Warriors’ Hanada, Keawe soared to top of league | News, Sports, Jobs

Kamehameha Schools Maui’s Zeysha-Maelee Keawe toss Maui High’s Mia DiRenzio on her way to win by ippon during an MIL meet in April. Keawe completed her freshman season with a sixth-place finish at 139 pounds in the state tournament last month — she was the only state medalist from the MIL this season. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Brenden Hanada is done with competitive judo for the foreseeable future, but perhaps the most experienced judoka in the Maui Interscholastic League left his mark.

Zaysha-Maelee Keawe has also impressed the MIL, but she is just getting started.

The pair of Kamehameha Schools Maui competitors are The Maui News MIL Judokas of the Year as chosen by results on the mats and MIL officials.

Hanada, a brown belt, was the MIL champion at 114 pounds after an undefeated league slate, and he won a pair of matches at the state tournament before being eliminated.

“That feels amazing,” Hanada said. “It’s just great to represent my school, represent all of my class, especially just the judo team because we all work so hard. So getting this award, it’s awesome.”

Warriors senior Brenden Hanada wins by ippon over Molokai’s Tyren Takenaka during an MIL meet in April. Hanada went undefeated during the MIL season and won two matches at the state tournament. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Hanada competed as an 84-pound freshman in 2019 — the lowest weight class in the boys division is 108 pounds. The 2020 and 2021 seasons were wiped out by the pandemic.

“It was just awesome because as a freshman I was in the lowest weight class, 25 pounds under, so it wasn’t the best experience,” Hanada said. “But being in weight and being able to come back is awesome because it’s my only sport.

“So, it’s amazing.”

Hanada is joined on the MIL boys All-Star team by fellow league champions Uzziel Domingo (108 pounds), Luke Perreira (121) and Alden Johnson (145) of King Kekaulike; Kamehameha Maui’s Bradin Nitahara (132); Baldwin’s Gabriel Valdez (161); Maui High’s Caleb Cole Castillo (198); and Molokai’s Ekolu Horner (178) and Leo Kalipi (220).

Hanada started the sport 11 years ago and also competes for Makawao Hongwanji.

The Maui News 2022 MIL Judo All-Stars

Hanada hopes he helped build the sport in the MIL, which does not have a stellar record at the state tournament.

“I would say I helped a little bit, a lot of the boys won a couple matches (at state) this season, which is awesome,” Hanada said. “Being able to go out there and represent MIL is awesome and being able to win in the states and just compete is a great honor.”

Hanada is headed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., with the goal of becoming a pilot.

“Ever since I was small I wanted to be an astronaut, but I thought it was a little bit out of my league and I thought planes and just the outside is awesome, so I wanted to become a pilot — and just to make money for my family,” Hanada said.

Judo has helped Hanada in many ways. He was a team leader for the Warriors and could often be seen helping other judoka at MIL meets.

“It made me a lot more social and a lot more active in my community, just as a person in general, it helped me spread out and be more compassionate,” Hanada said. “Because judo is a very gentle sport and it’s very sportsmanlike, so it helped me develop a social life.”

While Hanada has finished his career, Keawe just began hers — she finished sixth in the 139-pound weight class at the state championships, claiming the only medal for the MIL this season. The last state medal won by the MIL came in 2019 when Baldwin’s Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp finished third at 139.

Keawe is a freshman and had never competed in the sport before this high school season.

“I’m actually really excited, this is my first time actually doing judo,” Keawe said. “I just thought I’ve give it a try and I didn’t think I’d get this far, so it was, like, pretty surprising to me.”

Keawe has grown to love the sport quickly.

“It was really fun, especially with my senseis and the other judoka that were with me,” she said. “It was a comfortable area to be. … It was a spring sport and since high school offered a lot more sports than middle school, I wanted to do a sport for every season and judo seemed really interesting to me and I knew people that were doing it.”

Keawe competed in air riflery in the fall and paddled in the winter for the Warriors, but it was judo where she found herself among the state’s best.

She is joined on the MIL girls All-Star team by fellow champions Daphne Takahashi (98), Haley Sedino (103) and Shaelyn Perreira (122) of Maui High; Kamehameha Maui’s Elena Beauchamp-Estrella (115) and Zeriah Kaina (172); King Kekaulike’s Miya Lu (129); and Molokai’s Kaia Yamashita (109) and Sonni Han (154).

When asked if she surprised herself a little, Keawe said: “A lot, actually.”

Now, she has some inspiration.

“It was really fun and it was a good learning experience, too,” she said. “Especially coming from Maui, we were thinking that Oahu is very, very good compared to us and we wouldn’t have much of a chance. It was nice to know that we could (compete). They weren’t as scary, per se, like as people. I got to talk to some girls who were in my weight class and they were very nice and very competitive on the mat, so it was good to have them in my weight class.”

Hanada was a guiding light for Keawe at KSM practices. The two were often practice partners.

“Brenden was really helpful, especially whenever I would end up paired with him,” Keawe said. “He was really helpful in helping me with my grips and counters.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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