The island sports community is in mourning after legendary wrestling coach Nate Tully lost his fight with cancer. Tully, 32, who died around 2 a.m. Saturday, July 25, was a hero to the wrestling community, founder of the Snakepit Wrestling Academy, and head coach of the Tiyan High School wrestling team.
Tully is survived by his wife, former Olympian Maria Dunn, and two children, Marleya and Tyson.
“Our prayers are with Nathan and his family and with all of Guam’s youth whom he has coached and mentored through the years,” said Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez.
"Nate was a friend and a family member to all of us, and he will be dearly missed," said GDOE Interscholastic Sports Association acting program coordinator Al Garrido.
“You would see him and Maria and the kids at many of our wrestling events,” added Garrido. “His contributions to our community will not be forgotten.”
Tiara Fernandez, one of Tiyan High's most-decorated athletes, was deeply saddened by the loss. With Tully's guidance, she became a three-time All-Island wrestling champ and he was always there for her when she needed support.
"He was one of my best friends," Tiara Fernandez said. "He was there when I needed a shoulder to cry on and he was also there for me at my greatest moments. He taught me to never give up and to believe in myself. He taught me that even though some things may be hard, you just got to find the extra strength within you and to just keep pushing, moving forward, which is what he has been doing through his battle.
"I’m truly grateful to have been blessed to know him over these past four years."
Coach Nate was a true inspiration to all the kids he taught through Snakepit and at Tiyan High, she said.
"He will forever be in my heart and others, and his legacy will go on. He will be missed, not only as a coach, but a great, loving, hilarious friend," she added. "May he rest in peace."
In a show of love and support, the Snakepit Wrestling Academy Facebook page has been filled with messages of sadness and loss.
“After I got home from my team workout this morning, my son came out of his room with the heaviest look on his face,” posted Vee Larimer. “He had woke up to messages that his wrestling coach had passed after recently being released from the hospital and dealing with cancer for years.
“It hurt my heart so much to see such an emptiness in my son and just let him cry on my shoulder. As a mother, it’s hard to explain loss to your children.”
Coach Nate Tully, thank you for instilling so much in my son, she said.
“For reminding him of the importance of being a good human in this harsh world, for allowing him to grow in a sport he grew to love so much, and for setting such a great example for our children during their time with you, she added.
“You will always be loved, missed, and remembered by us. Rest in peace.”
Titans' athletic director Rommel Losinio said losing Tully was like losing a brother.
"Nate was, first and foremost, a dear friend and brother to me," he said. "When I first became athletic director for Tiyan, he and Maria were our first coaches. We learned, and made mistakes and so many memories along the way and, most importantly, we grew together."
Nate and Maria are Tiyan High Wrestling, he added.
"I seriously cannot imagine our program without him," he said. "I honestly do not even want to picture it."
Losinio said, "Even during his battle with cancer, even during his weakest, physically, he always wanted to work with the kids and improve the program in any capacity that he was able. His influence extends beyond the mat, (teaching) life skills to our athletes and inspiring them to never settle and always strive.
"His very presence during practice and in games in so inspirational and uplifting - it's indescribable."