At first glance, you would never know about the beast within this beauty.
Hollie Yokley appears to be a normal teen who enjoys all the typical things associated with a 16-year-old sophomore. She has traveled down the path most young ladies her age take. Yokley has tried cheerleading, gymnastics, track, and color guard and even though she was happy, she always felt a void.
Yokley, along with her dad, Peyton Yokley, spent a lot of time together watching UFC and MMA. She desired something similar, but was not sure where to look. She eventually talked it over with family and the decision was made to get Yokley into karate.
One lesson was enough for Yokley to know she was on the right track but it still was not hardly what she was looking for. It did not have the contact and that’s when she discovered jiu jitsu. Yokley was hooked and immediately fell in love with the sport.
It was love at first touch for Yokley and she pursued it to the fullest in January of 2014. It provided her with the physical contact she had longed for, along with the mental toughness. In the beginning, Yokley did not think about how good she was. She knew with hard work and more training her skillset would improve and she wasted little time.
Jiu jitsu instructor Paul Byars increased her training to include a much more rigorous workout and within a five-month time span, Yokely entered her first competition. It was a NAGA event, otherwise known as the National American Grappling Association.
Yokley trained profusely and all her hard work paid off. A win in her first competition moved Yokley to tears. She completed all three matches on the day and remained undefeated in her weight class, something Yokley said she will never forget.
In the beginning of her training, she had another female by the name of Jenna Rutherford who helped immensely until Rutherford left the sport. Not one to back away, she jumped onto the mat with friend and teammate Randall Phillips to continue her jiu jitsu training.
Yokely has dedicated a large part of her life over the last year to grappling and jiu jitsu. In just one short year, she made the jump from novice to expert level. Yokley wants to push herself harder and now that she has made the jump, there is no going back. Many times she has bumped herself up in order to compete due to lack of competitors.
Since the beginning of 2014, Yokley has entered nine competitions. Her prizes included a sword, two championship belts, and 25 medals, which she quickly pointed out are mostly gold.
In order for Yokley to have any chance in the world of MMA she needed to add wrestling to her resume. She turned to WCHS wrestling coach Stephen Martin. She was instantly welcomed to the team and she brought her intensity the high school program.
Yokley admits many schools do not compete with female wrestlers but she earned her way into the state tournament. She finished fourth overall in her first season. Yokley talked about the future as a Lady Pioneer wrestler and she has her sights set on first place and a state title.
She recalled her to toughest opponent, Jessica Elory from Northwestern High School. Yokley noted it was her toughest competitor to date and the loss immediately made her better. She took the match in stride and used it as a learning experience. She is a fierce competitor and extends her hand to her opponent after every match. More often than not, Yokley offers advice after a match and encourages the other wrestlers to get better.
After high school, Yokley will have to travel if she wants to continue her wrestling career and her studies. There is only one school in the area with a female wrestling team. A private college located in the Bristol area is the nearest available.
Yokley is an A student with dual enrollment and trains almost daily. All of her intense training comes with a heavy price and recently Yokley has added trips to a chiropractor to her already full schedule. The doctors ask Yokley to slow down and perhaps maybe even take a year off due to a bulging disc in her back, something she is not inclined to do despite the doctor and her mother, Amy Connolly’s advice.
Yokley has two seasons left as a Lady Pioneer wrestler and the Southern Standard will keep a close watch on her as she makes her run at wrestling supremacy and a state title.