At first, spectators don't even recognize the fact that one of the wrestlers is a little different from the other members of the Oakland Mills junior varsity squad. The uniform looks the same, and with the headgear in place, the wrestler's shoulder-length hair is not evident.

Even after the 112-pound match has started, there is little reason to expect that the Oakland Mills wrestler is any different from a host of other junior varsity athletes, chasing dreams of high school competition a level below the glory of the varsity.

But after the match, spectators finally can notice the anomaly: the wrestler is a girl.

Nicole Scott is believed to be the only female high schooler currently wrestling in the state of Maryland and the first female to wrestle in Howard County.

"When she first signed up, I thought that someone put her up to, and I erased her name from the list. I didn't think she was sincere," said Steve Carnahan, Oakland Mills' varsity wrestling coach.

Carnahan found out the first day of practice that Scott was serious. And after checking the legality of her participation with state athletic authorities, he welcomed her to the team. But the doubts persisted.

"I thought given the nature (of the sport), she wouldn't stick it out," Carnahan said. "But she feels comfortable enough among the school population (that) it pushed her over the line."

Just going out for the team was hard, but Scott also had to compensate for the years of experience she lacked and gain what Carnahan calls "mat sense."

"I came out and I didn't know anything," she said. "But I thought, 'It's my senior year and I want to do something different.' I wanted to try it to see if I liked it. And I do, it's a lot of fun.

"It's not something that I felt I had to prove," said the 5-foot-3 Scott. "I used to wrestle with my cousins and I liked it."

Scott has enjoyed the competition, but she has been pinned every time she has wrestled this season. Almost half of the time, she has won by forfeit when opponents could not field a wrestler in her weight class.

"She has lacked success because she has never done this before," Carnahan said. "She is being beaten on skill alone, but over the course of the season, she has improved."

Carnahan said that if Scott had eligibility left, she would have about a 50 percent chance of making the Oakland Mills varsity next season. That in itself is no small task; the team has lost only three county dual matches in the past nine years.

Scott hopes to continue her wrestling career "if any college will let me." Shippensburg State and Howard are among the schools she is considering.

"I wish I could learn more. I don't want to quit now," said Scott, who also participates in swimming.

From working with weights, she now is as strong as most opponents in her weight group. And despite the losses, she looks back on her place in the record books with a sort of wonder.

"I didn't expect that I was the first girl. It was a big surprise. The newspapers, the television, I didn't expect any of it. I just decided to go for it," she said.

"It's rare. I expect that when Nicole graduates, it will be another 11 years before a girl takes that kind of plunge," Carnahan said. "At least it would be easier for other girls, having known that it has been done before.