KAHULUI - His name is long, his connection to Maui High School dates back to the late 1990s, and his legacy with the Sabers may be felt for years to come.
He is known around the Maui Interscholastic League simply as "Tau."
Totauhelotu Lotulelei, now a Maui High senior 11 years after running around the gym at his brother's matches, has seen the good and bad athletically on the Kahului campus.
Maui High’s Totauhelotu Lotulelei (top) takes on Baldwin’s Danny Welds-Ebanks during an MIL meet in January.
The Maui News / LEHIA APANA photo
He was part of two football teams that went a combined 1-15 in league play in 2009 and 2010 before his first-team All-Star season at linebacker in 2011 helped the Sabers finish 3-5 in the MIL, their best season since 2004. The team had been a combined 2-37-1 in league play the previous five years.
Now, as his Sabers career winds down, Lotulelei will travel to the Chevron Hawaii State Wrestling Championships - Friday and Saturday at the Blaisdell Arena - with a 28-1 season record and as the second seed at 189 pounds.
"He is, right now, my best wrestler ... since I came back in the last few years," Maui High coach Bob Vickers said. "He has decided to make a commitment to the program and that is what is needed to get to the caliber he is at now. I believe he can win the state title."
Lotulelei will attempt to join his oldest brother, Saia Lotulelei, as a state champion. Saia is one of only three MIL wrestlers ever to win three state titles - taking the 215-pound crown in 1999, and the 275 title in 2000 and 2001.
"There is a lot of motivation," Tau said before his final practice Wednesday. "My big brother - Saia Lotulelei, everybody knows him here - he just gave me a lot of motivation."
Tau and Saia speak often on the phone. The elder Lotulelei is back wrestling at York College, a small school in Nebraska.
"He says just go out there with an open mind, no pressure, just wrestle how you always do, have fun," Tau said. "I remember him (wrestling) small kind when I was a kid, but not really. He always tells me to relax and just pray, just go out there, and have fun because that is what we came out here to do."
Fellow brother John Lotulelei, a 2009 Baldwin graduate, was a two-time state medalist. Tau won the family's sixth state medal last year when he was fifth at 189.
"Both my older brothers make me proud," Tau said. "I want to do well, like my brothers, but I know if I get to the final I will have to wrestle the (defending) state champ, who pinned me last year at states."
That is Zachary Hernandez, the top seed from Punahou.
Tau Lotulelei decided to try wrestling as a sophomore when his friend and teammate, MIL 114 champion Gerald Dionio, convinced him he could be like his brothers. Lotulelei said his goal is to play football at the college level, possibly at UNLV, where John Lotulelei redshirted as a linebacker in 2011 after a two-year stint at Merced (Calif.) Junior College.
"Me and Gerald go back to sixth grade and he told me I could be good," Lotulelei said. "I think he was right. I want to play football in college, but wrestling is fun right now."
A sinus infection and high fever kept Lotulelei out of school Monday and Tuesday, but he said he was back to almost normal on Wednesday.
"I feel a lot better than I did on Monday, not perfect, but a lot better," he said. "I hope I am 100 percent by Friday. I'm getting there."
Like Saia, John gives his younger brother lots of advice.
"He calls me every night," Tau Lotulelei said of his middle brother. "He just tells me to read the Bible, just learn from all those miracles. ... Saia always says if my heart wants to do it, then do it."
That brotherly advice is being handed down by Tau to 11-year-old Hanisi, the youngest of the Lotulelei brothers, and 13-year-old cousin Soane. Both compete for the Kihei Maulers youth team.
"I really want my little brother and cousin to do well," Tau said. "If I can do well, then hopefully I can show them they can do well. . . . I tell them that (wrestling) is a good sport to challenge yourself and it is only you out there, so you can prove how good you are. Even if you lose, you can still make up the mistakes and practice harder."
Vickers sees Lotulelei with a real possibility of adding to the family legacy this weekend.
"I see some Saia in Tau, as far as him making that commitment," Vickers said. "He never misses practice, unless he was sick like the last couple days, but he is very dedicated to the program. That is what you have to do, you have to make that commitment. Tau is one of those who has done that here."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org