COLUMBIA — Her blue and black argyle socks stand out compared to everyone else's in the gym. But that's not the only reason why Shekinah Doze stands out.
After attending Hallsville High School for two years, Doze transferred to Rock Bridge in 2012. This year she decided she wanted to wrestle for the Bruins and is the only girl on a 30 player team.
She may be the only girl on the team this year, but Doze is not the first female wrestler that Rock Bridge wrestling coach, Travis Craig, has trained.
“It's not unheard of for female wrestlers to do well at this sport,” Craig said. “It’s just not seen as often.”
However, Doze will mostly wrestle against other males, which could pose a challenge for her and her opponents.
“It’s a male dominated sport, and I imagine it’s tough for a girl to break through,” Craig said.
Doze, however, embraces the challenge.
“I wanted the challenge, and I wanted to be different,” she said.
Doze has heard both the criticisms and the concerns before, but said that they don't affect her.
“People were saying that I shouldn’t do it, but that made me want it more,” she said.
While new to the Bruins wrestling team, Doze is no stranger to high school athletics. While at Hallsville, she ran cross-country and competed in track and field. She intends to do the same at Rock Bridge and said that she enjoys being a three-sport athlete with no off-season.
“I like how much it gets me in shape,” Doze said.
She was originally planning to help manage the team and workout with the wrestlers, but then realized that it would be a waste to not compete.
“Being a manager makes you want to do it more because you’re watching everybody else,” Doze said.
She said that she had received mixed reactions from friends and family after telling them she wanted to wrestle.
“My friends were mostly in shock, and my family was concerned for my safety,” she said.
Doze said that her teammates try to treat her the same, but that some of them are unaccustomed to wrestling against a girl.
“The first time our male wrestlers go against a girl on the mat, they’re like, 'what do I do?' I’m not used to it,” Craig said. “So part of it is getting the guys used to it.”
Craig said that male wrestlers need to accept wrestling against a girl, and that female wrestlers aren't any more fragile.
“It’s just like they’re wrestling anybody else. They just need to focus on the techniques,” Craig said. “There is definitely a block in some guys’ minds of how aggressive can they be.”
For some of the other wrestlers so far, it has been difficult to get over that block.
“It’s awkward,” Handson Kiyee, one of Doze's teammates, said. “I mean she is a girl, and in wrestling you have to all of the slamming and stuff.”
Kiyee, a freshman, wrestled against Doze in practice this week and is still getting used to practicing with her.
“When I have to slam her, I feel like I can’t because she is a girl, and I might hurt her,” Kiyee said. “I feel a little bit weird.”
Craig said that wrestling against the opposite sex is more difficult for those learning the sport.
Despite the learning curve, both Kiyee and Craig were impressed by Doze's work ethic.
“She gets in there and works hard,” Craig said. “She knew what she was getting into when she joined the sport.”
Craig said that Doze will wrestle on the "C-level" team and compete in exhibition matches in tournaments and regular season duals to acclimatize her.
“We started her off slower so she could understand the physical nature,” he said. “We encourage her to keep on coming and to keep getting better.”