Over the holiday season, as many were preparing for all the festivities, a 19-year-old female wrestler with ties to Guam, Tiare Ikei, was competing in the FloWrestling 8-Man Challenge: 150-lb Division in Austin, Texas.

Ikei's grandparents, Joseph Escotillo Laville Sr., 95, and Maria Ursula Laville, 92, were the island’s 23rd and 32nd COVID-19-related deaths. They died in September 2020. The Ikei family made islandwide headlines when several family members, including Tiare Ikea, returned to Guam to mourn the loss and were quarantined for nearly two weeks in a government facility.   

You may have even seen footage of her match on Guam Sports Network’s Instagram page in which she performs a lateral drop, putting her opponent on her back and pinning her to win the match.

“The match started off kind of slow, it was just really physical in the hand fight. The second period is when there was a huge turnaround when I hit this lateral drop. What’s crazy is that this was one of the main highlights of the event,” Ikei said. “In the actual match, I did not expect to win that way. That move I hit was not something I practice very much, but it felt good at the time and I saw the opening, so I committed to it.”

Viewers may not have been able to tell by her performance but Ikei was wrestling a familiar opponent, Amy Fearnside, with whom she often spars at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

“She [Fearnside] has been kind of a big sister to me. She helped me make the transition from Hawaii to Colorado much easier,” Ikei explained. “The biggest thing going out there was leaving our friendship off the mat. We kind of knew each other’s moves, so we didn’t know what to expect going out there. Typically when we do wrestle, there’s usually a lot of scrambling and points are scored back and forth.”

The card was put together by FloWrestling, which has been instrumental in organizing events for wrestlers at the highest level to compete due to the unpredictable schedules caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since that match in late December, Ikei has been training rigorously and feels good about upcoming competitions.

“I feel good, overall. It’s weird because typically I’d expect to have some rust considering the whole training situation with COVID. I’ve been able to use it wisely though and have been able to grow in areas I wouldn’t have had the chance to before,” Ikei said. “I’ve had time to stop and reflect on all the little things I need to do achieve my bigger goals.”

At the time of speaking with The Guam Daily Post, Ikei was attending the first U.S. Senior National Camp since the pandemic began, at Arizona State University. In the near future, Ikei has her eyes set on the Captain’s Cup in February, which will be a camp mixed in with a tournament that begins Feb. 10.