Sophomore Natalie Shok’s interest in wrestling was first piqued in middle school, but she didn’t try out for the team because she didn’t want to be the only girl. Looking back now as one of the few female members of the co-ed wrestling team, Shok said she regrets not trying the sport earlier, as her experience is the “most physically challenging sport” she has ever done.
Before the wrestling season started, Shok said she asked sophomore Paris Harrell to join the team in an attempt to minimize the team’s gender imbalance. Harrell’s mother, a former wrestler, inspired her to try out the sport. But for Harrell, wrestling has not been what she expected it to be.
“It’s been interesting to learn how to wrestle somebody because it’s not specifically what you think,” Harrell said. “It’s very structured sport and they introduce specific methods to do things I hadn’t exactly thought about before.”
While many would expect that one of the challenges of being a girl wrestler is having the sport dominated by boys, when first starting, neither of them were intimidated by being the only girls on the team.
“It’s not something that I really have to worry about. I don’t feel left out, the team is very accepting,” Shok said.
Instead, Shok and Harrell were intimidated by the other athletes because they were completely new to the sport.
“We’re all starting somewhere and we’re all supporting each other and building each other up,” Shok said. Both of them credit their coach’s one-on-one time with them as the reason they have improved. For Harrell, wrestling has served as an outlet to release tension, have fun, and improve her physical fitness.
“It’s a very good way to get distracted and to go out there and do something because you’re wrestling somebody,” Harrell said. “It’s a good way to stop focusing and stressing about all of the homework you have to do.”
Wrestling has never felt like a chore to Shok, but rather something that she finds exhilarating. Even in the short time they have been doing wrestling, both have seen fast improvement.
“I have never felt so strong in my life,” Shok said. “I’ve gained a lot of strength and I feel really good about it.”
Harrell said many of the boys on the team are happy that Harrell and Shok joined because it gives them an upper hand in the competitions. Now that there are female wrestlers on the team, Harrell and Shok can be entered in the girls wrestling tournaments, allowing them to acquire more points for the team and giving them a better chance of winning.
One concern for both Harrell and Shok is the high probability of getting injured. Wrestling is a very dangerous sport because of the one-on-one contact, yet neither Shok nor Harrell are letting that hold them back.
As the season continues, Harrell and Shok said they both hope to improve their strength, allowing them to perform better. Shok is especially excited to compete in tournaments throughout the season, and she thinks it will be a unique experience.