BIIF Wrestling: Three Kona boys sign autographs at Northwestern College

Kealakequa — They dominated conference and state wrestling together, so why not wrestle together in college?

Three senior superstars signed letters of intent to wrestle next season at Northwestern College in Powell, Wyoming — Akiah Carriaga, Sonny Ace — during signing day at Konawaena High School on Wednesday. Pinosa and Rhys Moxley.

The Trappers are recognized as a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I program.

“I’m so proud of them,” Wildcats wrestling coach Frederico Ventenilla said. “Being from the Big Island and getting recognition that they can compete nationally…that’s what it’s all about.”

The trio’s commitment comes as no surprise, as all three ended their high school wrestling careers on a high note. At the Big Island Interscholastic Federation (BIIF) Wrestling Championships in February, Cariaga won the 144-pound title, Espinoza won the 150-pound title and Moxley won the 175-pound title . The following week at the state competition on Oahu, Cariaga and Moxley finished fourth in their respective classes. Their efforts helped the Kona boys finish ninth at states.

“They definitely bring the work ethic that we try to provide them at Konawaena (Northwestern College Wrestling),” Ventenilla continued. “This will be a new experience for them, but we know they will carry on the Aloha spirit.”

The boys said the choice wasn’t too difficult, especially considering the trio would be heading to the mainland together.

“I really liked the scenery and the people, and the work ethic was very similar to Hawaii,” Espinoza said of his visit, which helped inform his decision. “I plan on giving it my all and I know (Carriaga and Moxley) will do the same.”

“Having my two sons go there with me makes me feel more comfortable,” Cariaga added. “I’ve never been in this situation before, but I really wanted to do something different. I really like this place… I think I can bring medals to this event.

No matter what Carriaga, Espinoza and Moxley accomplish at the next level, the support of the school community will always be in their pockets – and the trio thanked Konawaena for all they have done, Not only has it helped them become the wrestlers they are today, but they have become great people.

“Everyone in Konawana wants to get better and we all have similar personalities,” Espinoza said. “I’ve enjoyed the intensity (during my four years).”

“Conawaena made me a very independent person,” Cariaga explains. “I got to try a lot of new things for the first time… and I also helped a lot of young wrestlers, which I think they really appreciated.”

“Our success (as a team) comes from the community’s efforts, and we are very grateful,” Ventenilla said.

See next week’s paper for Kona women’s wrestling star Shakira Ortiz-Strauss’ college decision.

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