It’s easy to assume things about Alyvia Fiske.
She’s one of the most decorated female wrestlers the Napa Valley has ever seen, so shaking off stereotypes tends to come with the territory. She spends most of the year competing in a contact sport that involves beating an opponent through an ever-changing combination of grapples, chokeholds and sheer brute force.
But Fiske is far from what most people might think of when they picture a dominant wrestler.
She comes from a family that laughs hard and often. She likes going roller skating and ice skating and snowboarding in the winter. She spends time with her boyfriend and friends, riding around listening to rap music. Sometimes – whenever they’re not sitting around complaining about how there’s nothing to do in Napa – they’ll make their own fun and have a dance party on top of the Pearl Street Garage.
“A lot of the time I do get people saying, ‘Oh, you’re so girly for being a wrestler. I expected you to be more masculine or blah, blah, blah,’” Fiske said. “And I’m like, ‘Well, it’s just a sport. It doesn’t really change who you are as a person.’”
Who she is, though, is a USA Wrestling girls folkstyle national and state champion and a two-time CIF State champion in the 160-pound weight class. Fiske was 148-9 during her prep career at Vintage High School, and went an eye-popping 82-1 with 75 pins over her final two seasons. That means she ended 91 percent of her matches as an upperclassman before the final buzzer sounded. In one match, it took her only 31 seconds.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame recently named Fiske the No. 1 wrestler in the country in the 164-pound weight class. In May, the HOF elected her as California’s winner of the 2017 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award.
That’s only scratching the surface, too. Fiske has so many medals that her family doesn’t know what to with them yet. Right now, they’re spread out all over a shelf in a bonus room that shares space with their adopted pet possum.
Oh, and she has been given the rare distinction as the Napa Valley Register’s Female Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year.
“I try not to let it get to my head too much,” Fiske said of the award. “It’s obviously such an awesome accomplishment to me, especially (getting it for) the second year in a row. That doesn’t happen much. It’s super cool.”
The ability to separate herself from her accomplishments is one of the rarer traits Fiske has. It’s also one of the things that former Crushers girls head coach Steve Denna, who stepped down at the end of the school year, admires about her.
“She’s such a grounded young adult, really wise beyond her years for a 17-, 18-year-old girl,” he said. “You think you’re talking to someone in their 30s (because) she’s got that much moxie, just how she reacts and how she’s receptive to everything. And it’s not just me. Even when she’s dealing with her peers or her parents or somebody that’s admiring her from afar, she extends herself and makes herself available for everybody.”
Her father, Daniel Fiske, can’t help but marvel at it.
“She’s the most modest kid in the whole world,” he said. “She’s a national champion and she sits here like, ‘Meh, I’m just a wrestler.’ So, I don’t know, I’m kind of at a loss for words as far as how proud I am of her. I really hope that she actually recognizes her true potential one day because … she’s a national champion, she’s the No. 1 ranked high school girl wrestler in the country, and she doesn’t even understand how huge that is. You know what I mean? Most kids would be jumping for joy and freaking out and she’s just like, ‘It’s another day.’”
That’s where Alyvia jumped in.
“I just feel like you can always achieve more,” she said, making sure the point came across correctly. “So don’t be too excited with what you have.”
Fiske developed that type of mindset with Denna. Before her junior season, rather than taking the overused one-step-at-a-time approach, he kept her locked into the idea of winning a national championship.
The way he put it: “When you shoot for the highest peak, all of the other things will take of themselves.”
“It seemed kind of crazy at the moment, being like, ‘OK, you cannot have any slipups whatsoever,’” Fiske recalled. “But as time went on, match after match, it seemed like it was more attainable … That was definitely one of the points where (I realized my abilities as a wrestler). It was kind of surreal.”
The doors that have opened up for her are only getting bigger. Simon Fraser University, a powerhouse in NCAA wrestling, offered her a scholarship to come join their ranks this fall. She’ll join a roster that had eight All-Americans last season and finished second at the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships.
“It’s super exciting for me,” Fiske said. “I’m so grateful because there are so many wrestlers (they could have recruited instead), and (they chose) to help me and make me better. It’s definitely going to be the best program for me. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
It’s far from home, though, in British Columbia. Fiske is putting more than 900 miles between herself and her friends and family.
But, as usual, she sees the bigger picture.
“It’s definitely a little scary because I’m in my secure place with all my family and friends around me,” she said, “but I’m also excited to get to know the team better and just become a better athlete, too, and get an amazing education at the same time.”
The ceiling is high for Fiske. She was invited to practice at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, so competing in the Olympics one day is a dream that’s gained a little color in reality.
Those around her envision a long journey ahead – one that’s filled with a lifetime of success. It’s a lot to throw on a teenager, especially one like Fiske, who has a rare combination of being both gifted and completely normal.
Then again, it’s that formula that got her this far, and it’s that formula that will carry her much, much further.
“If she applies herself like I think she will, like everything else she’s tackled in life, I think it’ll work out for her,” said Denna. “I think she’ll reach that pinnacle and I think she’s going to excel and do well. For myself, I certainly believe that she’s not done by a longshot. I can see her winning a couple national championships at the collegiate level and then making those world teams, the national team, and eventually competing in the Olympics.
“I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t – I’ll just put it that way. A lot of people, they might look at that like that’s putting a lot of pressure on this kid, but to be honest with you, you talk to her, I’m just echoing the same things she’s already said.”