De Santos has eyes on being first UJ men's wrestling champ since 1986
De Santos is trying to be the Jimmies' first national champion since Paul Syvrud won it all in 1986.
JAMESTOWN — The early standout for the University of Jamestown last wrestled competitively in 2020 at the junior college level before coming to the Jimmies. Kaena De Santos wrestled in 2020 at Colby Community College before going back home to Hawaii.
“During that, it was when COVID was happening, so my family and myself are very strict with the health concerning with COVID at that time,” De Santos said. “I stayed back and didn’t go back for that reason, and at that time, too, other doors started opening and opportunities.”
During his time back in Kapolei, Hawaii, De Santos said he was training in mixed martial arts and figuring out what he wanted to do in terms of wrestling and education.
De Santos said he was convinced to come join the Jimmies by multiple friends on the team before he got a call from assistant coach Claude Robinson.
“When I started traveling and training with some friends, I ended up running into one of my teammates (Austin Morris) that I’m with right now,” De Santos said. “He talked about the school, he talked about the coaches and I ended up getting a call from them and we just worked out and that’s how I ended up here.”
Morris, De Santos, and Khali Vilavong are the trio of Hawaiians on the Jimmies roster. Jimmies head coach Jim Zalesky said De Santos was a late addition to the squad after other wrestlers left the team.
“We found him right before school started,” Zalesky said. “It’s one of those things we lost some kids right before school started and he was a good find for us. He’s a good team guy too.”
De Santos has wrestled in 11 matches so far for the Jimmies and has a 10-1 record, with four of those wins coming via a decision. De Santos said his success comes from wanting to help motivate his teammates to continue working hard and having success individually and as a team.
“He’s confident, his goal is to win the national title this year and so he’s got that confidence to say, ‘Hey ,I’m gonna win,’' Zalesky said. “That’s the big difference between I’m gonna win and I hope to win. He suffered a loss last week, in his first loss, in a match he probably shouldn’t have. We talked about some things, he got taken down but he came back and got the riding time and dominated that match after the first takedown.”
De Santos suffered his first loss of the season in a tight 5-3 decision to Midland University’s Raymond Aranda III on Nov. 22 before bouncing back with a major decision win over the University of Mary’s Anthony Velazquez on Nov. 29.
“It’s a learning lesson,” De Santos said. “It’s always a learning lesson when I lose, always work to get better and learn from my mistakes. It was hard, but I watched the video and I reviewed and I worked on those things.”
De Santos said his recent focus has been on polishing all aspects of his game down to the minute details. He said his goals for the rest of the season are to stay confident and to keep up his work ethic.
“My goals are to stay on top of these guys, keep moving forward, keep pressuring and not let anything get in my head; keep grinding, keep moving and getting the win,” he said.
As he heads into the rest of the season, Zalesky said he wants De Santos to continue to work hard and get better at his top positioning and his takedowns.
“We’ve talked about some things, if you want to win the national championship, what are you going to do,” Zalesky said. “One of them is ride, you gotta ride hard. I think tonight he finally figured out if you ride hard, what happens, you break guys, he did a good job there. The other thing he’s gotta go two leg attack and he’s working on that in the room. He got a couple out here, got good attacks. So, I think he’ll just keep doing those things and at the end of the year, I think he could be right there.”