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TOP 10 SPORTS STORIES OF 2023

Check out the top stories of the year

2023. A year filled with ups and downs for sports on Guam. Typhoon Mawar in the Spring put a halt to sports for nearly two months, and the island is still in recovery mode for some facilities.

Despite the setbacks, there was much to celebrate in 2023 with athletes making noise in sports. There were also some stories that involved controversy – something our readers find most interesting. Therefore, those stories are making our top 10 list.

The year was filled with many athletes traveling overseas to compete in events/tournaments around the region and the world, including the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.

The following list is a ranking based on reader interest. The list is ranking based on the number of hits to our website on what the people of Guam interest them. 

#1: VIDEO CAUSES PANTHERS TO FORFEIT GAMES (April)

The video that shook the high school scene was the top attraction to our website this year. It was so impactful, the Joint Region Marianas Commander made the decision to cancel not only the super-hyped football game between Guam High and FD, he canceled the boys volleyball game that was to be played by the same two teams at the nearby gym on the same night.

It is the second straight year that a Guam High story made the #1 story (2022)

Unfortunately for football fans, we never got a chance to see these two teams play as Typhoon Mawar canceled what was to be the championship game in May.

Many believed that Panthers squad would’ve been the closest – talent wise – to ending the Friars winning streak. Instead, a video that caused a social media storm and a real storm prohibited that from happening.

#2: CONCERT TURNS PASEO OUTFIELD INTO MUD PIT (January)

Another story in the not-so-positive category when a two-day concert festival turned the Paseo Stadium outfield into a mud pit after heavy rains. This put the baseball community up in arms, even calling for local legislature to no longer allow any events at the stadium other than for baseball.

A concert in the Paseo Stadium outfield left the field muddy in January. (courtesy photo)

#3: CONCEPCION MAKES SEAHAWKS DANCE SQUAD (July)

The tearful story of Seattle Seahawks dancer Baily Concepcion comes in at #3. Not only is it awesome to have one of our homegrown SKIP dancers make to the NFL sidelines, but the story of her father’s passing will bring you to tears.

Baily is not the only Guam girl cheering in the NFL. Notre Dame High grad Hanna Sahagon made it to the Philadelphia Eagles cheering squad this season as well.

Another Notre Dame High alum made big waves as well as Rusty Estrellado is currently on the sidelines of the Golden State Warriors.

We are so proud of our Guam pro dancers!

Seadancer Bailey Concepcion waves to the crowd during a Seattle Seahawks game. (courtesy photo)

#4: WOMEN’S BASEBALL MAKE GUAM HISTORY (March)

In March, Guam sent its first ever women’s baseball team to the 30th Phoenix Cup Tournament in Hong Kong. It caught a major buzz in the women’s softball community as some of their finest formed a baseball team led by Guam legend Keith Hattig and fellow baseball veterans Pat Alvarez and Paul Pangelinan.

The ladies placed third in the Hong Kong tournament, gaining the taste of victory in their first ever competition. With the lack of competition on island, the team is looking for more tournaments to play abroad come 2024.

The first women’s baseball team represented Guam in March. (courtesy photo)

#5: VENTURA SURPRISE MVP ON 5TH PLACE WARRIORS (May)

It’s almost unheard of for a 5th place team to win MVP honors in any sport. That’s how good Rui Ventura was with the St. Paul Warriors. Despite his team’s struggles in the 2023 IIAAG Boys Volleyball League, voting coaches saw past all that and recognized Ventura as the league’s best player.

Ventura is currently playing collegiate volleyball for La Salle University in the Philippines.

#6: FRIARS FOOTBALL DOMINATES AS DYNASTY ROLLS ON (November)

The FD football dynasty won two championships in the 2023 calendar year, moving their unbelievable winning streak to 72 games.

The 2022/23 season was delayed from first quarter to fourth quarter because of delays to football equipment arrive for most schools. Typhoon Mawar also affected a highly-anticipated championship matchup against a talented Panthers team. League officials brought the football right back to first quarter for the 2023/24 season, so teams had the summer break and was right back at it.

This didn’t slow down the Friars machine as they kept rolling. Despite playing only three actual games (the rest were forfeits) in the spring season and another six actual games in the fall season, FD did not give up a single point the whole calendar year!

FD running back Javin Meno had a big game on championship night on November 18, 2023. (photo by Cam Santos)

#7: BENAVENTE BRINGS RARE SKILL TO FIGHT GAME (October)

Big Benny Benavente is a MMA and boxing trainer who’s story as a self-taught mits holder shows that the love of a sport can literally take you through the grind..

Self-taught in the art of holding pads, Benavente has not only helped his brothers along the way but also for the likes of Alex Castro, Frank Camacho, Jon Tuck, Trev Jones and even Brandon Vera.

Benny Benavente (white shirt) has turned his passion of mit holding into a true art rarely seen on island. (coutesy photo)

#8: CASTRO TO BANG IN MMA CAGE ONE LAST TIME (October)

Say what you want about him, Alex Castro draws attention. Almost a year after becoming Guam’s first bare knuckle pro fighter in 2022, Castro made his return to the Guam MMA scene in what he promised would be his final mixed martial arts fight. He took care of business with a first round finish in the main event of Brawl 3 as he walked out of the cage with the championship belt.

The 43-year-old focuses back on his drive to fight bare knuckle and possible encourage other Guam fighters to give it a go.

Alex Castro walked out of the Brawl cage with the lightweight belt in what was to be his final MMA fight. (courtesy photo)

#9: PROMISING MMA FIGHTER WITH GUAM ROOTS (June)

Micah ‘Dynamite’ White, like many stateside athletes with Guam blood in their veins, is one of the bright young stars in the sport of MMA.

His story in June about his rise up the Texas circuit made big news as the top lightweight amateur fighter. He just turned 21 on December 2nd and will be making his pro debut on February 4th in the Fury Fighting Championship.

Guam rooted fighter Micah White looks to make his pro MMA debut in February 2024. (courtesy photo)

#10: SHARKS VOLLEYBALL ARE CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS (November)

The Sanchez Sharks bested the Academy Cougars in straight sets to win the high school girls volleyball matchup between the two league champions. Both teams displayed a high level of play, but the girls from up north proved to be too much.

GSPN’s concept of matching up the two league champs to prove who is best has given the players an opportunity to expand the competition since the big divide in 2019 that split the leagues into IIAAG (private schools) and ISA (public schools).

The Sanchez Sharks beat the Academy Cougars in November to win the honor as 2023 Champions of Champions for girls high school volleyball. (photo by Matua Salas)

OTHER NOTABLE HIGHLIGHTS IN 2023

  • The closing of the Guam International Raceway was big news as the Chamorro Land Trust Commission evicted the Guam Racing Federation in the early parts of the year. In the summer, proposed legislation to assist in the property being used for off-reach recreation was introduced, but stuck in committee.

  • Manami’s Quest for Olympics: Manami Iijima-Martin is on a mission. So much so that her accomplishments this year earned her the 2023 GSPN Athlete of the Year!

  • The Passing of Basketball Coach Felipe Candaso: Coach Candaso is the only coach to lead a team to the Far East Basketball Tournament championship for big schools back in 1993 with the Oceanview Knights. The impact he made as a coach and athletic director with the kids of Oceanview High and eventually Southern High was unmatched and will be felt for generations to come. Thirty years later, he succumbed to pancreatic cancer on November 26. He was 70. Guam also lost Lou Shiroma, the wife of the great Hal Shiroma, in April.

  • The Success of the Father Duenas Friars Athletics: FD has been on top of the sports food chain across the board in recent memory, that when they lose (in any sport), it’s kind of a big deal….and opposing teams love it. Their football success is well documented. Throwing in their other dominating programs from wrestling (eight straight titles), rugby (four straight and 12 overall), tennis (10 of 17 titles, including the last two), volleyball (five straight titles), soccer (four of last eight titles), bowling (three straight titles), and baseball (two straight titles).

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COMING SOON …

All-Island Wrestling Alumni Tournament June 8

10th Micronesian Games from Marjuro

QUICK HITS

Three graduating ruggers have signed Division I letters to play college rugby stateside.
Saige Calvo from Okkodo heads to Mount St. Mary’s
Mia Topasna from Academy heads to Lindenwood
Tanner Costa from FD heads to Iowa Central
—————————————–
Bailey Concepcion makes it to the Seattle Seahawks dance team for the 2nd straight year.

Congratulations @seadancer_bailey

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