His first three years of high school, Lawrence Malala wrestled as a heavyweight. This year, though, the Jeffersontown senior decided to drop to the 220-pound weight class.
The move has paid off.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Malala is currently No. 2 in 220 in the KentuckyWrestling.com rankings, and last weekend he won his weight class in the Jefferson County Tournament of Champions.
Q: When and how did you get started wrestling?
A: I started wrestling my freshman year. What got me into it was my older brother (Megallan) joined it and seemed like he was having fun with it, so I decided to. At first I was just trying to find some way to fit in, (but) wrestling turned out to be something I just felt comfortable with and had fun with it.
What do you like about wrestling?
I believe with hard work you can achieve anything. Wrestling helped me become a better person, taught me more discipline added on from football and from what my parents taught me. And it’s just fun. You have a great group of guys that you can just go at it with for two, three hours a day, spend Saturdays, the whole day, together, and it’s just fun competing.
Your mom is from Western Samoa and your dad is from Hawaii. What’s that been like growing up here?
I can just tell the (difference in) cultures from me and my family from Samoa and Hawaii in my household and going to friends’ houses and visiting different cultures. In some perspectives they’re the same, in some perspectives they’re different. It’s just cool to see how I’m able to interact with other people even though we don’t have the same culture.
What is one food that you really like but can’t enjoy right now because it’s wrestling season?
It has to be Pani Popo.
What is that?
You get yeast rolls and then you get a can of evaporated milk and pour it at the bottom (of the pan) and then cook it in the oven and the coconut milk gets absorbed in the yeast rolls. It’s good. I’m just waiting for Feb. 22 to come around, as soon as the season is over.
What’s your biggest strength as a wrestler?
My discipline. If Coach Mike (Clark) tells me to do something in a match I do it, no questions asked because I know that he’s seeing something totally different than what I’m seeing and what I’m feeling.
What’s the difference between wrestling at heavyweight and 220?
At heavyweight I had to move around constantly. (Now) my strength plays more of a factor in matches because when I wrestled heavyweight I had to move, use agility and quickness to try to create angles. I couldn’t shoot directly on them, or else I’d have all that weight on me. But this year I have more control of the guy. I can actually control what I want to do, and I can dictate the match that I want to wrestle.
Why did you drop to 220 this year?
I told myself last year if I didn’t at least place top four or top five (at State), then I was going to drop to 220. I ended up not placing so I just decided to drop. I felt like it would give me the best opportunity for me to achieve my goal that I had in high school.
What is that goal?
I want to win a state championship, be the first one since the 1980s to be a state champion for Jeffersontown High School.
LAWRENCE MALALA UP CLOSE
Sports: Wrestling and football
Student-athlete: Lawrence, who has a 3.1 GPA, says his favorite subjects are math, science and orchestra.
Family: Lawrence, 17, lives with his mother, Peata; father, Mike; older brother, Megallan, 19; and younger brother, Chris, 15.
Jeffersontown coach Mike Clark says: “He does everything you ask. You tell Lawrence you need him to move more he’s going to move more. He’s going to come out of his comfort box to do what you want. If you tell him to put more steps in, or if he needs to do something tighter, or get sharper, or cleaner at something he’s going to fix his brain to actually do what it is you’re asking.
“He does what he’s told to do and he tries to go above and beyond when he does it and he also puts his own spin on everything, too. … That’s why Lawrence is good.”