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Ƶapp High Wrestler Signs to HBCU

Lahtahjah Cooper smiles with her nametag showing she's signing to Allen University

Sometimes, all you have to do is try.

A little over two years ago, Lahtahjah Cooper basically took up wrestling on a whim. She was looking to get into better shape and was inspired by her best friend, who already took up wrestling.

So, Lahtahjah picked up the sport and, in a short amount of time, used wrestling to change her life. The Ƶapp High product, who took 5th in State her last season and is the first female Badger to place at a state wrestling meet, signed up to wrestle for Allen University in South Carolina.

“My first year, my sophomore year, I had gotten injured during the freestyle season, and I just got back in my junior year,” Lahtahjah said. “And from there I wouldn’t let anything stop me. So, from there on, I would just be like ‘I’m going to be go, go, go.’ And I made it happen. It’s amazing.”

Lahtahjah is one of 19 Badgers who have signed their National Letter of Intent to continue their athletic journey at various post-secondary institutions. (See full list below.)

Lahtahjah’s coach, Kory DeBerry, said he’s proud his athlete was able to persevere and figure out who she is, both as a person and an athlete, to have been able to reach this milestone.

“To have the type of integrity that she has, especially with the many obstacles she has (faced, to) …now becoming one of our best athletes of this graduating class for this year,” DeBerry said. “It’s just absolutely awesome and amazing to see how far they can push themselves and how everything can come to fruition for themselves.”

When the time came to choose with program to go with, Allen University immediately stood out. The school is one of the nations’ Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), and instantly felt like home for Lahtahjah.

She has also already started fostering relationships with some of her soon-to-be teammates. So far, texting with them has felt like texting with her current teammates. And the same is to be said about her new coaching staff. Never once has she felt uncomfortable talking to them, or has talking with them felt forced.

Lahtahjah Cooper signs her letter of intent with her family next to herIt’s all come easily.

“I felt like, with me going somewhere so far away, that was something that I needed to have – some sort of reliability, that connection,” Lahtahjah said. “I needed to have that, otherwise I wouldn’t feel safe. I wouldn’t be comfortable.”

Even though Lahtahjah has already started getting close to her new team, the nearly-2,000-mile move will most likely still cause a culture-shock.

Lahtahjah, who plans to study sports medicine, will leave behind the Hispanic heritage-filled desert life and move to a more traditional southern town filled with oak, pecan, and magnolia trees. The dry heat of southern Arizona will be changed to a humid heat. And the food scene will be vastly different as well.

But she’s up for the challenge.

“That was one of the reasons why I joined that school, because it’s an HBCU,” Lahtahjah said. “Another thing I want to go into is joining a sorority, because I want to find a sisterhood. I want to make connections with people.”

 

List of Ƶapp High Signees:

Girls Soccer:
Yatana Acosta – Pima Community College
Crystal Linares – Pima Community College
Marissa Garate – Pima Community College
Kristal Navarro – Pima Community College
Samantha Mendez – Pima Community College
Kamalani Peralta – Pima Community College

Softball:
Jiselle Nunez – Pima Community College
Julissa Lopez – Pima Community College
Jorgina Grant – Jackson State

Boys Soccer:
Christian Rubio – Pima Community College
Rene Yebra – Benedictine University
Zachary Hernandez – Benedictine University
Chris Arvizu – Mohave Community College
Mauricio Velazquez – Mohave Community College
Alex Cristerna Oleta – Pima Community College

Baseball:
Jaden Leon – South Mountain Community College

Wrestling:
Lahtahjah Cooper – Allen University

Football:
Paul Gomez – Arizona Christian University
Prince Mugisha – Jacksonville

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