For as long as Michael Hayashi, head instructor at the Shudokan judo club, can remember, his club has never produced two state champions in one season.
This spring, two of his judokas brought home gold medals from the 2023 HHSAA State Championships and one won bronze.
“We’ve always had kids get on the podium,” Hayashi said, “but we’ve never had two championships won at the same time. This was a great year for us.”
Caden Pasa and Irie Sakai, both high school seniors and Shudokan judokas for over eight years, ranked first in their respective weight classes.
Four other Shudokan judokas achieved podium positions in state this year: Elena Shibuya, Amy Gushiken, Kyler Aguiar and Irie’s younger sister Ihilani.
“It feels wonderful,” Hayashi said. “It looks like all the hard work has paid off.”
Ending their high school careers with gold medals was very satisfying for Pasa and Sakai, who also took first place at the BIIF individual championships. The class of 2023 didn’t get a shot at state their first two years of high school, and both Pasa and Sakai didn’t go gold at last year’s championships.
Pasa, who attends Hawaii’s Kamehameha Schools, competed in the 178-pound class last year and finished in fifth place. This year, he moved up to the 198-pound class and became the first KSH state champion.
However, it was not Pasa’s first gold medal. As a child, he placed first in the Intermediate A under 43 kg division at the 2014 United States Judo Association Junior National Judo Championships.
“He’s been a great competitor from a very young age,” Hayashi said. “He has been racing for us for over ten years.”
Hilo High School’s Sakai came within inches of a championship title last year, losing by ippon at 2:15 to Moanalua High School’s Jessica Dixon. She returned to the same class this year and won every state match by ippon, cutting progressively more free time in each match: 3:55 in the first round, 2:03 in the quarterfinals, 1:25 in the semifinal, and 1:14. in the final round.
“He’s really improved in the last two years,” Hayashi said, “and I think it’s because of his good work ethic. She is very focused and always gives her 100% best in practice.”
The youngest Sakai, who competes in the 129-pound class and has been training with Shudokan for eight years, also had a successful season, placing first in her class at the BIIF finals and fourth at the state.
The efforts of the Sakai sisters, combined with the efforts of their teammates, led the Vikings to a sixth-place finish in the state, edging out team champion BIIF Waiakea High School by two points.
“She’s also a very hard worker,” Hayashi said. “She doesn’t have as much experience as Irie, but I think because of her work ethic and good attitude, she will do well next year. Hopefully, she will be able to win the championship.”
Shibuya, a Shudokan judoka for a decade, led the Warriors to their victory at the BIIF Team Championship and placed first in the 108-pound class at the BIIF Individual Championship. At state, she placed third, falling to runner-up Charlotte Campbell before defeating Kaylie Zeller via ippon at exactly 2 minutes during the third-place consolation match.
“Elena has been a great representative of our club for the last ten years,” Hayashi said.
Aguiar, Shibuya’s male teammate who competes in the 108-pound class, also won gold at the BIIF Individual Championships and placed fifth in state.
“He’s very, very consistent in practice,” Hayashi said, “and he’s very focused. Unfortunately, he didn’t do well at the state championships last year due to injury, but I expect him to do much better over the next two years.”
Another KSH judoka and BIIF champion, Gushiken was ranked fifth in the state in the women’s 115-pound class.
“Amy has been with the club eight years,” Hayashi said. “She has also worked very hard, so we are pleased with her results at the state.”
Although the high school judo season is over, Shudokan does multiple practices a week throughout the year and will be attending a few tournaments before the end of the calendar year.
In October, the club will attend a local tournament organized by the Hilo Hongwanji Judo Club.