HARVEST, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s been hard to stop the Sparkman girls wrestling team all season, which resulted in them taking home the Alabama state championship. A big reason for that success was Akerah Artis who went a perfect 35-0 this season, winning the individual state championship. For that, she is the Hiley Mazda Key Athlete of the Week.

Akerah Artis had never stepped foot on a mat before when she signed up to wrestle at Sparkman.

“I tried out for dance in middle school, and I didn’t make the team so orientation came around and there was a wrestling group and my mom ended up stopping by that and track and she was like this will be different, try wrestling,” Artis said.

“Six years ago she walked in here and she had her little Monrovia Middle School cheerleading outfit on and said, ‘coach I would like to wrestle,’ and I remember looking at her and saying yeah right. She would leave games and cheerleading practice, come straight here, and back then they wrestled guys. So she practiced the whole time with guys, all the competitions were with guys and it was phenomenal,” Sparkman wrestling head coach Ronnie Watson added.

Going into her senior season, everyone had high expectations for Artis. But she handled the pressure and finished her season with an undefeated record and state championship.

“I’m glad that I got to be the person that could do it,” Artis said.

“At the beginning of the year that was her goal and nothing was going to stop her. Emotions over her winning it to that got us closer to our team goal and all I remember when she won it was the little girl that walked in in the seventh grade asking if she could wrestle,” Watson added.

Artis is unsure if she will wrestle at the next level, but she knows she still wants to be around the sport that gave her so much.

“I want to study software engineering so I can go to college for both, if the right college has the major and the athletics to it. If I don’t wrestle in college, then I want to make a program that’s here in Huntsville because there’s not many girls programs out here with wresting so just stay in that environment, or I might come back here and coach,” Artis said.

She now leaves Sparkman with an 83-3 overall record during her three seasons on the girls team, and a team and individual state championship. But her legacy at Sparkman will be much greater than those wins.

“It’s just amazing that I got to be part of this journey, and seeing it grow, and [I] got to be one of the first people who started it,” Artis said.

“If she’s leaving anything other than the wins, it’s her drive and her leadership skills. It’s great to see her succeed, but in the same place, we’re going to walk in next year for the first time in six years and that little girl’s not going to be here anymore so it’s bittersweet,” Watson added.

We are always looking for standout student-athletes in the Tennessee Valley to feature! If you have a high-school-aged athlete that you would like to nominate for Hiley Mazda Key Athlete of the week, you can email olivia.whitmire@whnt.com, claudia.chakamian@whnt.com or sports@whnt.com.