Valdez finds harmony on judo mats | News, Sports, Jobs

Baldwin High School’s Gabriel Valdez scores a win by wazari in his boys 161-pound match with Maui High’s Kalai Vickers during MIL judo meet No. 3 on Saturday at Kamehameha Maui. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

PUKALANI — Gabriel Valdez is laying the groundwork for a college wrestling career at Oregon State University — he is currently using the sport of judo to help on that journey.

Valdez, third in the state at 160 pounds this year in wrestling, is unbeaten in Maui Interscholastic League judo after a 2-0 showing on Saturday in MIL meet No. 3 at Kaulaheanuiokamoku Gym on the Kamehameha Maui campus.

Valdez, who plans to walk on at OSU, has been a judoka since he was 5 years old at Wailuku Hongwanji.

“To finish off my senior year strong after placing third in states for wrestling, you know, I’m going for that gold,” Valdez said after the first of his matches on Saturday. “Wrestling is my main sport, judo is my side. Judo helps my wrestling, like with strong hips and upper body. Wrestling helps out judo with your ground game and stuff.

“They kind of, like, harmonize together.”

King Kekaulike’s Miya Lu pins Maui High’s Diana Cantos in a girls 139 match.

No MIL judoka has ever won a state championship.

“Definitely, state title, try to make history,” Valdez said when asked what his goal is this season. “That’d be sick, that’d be super great.”

Caese Calaro, the third-place finisher at 145 pounds on Saturday, is Valdez’s training partner in the Baldwin practice room. The sophomore started competing in judo three years ago.

“Feels great, I’m getting back into the motion of things and just starting to get back onto my feet,” Calaro said of missing the sport last season due to the pandemic.

Calaro said his goal this season is to “get to the state tournament and get a throw.”

Kamehameha Maui’s Brenden Hanada wins by ippon Saturday over Molokai’s Tyren Takenaka at 121 pounds.

There were 45 total competitors on Saturday in a sport that the MIL is working to develop.

“It’s a pretty big weight class, 145, and there’s some tough people out there,” Calaro said. “And I like to compete against them.”

Brenden Hanada is a brown belt, one step below black belt on the eight-color belt ladder. Black belt the highest level of the sport.

Hanada, a Kamehameha Maui senior, won the 121-pound boys title on Saturday — he has been doing the sport for 11 years.

“It feels amazing,” Hanada said of being back on the MIL mats for the first time since he was a freshman. “Judo’s my only sport and being deprived of it was not the best thing. Being alone at home for the past two years is very boring.

Maui High’s Shaelyn Perreira (left) throws King Kekaulike’s Krystal Valoroso on her way to winning by ippon at 129.

“Now coming out here and doing my favorite sport is really awesome. I’m glad I get to do it my last year of high school.”

Hanada knows how tough the Atlas Insurance/HHSAA state tournament will be when it rolls around May 7 at the Stan Sheriff Center.

“I’m hoping to place at states, at least like fifth or sixth because there’s a lot of good people,” Hanada said. “I hope I’m better than them, train hard, so that I can beat them.”

Hanada, a team captain, has been accepted into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and plans on being a pilot. First, he is enjoying the sport he excels at for the final time in high school.

“It’s an amazing team and I love all my teammates,” Hanada said.

He plans to practice the sport of judo for many years to come. His club is Makawao Hongwanji Judo Club.

“Hopefully, yeah, that’s my goal — I want to become a black belt,” he said.

Molokai had seven competitors at the meet and won four of the girls titles Saturday. The Farmers’ Olapa Duvauchelle, a junior, won the girls 129A class.

“It’s like really exciting because my sisters, my two older sisters, they used to be in judo, too,” Duvauchalle said. “And seeing them play, I like really wanted to play. This is my first year, actually. I’m not in any club. My freshman year I started playing judo, but that was the year COVID happened and I didn’t even get to compete.

“We’re all beginners, so right now we’re all just like super excited. Right now we have seven (judoka), but there’s more back at home — they’re all at prom right now. We have a big team.”

Kamehameha Maui coach Ron Hiyakumoto said the sport is growing in the MIL despite the small numbers currently.

“They’re basically just starting … we started in March, so they basically had just one month to get ready for the season,” Hiyakumoto said. “So, they’re doing fine, they’re coming along. Some kids did judo before, so they’re OK, but some people are totally new and they’re doing fine.”

Hiyakumoto was a referee when he wasn’t coaching on Saturday. He has been involved with the sport for more than 30 years.

“Some of them this is the only sport that they do, so they’ve been waiting three years to do it, to get back on the mat for judo,” Hiyakumoto said. “So, we should be pretty happy.”

* Robert Collias is at


MIL Judo Meet No. 3

Saturday’s Results • Top 3

At Kamehameha Maui


108 pounds–1. Kaimana Reys-Hammond, Baldwin; 2. Uzziel Domingo, King Kekaulike.

121–1. Brenden Hanada, Kamehameha Maui; 2. James McCall, King Kekaulike; 3. Kody Sakamoto, Kamehameha Maui.

132 A–1. Bradin Nitahara, Kamehameha Maui; 2. Justen Patague, Maui High ; 3. Tony Passetti, Maui High.

132 B–1. Donovan Taylor, King Kekaulike; 2. Bennett Takahama, Kamehameha Maui; 3. Randyn Cabreros Molokai.

145–1. Alden Johnson, King Kekaulike; 2. Race Takahashi, Maui High; 3. Caese Calaro Baldwin.

161–1. Gabriel Valdez Baldwin; 2. Kalai Vickers, Kamehameha Maui; 3. Kevin Kahoohanohano, Kamehameha Maui.

220–1. Kaiwahawanawana Ho, Kamehameha Maui; 2. Jasyah Macugay, Kamehameha Maui.


98–1. Anjolie Manaba Molokai; 2. Daphne Takahashi, Maui High; 3. Hiilei Roman, Kamehameha Maui.

103–1. Kaylie Okuni, King Kekaulike; 2. Hayley Sedino, Maui High; 3. Jamilyn Higa, Kamehameha Maui.

115–1. Leinaala Patricio, Kamehameha Maui; 2. Kili’ohu Duvacuhelle Molokai.

129A–1. Olapa Duvacuhelle Molokai; 2. Josie Vierra-Naleieha, Kamehameha Maui; 3. Ella Semamonty, King Kekaulike.

129 B–1. Shaelyn Perreira, Maui High; 2. Krystal Valoroso, King Kekaulike; 3. Ava Takahama, Kamehameha Maui.

139–1. Miya Lu, King Kekaulike; t2. Mia DiRienzo, Maui High; t2. Zaysha-Maelee Keawe, Kamehameha Maui.

172–1. Soni Han Molokai; 2. Vivien Bennett Felipe, King Kekaulike; 3. Shalin Chun, Maui High.

220–1. Ara Pua’a Molokai ; 2. Zeriyah Kaina, Kamehameha Maui; 3. Alyxia Lyons, King Kekaulike.

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