Kamehameha Maui boys, girls sweep team titles in MIL judo | News, Sports, Jobs

Kamehameha Schools Maui’s Bradin Nitahara takes down Maui High’s Tony Passetti on his way to winning by wazari in the boys 132 final during the MIL championships Saturday at King Kekaulike. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

PUKALANI — As he approached the mat for his Maui Interscholastic League championship match, Bradin Nitahara knew what was on the line on Saturday at the King Kekaulike High School gym.

Nitahara, a Kamehameha Schools Maui senior, walked away the winner in his 132-pound championship match, which not only clinched an MIL gold medal and a berth in the Atlas Insurance/HHSAA state tournament on May 7, it helped the Warriors to the MIL team crown.

The Kamehameha Maui boys scored 84 points to edge King Kekaulike by 10.

“It’s good, I know my class, they’re doing really good for my school,” Nitahara said. “We all help each other during practices so we get better, so it’s definitely a team effort.”

The individual title came three years since Nitahara won his first MIL crown, as a freshman in 2019. The last two seasons were wiped out by COVID-19.

Shaelyn Perreira of Maui High flips King Kekaulike’s Krystel Valoroso to win by ippon in their girls 122 final Saturday.

“It feels good because the last time I was MIL champ, there was nobody in my weight class,” Nitahara said. “I didn’t really count that one, so I wanted to make my senior year count, it’s my last one.”

On a day when just 31 girls and 24 boys competed, the league titles were still special to the competitors.

The opportunity presented this year was a chance Nitahara could not pass up.

“I used to do it as a kid, but I kind of stopped, so this is kind of like me coming back to it,” he said. “To state I just want to do my best — I know Oahu kids are pretty tough. They’ve got some good guys over there, so I will just try my best, do what I know.”

Alden Johnson, a King Kekaulike junior, won the 145-pound title shortly after Nitahara stepped off the mat. He beat Baldwin’s Caese Calaro in the final — both judoka will be at the Stan Sheriff Center this weekend as two from each weight class from the MIL qualified for the state meet.

Baldwin’s Gabriel Valdez tosses Kamehameha Maui’s Kalai Vickers to win by ippon in their boys 161 final Saturday.

“It was hard, Caese is really good,” said Johnson, who has been practicing the sport at Makawao Hongwanji for 10 years. “It’s great, it feels awesome. Feeling really good, hopefully I can go over there (to states) and win it.”

Ekolu Horner, a Molokai junior, won a tough battle with Kamehameha Maui’s Jasyah Macugay in the 178-pound boys final.

“Action, I feel good,” Horner said. “(Macugay) is not bad, I had a hard time trying to throw him.”

Horner is a first-year judoka.

“Good fun, yup,” Horner said. “I look forward (to states), I like to try to take first. That’d be nuts.”

Molokai’s Ara Puaa wins by wazari over King Kekaulike’s Alyxia Lyons in their girls 172 playoff for a state tournament spot.

The Kamehameha Maui girls scored 109 points to claim the team title, 19 more than Maui High.

Daphne Takahashi, a Maui High freshman, beat Kamehameha Maui’s Hiilei Roman in the 98-pound girls final to punch her ticket to Oahu.

“That’s awesome, it’s my first year and I’m very proud of myself,” Takahashi said. “I’ve only done two months of judo — it didn’t last very long, when I was in elementary school.

“As a freshman, I’m very proud of making my teammates and coaches proud. I love my competitor — she’s so sweet.”

Brenden Hanada is a brown belt competing as a senior for Kamehameha Maui. He finished an impressive MIL campaign with the boys title at 114 pounds, beating King Kekaulike’s James McCall in the final.

“He was very strong, he controlled me a lot, but I managed to take over at the last second,” Hanada said of McCall. “It feels awesome, even though only one opponent, still felt pretty good.”

Hanada is a leader for the MIL boys team champions.

“Oh, that’s awesome, I sit in the bleachers and I yell at my teammates all the time, give them advice before they go up,” Hanada said. “It’s amazing, it’s such a good team.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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