LAHAINA - For the Lahainaluna High School wrestling team, Wednesday's gathering in the overcrowded room above the school's gym floor somewhat symbolizes everything.
The steamy conditions of the room matted from wall to wall - the shoes, street clothes and backpacks that trickle down the stairs on both sides, the caged windows that allow a look down at boys volleyball practice - told the story.
Every member of the Lahainaluna team was there for the final practice of the season - the eight MIL boys champions, the five runners-up, the third-place state qualifier. All of their B level and junior varsity teammates were there. All of the girls were, too.
Christian Carbajal of Lahainaluna wraps up Baldwin’s Laniel Salvador during an MIL meet in January.
The Maui News / LEHIA APANA photo
Five days after any thought of continuing their seasons past the MIL championships were gone, all of the Luna backups were there. There to help prepare their teammates' chase of a state team title that has never left Oahu since the state meet started in 1966.
The state tournament is today and Saturday at the Blaisdell Arena.
The Lunas stamped themselves as boys state team contenders with titles in the Maui Invitational and Officials tournaments in December.
"You know, this year, I guess coming back from the Officials, it did open your eyes and made you realize that, 'Yeah, it literally is going to take everybody,' " Lunas coach Todd Hayase said. "Can they do it? I don't know. We have gone through so much this season and believe me, we have got a number of our wrestlers who are not even close to 80 percent right now. They are basically wrestling on heart, a lot of heart, right now."
Lahainaluna has come the closest of any Neighbor Island team to winning that elusive team crown, finishing runner-up in 2005 and 2007 and being in the top five for each of the last seven state meets, including third last year.
This may be the Lunas' best chance since the 2005 team fell 2 1/2 points short.
"I just finished having a long talk with all of our extras right now, letting them know what this last day of practice means and the focus which we are expecting them to be," Hayase said. "I see them out there on the mat and they are out there. They are getting our A guys ready."
The Lunas know that five-time defending state champion Punahou will be formidable again. They also know that with a solid team effort, anything is possible - the Lahainaluna girls finished second last year with just seven competitors, all of whom medaled.
"It would mean a lot, our team has been working hard since the beginning of the season," said Christian Carbajal, the No. 2 seed at 120 pounds and the state runner-up at 114 last year. "Everyone has been pushing themselves, everyone has been stepping up, trying to get to that next level."
Carbajal said he has been talking to fellow captains Bodean Bates, the MIL 285 runner-up, and Nathan Inovejas, the MIL 135 runner-up, about being ready as a team.
"Just trying to motivate our team, that everyone plays an important part," Carbajal said. "We all have got to help everyone push and that everyone makes everyone better. Not just our A guys, our B guys make our A guys better."
Carbajal said it can't be overstated how important taking 14 wrestlers in 14 weight classes will be for a run at a team crown.
"It's huge, we know all of the Oahu teams are looking to bang," he said. "I know Punahou and Kamehameha are going to be coming strong, so is Mililani. We need everybody, everyone is going to have to play a part if we want that state title."
Inovejas said the team is conscious of what is possible.
"It would mean everything to us because we have been busting our butts ever since the beginning of the season, so winning that state title would be the icing on the cake, the cherry on top," he said. "We would just all be proud of it. It is not one person who can win a state title. It's the whole team, that would just reflect the whole program."
It would be large for the school and West Maui community, as well.
"Ever since I was a freshman I always wanted that star up there on the 'L.' I'm always looking up there," Inovejas said of the symbol for a state title on the mountain above the 181-year-old campus.
Bates added, "It would mean a lot for a small school like us to compete with all the big schools from all over Hawaii. Our girls showed us last year, they train hard, they push us as a team. If we win, they win. If they win, we win, so we all win as a team, together."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org