Getting on the mat

Through the entrance of Portland State’s Stott Auditorium, down the hall on the left, through two sets of doors, in a little humid room filled to the edges with mats and boys is an unusual place to find a 15-year-old girl on a school day afternoon. But that is exactly where to find Trynadii Rocha.

Rocha is the only female wrestler on the Lincoln team; her weight class is 106. Though not excluded from participation, wrestling is still a sport that few females choose. The reasons boil down to notions of what’s feminine or not. Rocha is helping broaden the mold for females by just doing what she loves.

Rocha was born and raised in Portland. Her grandfather introduced her to wrestling when she was in first grade. Hooked, she never quit. Her childhood idol was her aunt, Natasha, who dreamed of making  the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team until she blew out her knee.

“My aunt never stopped, she kept training and recovered. She pushed through the pain and didn’t give up even though she had highs and lows,” says Rocha, now with 10 years of wrestling under her belt..

Rocha realized that she could excel at wrestling at a tournament when she was 10. She placed at a qualifier tournament and took the second at the Boys Oregon State Classic Championship. She was addicted.

Rocha’s favorite parts of wrestling are the adrenaline rush and watching her hard work pay off. Today, the sophomore is a valuable member of the Lincoln wrestling team who isn’t considered all that different, “other than having to step into a different room when weighing in,” says Will Duffy, a sophomore wrestler.

Aside from this, Rocha fits right in: she wrestles with the boys at practice and jokes around at the meets.

“She always listens to music and dances terribly, every meet. It’s awful,” jokes Jude Soldati, a freshman wrestler.

Rocha is at ease with the team, and that relaxed attitude speaks volumes for the accepting nature of the athletes and coaches. She has been accepted fully in the team. They support her and she supports them.

“She’s like our mom,” says teammate Carson Hugill, a freshman.

But Rocha says some elements of wrestling are not as accepting as her team. She feels that sometimes she does not get the same amount of respect as a guy would receive from officials at meets. She has to deal with comments from adults and peers that belittle her accomplishments and is asked why she is even competing. Parents of competitors complain that their son should not have to wrestle a girl.

“We female wrestlers want to prove [to] these guys that this is a sport for them and us, and we handle it just fine,” says Rocha. Her advice to an aspiring female wrestler is always stay positive and keep realistic goals.

“There will be highs, but lows come too. Always learn from your lows and work hard for what you want.”

Rocha ended the season competing at Women’s State Wrestling Championships in late February. She still has two years she can wrestle for Lincoln as she pushes on to achieve her dream of becoming a state champion. She has put in the hard work and knows that she will learn and improve no matter the outcome. Win or lose, Rocha will accomplish a great deal by not only participating in a male-dominated sport, but excelling in it.