Tanalei Louis preferred to stay busy and multitask in high school. She was a catcher in softball one year for Konawaena High, and a libero another year in volleyball at Waiakea.
But she was best-suited for the judo and wrestling mats, earning Big Island Interscholastic Federation gold in all seven of her tries.
In college she’s decided to specialize, and she’s keeping herself just as busy.
That’s what happens when Team USA comes calling.
Louis earned a spot on the junior national wrestling team earlier this month, finishing in third place in the 130-pound class at the Body Bar FILA Junior Nationals in Irvine, Texas.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve only focused on one sport,” she said. “In doing so, I never realized how much potential I had. I feel accomplished.”
Even more so than when she won Hawaii High School Athletic Association gold in 2012 while competing for Konawaena judo.
Technically, Louis finished “true second” since she beat the eventual runner-up earlier in a competition that came more than three months after the completion of her freshman season at Oklahoma City College.
“They say champions are made in the offseason, and that’s definitely true,” Louis said.
Though her offseason is dwindling by the day.
Louis was back home in Kailua-Kona last week and taking a break from training seven days a week. She was getting ready for a vacation in the Philippines, though she knows what she’ll do with any down time during her trip.
“I’ll definitely take my workout gear with me,” she said. “If I’m not training it feels different. Like, “Oh my gosh, I need to go for a run.”
When she returns she’ll resume training for her first junior world event, which takes place in Canada in early August, and when she’s done with competitions it will be time to head back to Oklahoma for school.
Louis credited wrestling with helping her ease the “culture shock” last year after she graduated from Ke Kula ‘o ‘Ehunuikaimalino in Kealakekua and moved away from Hawaii for the first time.
“Keeping myself busy is key,” she said. “When I slow down, that’s when I get homesick. The secret to surviving the mainland is keeping myself busy.”
She’s also continued to study judo, a discipline that helps her with her wrestling throws.
Oklahoma College is an NAIA school, but the Stars compete in the Women’s College Wrestling Association and are a four-time national champion. In the final rankings in the 123 division, the 5-foot-4 Louis, who is studying biology with an eye on premed, finished ninth last January.