Photo of Alyvia Fiske at the 2021 U23 World Championships by Kadir Caliskan/United World Wrestling
This year, themat.com will interview one collegiate wrestling athlete each Thursday as a part of a new Q&A series for the 2021-22 college wrestling season. Stay tuned each Thursday for a new feature, spotlighting these student-athletes both on and off the mat.
NOTE: This feature is being published on Wednesday due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
In this week’s athlete Q+A, we talk with Alyvia Fiske, who is wrestling as a senior at Simon Fraser. Fiske is a four-time age-group World team member for Team USA – she most recently took fifth at the 2021 U23 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. Below, she talks about her training during the COVID-19 pandemic, wrestling at Simon Fraser and coach Justin Abdou.
Q: What was training like over the past year and a half, and how creative did you have to get to stay prepared?
A: It definitely was a shock and a mess at first. Basically all of the American girls had to leave Simon Fraser and go home, otherwise we could’ve gotten trapped here. I don’t have somewhere close to home to train, so I was commuting to Sacramento for Sara McMann’s practices. It was between an hour and 15 minutes to two hours depending on traffic each way, so that was a bit of a struggle.
But, I made it work. I think having her help out with technique has been helpful. Alex Hedrick was also with me getting some work in with her, but it obviously wasn’t as regular as I’d like practices to be. But now that we’re getting back to normal, it’s been really nice to train five to six days a week and to have the normal school and wrestling workout routine here.
Q: What was it like to be able to use that time to train with Sara McMann?
A: She knows so much that it’s almost overwhelming. She is also like a celebrity, so I was kind of fan-girling every time I went to her practices. But, she always has something new to show us, or a way to tweak positions and specific things we’re working on for the better. It was definitely awesome to have her coach us and bring something new to the table.
Q: When did you feel like life, workouts and rhythm started to get normal again in terms of every-day training?
A: It didn’t start feeling normal again until the beginning of this semester. I got back mid-September, so I would say that’s really when it started to feel normal because we were able to train with the whole team. I’m close, I live only 10 minutes away from the school, so it’s a lot easier.
Q: What was it like getting to go out to Serbia and compete internationally again, especially on a World team?
A: That was a crazy experience. I hadn’t been overseas in about two years, and especially with having to do all of the COVID tests and figuring everything out before I left Canada, getting tested before I came back, it was just crazy.
But, the experience of being there and wrestling internationally again was such an eye-opener. They all wrestle so differently, kind of the styles than what you see here. I got four hard matches in, which I think was definitely helpful for me going into this season. It was also awesome meeting all the girls on the team and getting to drill with them.
Q: Can you describe what it’s like around Simon Fraser right now, especially with the whole room getting ready for a season together as a team again?
A: It feels like everyone is pretty excited to be back to normal, especially since last year we weren’t able to have a season at all. Justin Abdou [SFU head coach] is super excited to be coaching again and have all the girls back together. The energy is really enthusiastic just about how the season is going to play out, especially based upon how everyone in the room is working out right now.
Q: You seem to have a very team-oriented, team-first thought process. Is it easy for you to keep the team goals first in your mind when also training for individual competitions?
A: I feel like our team is pretty close-knit. We don’t have any issues between each other, so that plays a big part in wanting the best for everyone. I think coming from SFU, we want SFU’s name to carry weight in the wrestling community. Us competing at NCAAs as a school is just as big as the individuals competing.
Q: What is it like to be able to work with Coach Abdou on a daily basis?
A: It’s great. He was basically the biggest reason I came to SFU… The technique that he shows us is definitely aligned with my style. He tweaks everything based upon who he’s showing it to. But for me personally, I really like everything that he shows. It just meshes well with my wrestling style.
I feel like the girls in general just get along really well with him. He’s quite the jokester too, so that’s always fun.