By Christopher Tenpenny
When Nonnie Justice traveled to Independence March 9 to compete in the Missouri Girls State Wrestling Tournament, there was one goal in mind; win a third consecutive individual state championship.
Justice, a senior, is coming off back-to-back state championships and is the top girls’ wrestler in the 127-weight class. So, when she won by a major decision in the championship match, there were few surprised faces in the arena.
“It’s overwhelming to win three in a row, but it’s been fun,” Justice said. “This is my last one in high school and I made it happen. I’m just excited.”
For Justice, she finishes the season with a perfect 44-0 record and set the standard for Harrisonville wrestling.
“Almost at a loss of words of what to say about her,” head coach Eric DeVenney said. “She’s a wonderful leader, she encourages other people and she puts her time in. She’s wrestled her whole life. It’s tough to win one title, let alone three in a row. She’s been able to keep that focus her whole career.”
Justice was quick to acknowledge this is not the high point of her career. She plans to wrestle at the collegiate level and hopes to make world teams and Olympic teams.
“It’s super exciting to win three state championships and something to be proud of, but I’ve got a lot more ahead of me,” Justice said. “I know this is not the peak of my career. I’m ready for more.”
Justice was not the only state champion for Harrisonville as sophomore Chloe Herrick won in the 117-weight class. She pinned her opponent in the second round of the championship match. Herrick, who was the runner-up last season as a freshman, made it a priority to get back to state and to win an individual championship.
“She’s been on a mission. The very next week after state last year she started working out,” DeVenney said. “She wanted to be back here and she achieved that. It’s been incredible to watch.”
Herrick finishes the season 44-1. She and Justice are wrestling partners in practice and although things get heated sometimes, Herrick has learned a lot from Justice over the last couple of years.
“She’s helped me so much,” Herrick said. “She’s helped me with positions, with scrambling and anything else.
“Sometimes when we get in there, there’s fist fights but we get over that. They say iron sharpens iron and that’s what it is.”
Herrick and Justice were the only two wrestlers to compete for Harrisonville. The Lady Cats won the Missouri Girls State Championship in 2020 but would be hard pressed to repeat with only two girls in a growing sport.
Still, Harrisonville came away with a fourth-place finish and earned another plaque for the trophy case.
“It was our mission to come here and go 6-0 on the weekend,” DeVenney said.
“They put in the work, time and stayed focused. Girls’ wrestling is getting so good. A lot of crazy stuff had to happen to get fourth, but we took care of business and to come home with a trophy is very special.”
The growth of girls wrestling has been evident over the last three seasons. In 2020, Harrisonville won state with 76 points. This season, it took 101 points for Lebanon to win. Justice has been around since the start and is excited for the future of the sport.
“Whenever we first started out, there were a few hammers but mostly girls just getting into it,” Justice said. “Now we have girls constantly coming out to compete, getting better and the numbers are growing.
“Everything has been growing. I’m excited for Missouri girls wrestling.”
While Harrisonville wrestling may look different next season without Justice competing, the team is in good hands. Herrick highlights a promising group of girls who look to follow in her footsteps. Herrick has one state championship and needs to win the next two years to tie Justice.
When Herrick was asked if she could do it Justice cut in with, “She better. I know she can.”