Physical Disability Won’t Stop Kapolei Wrestler Ilaban

Kapolei High wrestler Shandon Ilaban (right) with coach Sean Salter. Photo courtesy Shandon Ilaban.

Kapolei High wrestler Shandon Ilaban (right) with coach Sean Salter. Photo courtesy Shandon Ilaban.

Shandon Ilaban always has counted on his work ethic to keep him a step ahead of the competition on the wrestling mat. Born with a radial club hand, the Kapolei High junior knew the one thing he could control was how hard he worked.

“I was born with it — I had surgery when I was a couple months old,” Ilaban said. “Sometimes I can’t grip as hard with my left hand. But I feel that if I was born with two regular hands, I wouldn’t be this good at wrestling. I try harder to do more than they can. It motivates me to do more than anyone else does.”

Also known as radial dysplasia, radial club hand is a condition wherein the wrist is bent inward toward the thumb, resulting in the shortening of the forearm. Despite his limitations, Ilaban was determined that sports would be part of his life at an early age.

“Wrestling has been my only sport since I was 8. I’d played soccer and baseball and football for a little bit before I got into wrestling,” said Ilaban, who competes in the 126-pound weight class. “I didn’t like wrestling (at first). I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ My dad told me to give it a little longer, and I started winning more and liking it more.”

Fast-forward to the present, and Ilaban is hitting his stride. He recently captured an individual state title in his weight class at the Chevron/HHSAA Wrestling Championships at Blaisdell Arena. Ilaban also took home his second straight OIA title days earlier.

He recently took some time away from school and training to visit with MidWeek‘s West Oahu Islander.

What is your earliest sports-related memory?

I started playing soccer at 6, and it was a sport I really loved playing. I was super little, and I loved running around. I thought I was really good. I used to score a lot of goals.

Who’s had the biggest impact on your life? It would have to be my parents (Kaulana and Shawna Akeo). They always drive me to do better. When I was younger and playing football, if I didn’t do great, he would have me do sprints on the field after the game. He wanted me to do better than everyone else.

What will you focus on during the off-season? Getting bigger and stronger. I’m planning to go wrestle in the national tournament (in the summer), but right now, the plan is to get up to 150 (pounds), get a lot stronger, and then get back to 126 again.

What Internet site do you frequent the most? Flowrestling. My coach (Sean Salter) and I watch a lot of videos about (wrestling) technique.

What is your least favorite household chore? Can I name two? I don’t like folding clothes, and I don’t like washing dishes. My little brother sometimes leaves all kinds of things in his dishes.

Who are three of your favorite musical artists? A lot of people are into rap, but I’m a little different. I like to listen to Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park and Drake.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I plan to be living in California with my wife and two kids, and I’ll be coaching wrestling.

If you could have your pick, what celebrity would you most like to meet? (Actress) Jennifer Aniston.