CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - "I loved it. First practice, loved it."
Jesse Kemp isn’t your typical high school athlete.
“She’s headset on competing," says James Island wrestling coach Justin Iverson. "She’s got spunk, she’s firey. Kind of made a memorable impression on me pretty quick.”
When the James Island sophomore failed to make the volleyball team this fall, she began searching for a new hobby. That led her here, to the Trojans wrestling room. And like a shoe, it was the perfect fit.
“She picked a guy up and slammed him straight on his head.” said assistant coach JJ Baldwin. “I was like - we’ve got something here.”
In four short months, Kemp jumped from rookie to state champion.
“I definitely worked hard to get there. I mean, just being a girl has a huge impact.” Kemp said.
“It broke the barrier. From then on she was our varsity 113 pounder. It didn’t really turn into a - there’s a woman still - or a female wrestler in the sport. She’s our 113-pounder. Let’s get ready to work.” Iverson said.
Yet at times, she still has to prove those doubters wrong.
“Sometimes they’re like - hmmm, you?. I don’t think so.” Kemp said.
"She demanded her respect and got it quick."
"I couldn't imagine James Island wrestling without her at this point"
Kemp still has two years left to solidify her legacy here at James Island. But she doesn’t plan on ending her wrestling career on graduation day.
“I will definitely wrestle in college if I get a scholarship,” she says.
“She’s earing that. I hope she gives me tickets, that’s all I’m asking for” says Iverson.
“I think she could really elevate the women’s wrestling to a new level. If you’re looking for a girl who’s nasty at 113, you’ve got one.” Baldwin says.
But in the meantime, she has her sights set on two more titles and serving as an icon to little girls all across the country.
“If I put my mind to it, I’ll definitely get something done,” Kemp said.
“She’s definitely going to be a legend around here for a long time to come. People will walk by in the trophy case and say - yeah, that’s Jesse Kemp right there. I remember watching here wrestle.”