Tiyanna Hooker stands apart as the only girl on the Timber Creek High School wrestling team.

She stands apart for other reasons, too.

For one thing, she’s dominant in her new sport. She’s undefeated against female competition, pinning all seven of her opponents in the first minute.

For another, she’s a throwback, three-sport star, although two of her sports are non-traditional for female athletes. She’s a shot putter in track and field and a national-caliber rugby player as well as a serious contender to become the first girl from South Jersey to win a state championship in wrestling.

But here’s the unique thing about her: In a little more than two months, in a new sport, Hooker has become a leader in the Timber Creek wrestling room, setting an example for her male counterparts with her competitiveness, focus, dedication, and commitment.

“She gets up to run at 5 o’clock in the morning,” assistant wrestling coach Anthony Badaracco said. “You try to get guys to do that and they’ll look at you like, ‘Yeah, right.’

“She’s a great leader. She’s taken on a leadership role with the guys, pushing them, holding them accountable.”

Timber Creek's Tiyanna Hooker, the team's only female wrestler, works on takedowns, breakdowns, turns and escapes with assistant coach Anthony Badaracco.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Timber Creek's Tiyanna Hooker, the team's only female wrestler, works on takedowns, breakdowns, turns and escapes with assistant coach Anthony Badaracco.

Hooker will be the No. 1 seed at 185 pounds in the first New Jersey girls’ wrestling South Regional tournament Sunday at Red Bank Regional High School. If she finishes in the top three in her weight class, she will advance to the state championships March 1-2 in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Hooker came out for wrestling on a whim, since her main sport is rugby. She has played on national teams and is a member of a top-level club team out of Maryland. She plans to attend Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., next year on a rugby scholarship.

“I kept saying last year, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to wrestle next year,’ and no one believed me,” said Hooker, a senior at the school in Erial, Camden County.

Timber Creek senior wrestler Kam Jenkins knew Hooker was serious.

“I knew it would be a good fit for her,” Jenkins said. “I talked to her about it before she decided to come out and told her it would fit her.

“I didn’t think she would be this good.”

Timber Creek senior Tiyanna Hooker, here working with assistant coach Anthony Badaracco, will be the No. 1 seed at 185 pounds in the first New Jersey girls' wrestling South regional tournament.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Timber Creek senior Tiyanna Hooker, here working with assistant coach Anthony Badaracco, will be the No. 1 seed at 185 pounds in the first New Jersey girls' wrestling South regional tournament.

Hooker, in addition to her 7-0 mark against female opponents, has gone 1-2 against boys in junior-varsity matches for the Chargers.

“I thought I was in the best shape of my life,” Hooker said. “Then when I had to go six minutes against a boy, my lungs were burning and I was like, ‘I’m not in the best shape of my life.’

“I knew I had to work harder.”

Badaracco, the former head coach at Kingsway who usually serves as Hooker’s workout partner, said the team’s only female wrestler is defined by her toughness.

“It’s something to see her fighting through injuries,” Badaracco said. “She’s taken her licks. She’ll be banged up and we’ll try and sit her out and she’ll be like, ‘No.’ She tells us she wants to push it.

“She has that competitiveness and that drive that you can’t teach.”

Timber Creek head coach Dave Ritz said Hooker’s aggressive approach has been the key to her success.

“She has no hesitation to attack,” Ritz said. “With most girls, their first step is back. Her first step is always forward.”

Hooker credits her rugby background with easing her transition to wrestling.

“I feel like I have an advantage over most people because I’m kind of used to it, like the tackling and stuff like that,” Hooker said.

Hooker said she has felt strong support from the school community. Her family is behind her, too.

“My mom [Danielle] is like, ‘It’s not as bad as rugby so I’ll take it,’ ” Hooker said.

Hooker knows she’s something special as the only girl on the team. But she hopes her success. especially if she becomes the school’s first state champion in the sport, might inspire other girls to try wrestling in the future.

“I think it’s a good thing for girls,” Hooker said. “What you get out of it is more than just wrestling.

“I feel like after this year, if I win states or even if I don’t, it will encourage girls to wrestle. They always need to see that one girl do it first.”

Girls’ Wrestling South Regional

Sunday at Red Bank Regional High School

Start: 9:30 a.m.; Finals set for 5 p.m.

Stakes: The top three finishers in each of 10 weight classes will advance to the state championships March 1-2 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

South Jersey’s top seeds

100 pounds

No. 2 Anmarie Lebron, Pennsauken

No. 3 Tatiana Schramm, Paulsboro

105 pounds

No. 3 Karly Costello, Burlington Twp.

111 pounds

No. 2 Mia Bruno, Kingsway

No. 3 Elizabeth Myers, Paulsboro

136 pounds

No. 2 Paige Colucci, Williamstown

No. 3 Emma Matera, Delran

147 pounds

No. 2 Olivia Heyer, Kingsway

161 pounds

No. 2 Katherine Bott, Kingsway

185 pounds

No. 1 Tiyanna Hooker, Timber Creek

235 pounds

No. 1 Joelle Klein, Lower Cape May

No. 2 Kalia Mungo, Rancocas Valley

No. 3 Sarah Mireles, Kingsway