Fuatino Sefo earns wrestling title
Each year here in the territory there are always a slew of football athletes receiving scholarships in this sport of hard knocks. The remaining sports played within the Department of Education’s American Samoa High School Athletic Association (ASHSAA) lag behind in comparison to scholarships given out to the territories football athletes, despite high participation.
One of the newer sports —it has been in ASHSAA for just three years— is the sport of wrestling, that has seen a steady growth since its 2010-2011 debut.
This year’s ASHSAA wrestling champions were the Leone Lions who were also last season's champions. The Lions, led by Head Coach Zena Iese, are never short of wrestlers and once again boasted a full squad this season, which helped their 2nd championship run. One of the standout wrestlers on this year’s squad was Fuatino Sefo who is a Senior and despite this being her first year wrestling, she was able to earn the championship title for the Island Wide Girls Division and was the Unlimited Weight Class Champion in the girl's division as well.
Sefo’s mother, Frances Sefo was so impressed with the sport and what it did for her daughter, she wants to get the word out to all of the athletes here in American Samoa, that wrestling is not only great for your body, but you can also pursue scholarships within the sport. “When I saw my daughter wrestle and what it did for her, I thought this was a great sport and now I am trying to promote the sport here on island,” said her mother.
Samoa New also spoke to Fuatino about her involvement in wresting. “My goal is to seek out a sports scholarship that will support my pursuit in higher education. I recommend wrestling as a way to help students who are serious and have that strong desire and aspiration to further their education through sports scholarships,” she said. “I believe that anything and everything is possible with God and I am thankful to the Lord for positioning me within this sport to help pursue a bright and successful future,” said Fuatino.
The young Sefo is now working with the Ca-Boom Wrestling Club in hopes of getting enough training and exposure to hopefully receive the scholarship she is seeking. The Ca-Boom Wrestling Club, which is headed by Carl Floor Sr. and Clayton ‘Boom’ Mahuka, trains local athletes who want to earn a scholarship for wrestling.
Floor explained to Fuatino and her mother that this will not be an easy road. “Right now the club's goal is to send kids to off-island wrestling camps to get exposure and feel what it is like to wrestle in a real wrestling meet —and at the same time hopefully they will be seen by college coaches while at these camps,” said Floor.
“But before they do that, they have to put in their time here and let us teach them everything we can."
He added, " I want to give back, and my success is seeing these athletes become successful. We want to work with athletes like Fuatino, who has a great attitude and is willing to listen and learn; and the fact that her parents are involved in what she is doing and want the best for her makes it even better. We can only do so much for these young kids. They have to be willing to put in the work that it takes to reach their goal,” said Floor.
Sefo's path to a championship title might have never been realized or altered, if not for her wrestling coach Zena Iese, who has coached the Lions to back-to-back ASHSAA wrestling championship titles, while instilling in his wrestlers what it takes to become better than when they started. "When Fuatino first started, I told her that I would train her to become very effective at wrestling and possibly one of the best female wrestlers this island has ever seen," said Iese.
He went on to say that after weeks of hard work and training, along with her passion for the sport, she became the model female wrestler for the Lions team, losing only once the entire season.
"Her drive helped fuel our female wrestlers to become just a hardcore as her. I have three other female wrestlers returning next year, while Fuatino and and another four are graduating this year. In all, the goal we set out to focus more on our female wrestling program this year has been achieved. We took both the 1st Place Girls High School Wrestling Championship Tournament trophy and the Overall Girls High School Wrestling Season Championship trophy as well, making this a clean sweep," said Iese.
After graduating from Leone this year, the 17 year old Sefo will attend ASCC and train at the Ca-Boom Wrestling Club, fine tuning her skills in hopes of obtaining a wrestling scholarship. Floor is a former New York State/Tri-State/Team Maryland-Virgina All-Stars travel team coach. Mahuka is a former Hawaii State Wrestling Champion and head of the Ohana Running Club.
After this article had been written, Samoa News was informed that the Department of Education will not include wrestling in its 2013-2014 ASHSAA Sports Calendar, due to what a reliable source has called a "lack of funding."