Seymour High School junior Rachel Hokoana-Yamaguchi comes from a family of fighters.
So when she moved to the area in 2015 from Nanakuli, Hawaii, she found one extracurricular activity fit her best — wrestling.
After approaching wrestling coach Todd Weaver at a teacher’s conference, Hokoana-Yamaguchi joined the Owls’ wrestling family.
Now, in her second season on the team, Hokoana-Yamaguchi has elevated herself to the top of girls wrestling field.
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The 16-year-old placed second in the girls South Regional tournament this past weekend at Franklin Community High School.
With the finish, the 152-pound grappler punched a ticket to this Friday’s Indiana High School Girls Wrestling State Finals.
Weaver and the Owls’ coaching staff encouraged Hokoana-Yamaguchi to sign up for the tournament that’s supported by the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association.
“It was a great opportunity,” Hokoana-Yamaguchi said. “It’s a blessing because not everyone can go to something like that. It was different because I was wrestling all girls.”
During the regular season, Hokoana-Yamaguchi wrestles boys on the junior varsity squad.
It’s the same in practice, as Hokoana-Yamaguchi is the only girl on the Owls’ roster in a male-dominated sport.
“I like being aggressive,” she said. “My personality is really nice, but if I’m on the mat, I will be aggressive, especially if coach tells me to be. My favorite is crossfacing.”
While some programs don’t invite the idea of having a girl on the roster, Weaver never hesitated when Hokoana-Yamaguchi approached him.
“If (a girl) is serious about it, I tell them to come out,” Weaver said. “She takes it seriously and works hard. If any girl is willing to do that, I’m willing to coach them.”
To Hokoana-Yamaguchi, it doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl she’s grappling.
Either way, she plans on winning.
“If I have to wrestle boys, then I wrestle boys,” Hokoana-Yamaguchi said. “If there is a girl, then I will wrestle her. I’ve only wrestled a girl once (outside of the tournament).”
She said her family has supports her athletic career.
“I have a lot of support from near and far,” Hokoana-Yamaguchi said. “All of my family is back home (in Hawaii), and it can be hard. My parents are really supportive because my dad used to box. He sometimes talks to me about different things, but boxing and wrestling are very different.”
Weaver said Hokoana-Yamaguchi has represented the Owls well.
“It’s always kind of an honor to have someone wrestling in a tournament,” he said. “She’s a pretty good wrestler. She’s been wrestling boys all year long. To finally go up against her own peers is good for her. It validates that she’s a good wrestler and exciting to see her have success.”
While the state championship for girls is uncharted territory for Hokoana-Yamaguchi and Seymour High School, Weaver thinks the wrestler can take top honors.
“We really think she can beat the girl she wrestled (in the regional finals),” Weaver said. “ I don’t know why we would think anything else but state champion. To think anything less would be silly, and that’s the way we’re approaching it.”
Whatever comes her way, Hokoana-Yamaguchi expects her preparation to pay off this weekend.
“I want to go and wrestle hard,” she said. “My mom always tells me to expect the unexpected. I’m trying to go and just focus on wrestling in my match. My teammates are really big supporters for me. They push me to be better.”