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Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel New Manchester junior Justice Hooper practices for Sunday's Girls State Champion in Franklin Springs. She is the first New Manchester to compete in the event.

Justice Hooper use to go watch her older male cousins wrestle when she lived in North Carolina.

She always wanted to give the sport a try, however, there were no females on the team.

Once she reached high school, Hooper joined the New Manchester team where she is the only female.

But she is not alone as several schools in the county have female wrestlers.

“It is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Hooper said. “I just wanted to be different and not do the other sports that girls usually compete in.”

Although she didn’t qualify for last week’s GHSA traditional state meet in Macon, Hooper will compete in the Georgia Girls State Championship on Sunday in Franklin Springs.

It is part of Georgia Wrestling, which is governed by USA Wrestling.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Hooper said. “I’m trying to be the first female wrestler at my school to win state.”

She will compete in the 138-pound division. It is the first time that New Manchester will have a female competing in the tournament.

Jaguars coach Jerry Flippin and his state just started a year-round club program as New Manchester tries to build it program.

Freshman Miles Harley will compete in the freshman championship, which will also be at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs.

Harley is the son of Chapel Hill wrestling coach Marcus Harley.

“There are a lot of female wrestlers in Georgia, and this is a great event,” Flippin said. “This is Justice’s third year with us. We are expecting a good showing from her. We know that she is very excited about this weekend.”

Excitement for female wrestling is at an all-time high after last weekend’s history state meet in Macon.

Kasey Baynon of Statesboro High because the first female to place at the GHSA state meet. She finished fifth in the 106 weight class.

Alexander senior Kennedi Crittle-Wade became the school’s first female to place in the area meet. She was runner-up and was one spot from qualifying for state at the Sectional meet.

Hooper sees these wrestlers as role models.

“It is just showing that girls can do it,” Hooper said. “Women are moving up in this sport.”

Flippin agreed.

“That was huge for the young lady in Statesoro,” he said. “This shows they are competing. I’m looking forward to Justice doing well. We are starting to get a lot of interest.”

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