Grant Park-Beecher's Nicole Thomsen doesn't want any special considerations from opponents or teammates.
The Beecher sophomore, who wrestles for the Grant Park-Beecher co-op team, expects to go out and compete against male wrestlers.
"I think they go harder because I don't think they want to lose to a girl," Thomsen said. "My own teammates, I tell them to not let up in practice. It's not like I am fragile, I am not going to break if they are tough with me.
"Everybody is equal on the mat."
Thomsen is one of nine Beecher student-athletes who wrestle with Grant Park in a co-op. Last year, Devin Mahnke wrestled by himself, still qualifying for the Class 1A state meet. Thomsen and her teammates will compete in today's Class 1A Peotone Regional. She said Mahnke is a friend and she took interest in the sport by talking with him.
"I wanted to try out, but I didn't even know if girls could," Thomsen said. "There were a couple of other girls who wanted to go out and asked me. I said, 'I'll do it.'
"I played football when I was younger, so contact is no big deal to me."
The other two girls quit, but Thomsen, who will wrestle at 125 pounds, but hopes to get down to 103, said she loves it, though she is going through a learning process.
"I get beat, but I have learned from each match," Thomsen said. "I want to get better and the only way to do that is to keep wrestling."
Mahnke said Thomsen has improved quite a bit.
"Nicole came out and didn't expect any favors," Mahnke said. "She has worked hard and Nicole is always willing to ask what she can do better."
Mahnke, who wrestles at 145, hopes to get back to state this year. He said having a team is a big help.
"At school, we talk wrestling, where last year I was the only one," Mahnke said. "To be a part of a team is a great feeling because you can ask teammates advice during a tournament."
Teammate John Banasiak,a 152-pounder, is a senior who said he wishes there would have been a co-op last season.
"I really love wrestling, always loved the contact sports like football," Banasiak said. "Devin did a nice job of getting us together and I am glad to be a part of a team."
Banasiak played youth football, but Beecher does not have a football program.