Randy Florendo, a Waianae Intermediate School teacher, coaches wrestling at the Waianae High School and freestyle (Olympic style) wrestling in an after-school program at the intermediate school. He is determined to make wrestling an important school activity in the community. Here he shares his thoughts about the sport and tells how students can benefit from their wrestling experiences.
Q: What got you interested in wrestling?
A: I have been involved in wrestling since my freshman year in at Waianae High School. I placed three times as a state winner – 3rd place in my sophomore year, 2nd in my junior, and 1st during my senior year. It allowed me to travel to Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, and aided me in earning a college degree from the Pacific University in Oregon. During my college years I placed as a national All-American and as a regional champion, which gave me the opportunity visit Germany, Poland, Guatemala, Korea, Canada, and various places in the U.S. When I realized that the high school team had not earned a championship since I was there, I felt I should help the program in some way.
Q: Can you tell me how much coaching you do?
A: The wrestling season is an all-year sport. I split my time between Waianae High School and the intermediate school for the OIA. Pre-training runs from August to the start of folkstyle (American style) wrestling which is held in October and November. The actual season for Waianae High starts in October and continues to the end of February. Then freestyle starts in March and ends in August.
Q: It sounds like your coaching schedule is pretty full. Would you like to comment on your calendar?
A: At the high school level we challenge all of the Hawaii state high schools. In February we have the OIA championship and state championship tournaments. At the intermediate school level for the past three years, thanks to the ILH, we are able to participate in their tournaments. We actually represent Waianae Intermediate School and are not part of a club program. We go up against the likes of Kamehameha, Punahou, St. Louis, Pac-5, Damien, and Iolani. When I started coaching, we were the only public school participating in their tournament. Last year Ewa had some wrestlers enter the tournament. My intermediate team looks forward to those tournaments because there are no teams from other public schools to challenge them. Those tournaments are in January and February. Currently, I am coaching freestyle (Olympic style) wrestling at Waianae Intermediate during the months of March to August, which is the freestyle season.
Q: What kind of students participate in the sport?
A: All my wrestlers are 12 to 14 years of age, although I have a few tough 5th graders that I also coach. During freestyle season we actually wrestle as a club team which is the Waianae Junior Seariders. Our competitors would consist of other club teams from around the island. There is also the Waianae Wrestling Club, which meets at 6 P.M. at the high school, that consists of kids from 5 years of age to seniors in high school. Since Waianae Intermediate School offers various after-school programs to its students such as football, volleyball, cheerleading, drama, cooking, to name a few, I decided to offer wrestling as an option for the students.
Q: How successful was your team this school season?
A: At the high school level we did better than expected. Our Junior Varsity boys took the OIA championships while the girls took 2nd place. At the Varsity level our boys took 6th place in the OIA championships while the girls took 2nd. At the intermediate level our wrestlers wrestle for pride. There are no medals, ribbons, or championship awards. It’s basically getting mat time for us and preparing them for high school competition. We do look forward to the ILH intermediate tournament because it’s great beating teams from the ILH. The ILH does have an intermediate championship tournament at the end of the season, but unfortunately, we are not part of the ILH.
Q: Can you mention any outstanding wrestlers?
A: I have a few up and coming wrestlers who have put in the time. Eighth graders Chavison Kalamau and Keale Keliinoi finished the season undefeated. Another talented wrestler who finished strong is 8th grader Gavin Ellis. I have a strong team returning next year – 7th graders Dillon Moniz, Sierraden “Buddah” Sana, Holden Basso, Randon Bailey, Atui Valu,and Kayson Kekahuna. They are not only talented wrestlers, but most importantly, great students academically. I also had two girls who wrestled for me at the intermediate level, Gina Pau-Exzabe and Sanoe Reyes.
Q: I hear that your team is trying to raise funds for a trip. Can you elaborate on that?
A: We are in the initial stages of planning a trip to Japan. We usually go to a Maui tournament in December, but we’re willing to forego that tournament for a trip to the Orient. When I was in high school, we had trips to Asia. I’ve been to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan during my sophomore year, junior year, and senior year. It would be great to have our wrestlers experience the same things I did. As for fundraisers, yes, we definitely will be holding lots of them! So if you see our sign for a car wash or any other fundraiser, please support us.
Q: Do you have sponsors or community organizations which help your teams?
A: Currently, we have no sponsor. We basically do everything the old-fashioned way….fundraise. Last year I did have a special donor who shall remain anonymous. She was born and raised in Waianae, went to a private school, and moved to the mainland where she now resides. She was raised to give back to her community. After hearing about my intermediate school wrestling program, at the time being the only public school in the ILH tournament, she wanted to donate something. She asked me what I wanted. Being old school and not really used to asking for things, let alone having someone ask me what I want, I was at a loss for words. No one ever asked me what I want. To me, twenty dollars is a lot, and I can buy me four cases of water. She generously gave me $1,ooo which was used to buy our wrestling gear. Big thanks to her – I was very grateful. For anyone out there that wants to sponsor us, if you are reading this, we do need a new wrestling mat. Our mat is old and dilapidated! This is the first time I’m asking (laughs).
Q: What are your dreams and plans for this sport?
A: Here is one interesting fact. The only team state champion from Waianae High School is the 1987 wrestling team. No other team took the state championship, and I am from that team. We have a solid JV program that took the OIA championship this past year. If they take the state championship in the coming years, it would be a full circle. If not, my future endeavor is to continue to chase that championship. I believe that wrestling offers many benefits. Wrestling, no doubt, is a tough sport. Due to its demanding nature, both physically and mentally, you need to be crazy to join the sport. But there are tremendous benefits. It improves one’s self-esteem, builds character, makes one self-disciplined, and develops patience, to name a few. These stay with you for life. Because I believe this, I am serious about starting an intermediate school league. But that entails support from other schools starting their own wrestling teams. The ILH has a great intermediate wrestling league, and Maui has a great wrestling league. As for the OIA, we are lacking at that level. But most of all, personally, I want wrestling to be a tool for our athletes to use to get into college.