at practice every day, and with 88 (players, including the boys’ team), we need that many.

“They’re always there as reminders of the tradition to uphold, and pressure comes from the kids who were captains here when the current team members were younger.”

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