COLUMBIA — It's safe to say the awkwardness is gone.
When Hickman wrestler Becca Schranck first stepped on to the mat as a sophomore, her opponent didn't see a fellow wrestler. Most saw a girl attempting to fit in and be a part of a male-dominated sport. The guys would worry about hurting her or accidentally touching her inappropriately.
The Hickman wrestling team beat both Moberly and Helias Catholic on Tuesday night in a three-way meet at Hickman. The Kewpies won 37-36 against Moberly and 47-24 against Helias.
Hickman senior Will Owens won both of his matches in the 195-pound division, including his match against Moberly's 2011 state qualifier John Orscheln.
"Will was never in any danger," Kewpies assistant coach Doug Gordon said. "He fought all the way through. We all wrestled pretty well tonight."
Hickman's two-time state champion J'den Cox did not wrestle tonight because neither team had a wrestler in his weight class.
Things have changed. Schranck, now a senior in the middle of her third wrestling season, has gained the respect of her teammates and coaches because of her personality and dedication.
"She has improved from the time she came in here to now," Kewpies coach J.D. Coffman said. "One of her biggest assets is that she's very gritty. She doesn't back down from anybody, and she keeps coming back day after day."
Even though she has gained respect, Schranck hasn't wrestled in many tournaments during her wrestling career. In each weight class, one individual wrestles varsity, and another wrestles junior varsity at each tournament. Anyone else in that weight class can challenge someone above for a spot in the next tournament. For most of Schranck's career, there have been two teammates above her on the depth chart.
"You'll find a lot of times girls in wrestling who are in a lighter weight class — sometimes that lighter weight class will have young freshmen boys — and a lot of times they aren't as mature as the girls are," Coffman said. "Sometimes the girls will have an advantage there. She's at a weight class now, 126 pounds, where there are four or five guys lined up, and she's not as physically strong as any of them right now. She has to work her way up."
Schranck doesn't mind that there isn't another girl on the team. Having grown up with two brothers, she became used to being around boys.
"When you're on a team with all females there is too much drama, and there is so much going on that I can't handle it," Schranck said. "I grew up with guys, so getting along with them is much easier. The whole team is like a family basically. Everyone is comfortable with each other."
Freshman Jeremiah Watson wrestles Schranck on a regular basis. They are both in the 126-pound weight class.
"She's really good," Watson said. "It's kind of weird wrestling a girl at first, but then you get used to it. It seems like you're wrestling a guy. She's a cool person."
Watson faced Schranck in practice on Monday. The match took place to determine who would wrestle junior varsity in the Tuesday's home event. Schranck lost and was an alternate against Moberly and Helias Catholic. Unless an injury occurs or one of the opponents has an extra wrestler, she will have to wait a little longer this season to wrestle in a match.
Even though she lost her challenge match, when Watson looked across the mat he didn't see just a girl. He didn't see an easy victory. He saw someone who he wrestles often and who is a tough adversary.
Above all else, he saw a wrestler.
"You know, not every girl can say that she was at least somewhat successful being on a wrestling team, and like, very few can even say that they've been on a wrestling team," Schranck said. "I like that it's really different and really hard."