Memea: The Family Of Champions

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - March 15, 2006
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Desiree Memea was a national champ before little brother Michael
Desiree Memea was a
national champ before little
brother Michael

When Michael Memea hit his famous last-inning home run to lead the Ewa Beach All-Stars to the Little League World Series title last August, it was a moment that made headlines around Hawaii and around the globe.

But it wasn’t the only championship moment in the Memea household in the past year. In fact, Michael’s older sister, 17-year-old Desiree Memea, won two major wrestling championships - one at the national level in August and then at the state high school tournament earlier this month.

“How good can it get!” says Terry Ann Memea, the mother of Desiree, 13-year-old Michael, and two other siblings, Anuhea, 11, and Marcus, 8.

“I guess they call us the family of champions,” says Desiree.

But while Michael’s moment led to parades in Waikiki and appearances at Aloha Stadium and the state Capitol, Desiree has succeeded in relative anonymity.

“I’m so jealous,” she says, giggling.

Truthfully, she’s extremely proud of her brother’s Sportscenter moments, but equally proud of how far she has come as an athlete.

She should be.

As a four-sport varsity athlete in basketball, volleyball, judo and wrestling at University Lab School, Desiree has enjoyed all sports. She even earned a junior black belt in karate as a youngster. But a severe knee injury - a dislocated patella, or kneecap - suffered in a judo tournament in the eighth grade seemed to put a damper on her long-term athletic goals. That’s why both her parents were surprised when the girls wrestling coach for Pac-Five asked her to come out for the team at the beginning of her sophomore year.

“She had to be coaxed out,” Terry Ann recalls. “We honestly didn’t think she had what it takes, especially with her bad knee and all.”

Desiree was surprised, too. “I don’t really look like a wrestler,” she says. “When you think of wrestling, you think of people who are all ‘buff.’ I just look like a normal person.”

But Desiree was determined to prove doubters wrong, despite struggling at first. She won her first match, but then lost almost all her remaining matches that first year.

“I kept getting pinned,” she says. “I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do it.”

She worked hard in the wrestling room, often battling boys in tough practice matches.

“At first, they did (have a problem with wrestling against a girl.) But then, they really started to help me,” she says.

A win in the ILH 175-pound championship match the following season turned things around.

“Once I pinned that girl who had always been pinning me, my confidence just boosted,” she says.

And although she lost the rematch with her rival in the state tournament, she still managed to finish second.

Then, everything began to click.

“I just started having success,” she says. “My coach always told me that if I believed in myself, good things would happen. I started to believe.”

In August she joined TeamHawaii at the Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D. A couple of weeks before Michael’s historic home run in the Little League World Series, Desiree won the national title in her age group. Then, she raced home to follow the heroics of her fellow athletes from Ewa Beach.

Earlier this month, at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association girls wrestling state tournament, Desiree got another shot at the Hawaii state title. This time, she won with a hard-fought 7-5 victory in the finale. When her hand was raised as the state champ, she says, “I was so excited. It felt really good.”

Desiree Memea is now a full-fledged All-American with aspirations of trying out for the U.S. Olympic team some day. She’s been invited to work out at the Olympic Training Center in northern Michigan and hopes to earn a college athletic scholarship. Her dreams are big.

And one day, she has another dream - “to be a news broadcaster,” she says. Yes, one day, it could be Desiree who is reporting on the heroic exploits of the other members of championship Memea family.

And it’s all because she believed in herself and worked hard to prove that one championship moment deserves another.

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