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This wrestler had an unexpected journey to the Indigenous Games

The self-described bookworm finds strength in wrestling and rugby.

Ietsitsionni (Juni) Loft-Pompana wrestles Wednesday.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Ietsitsionni (Juni) Loft-Pompana wrestles Wednesday.

Juni Loft-Pompana hadn't considered wrestling before her high school coach planted the idea two years ago.

"Wrestling found me," the 16-year-old Mohawk-Nakota Sioux from Tyendinaga (outside Belleville) told Metro.

"Coach told me to come out to one of the practices, because in his words, 'you've got the wrestling stature,'" referring to her short but powerful build.

In her brief time in the sport, Loft-Pompana has excelled. As a Grade 10 student last school year, she went to the final provincial tournament in her age group. Now she's competing in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) for the first time.

It's a big deal for both her and her family. Her mother was the varsity captain of her high school volleyball team and her dad was very good at hockey. But neither had the chance to compete at NAIG.

"They're living NAIG through me," she says with pride.

Loft-Pompana's journey to the Indigenous Games was unexpected. The self-described bookworm – she loves fantasy novels and inspirational sports biographies – surprised her mom when she developed her passion for "aggressive" sports like wrestling and rugby.

"When I was younger I was a girly girl. I really liked princesses and all that stuff," she says.

But sports have filled her with confidence and strength. She looks to rugby teams Fiji, Samoa and the New Zealand All-Blacks for inspiration, pointing out that these small nations with fewer resources use what they have to make a big impact.

"It just really inspires me. I'm able to access resources that the Fiji and Samoan rugby teams aren't able to, so it's just my way of showing appreciation for the resources I'm able to use."

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