Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
One hundred twelve pound Cassie Herkelman is a historic figure in Iowa high school sports. Though Iowa has allowed girls to compete against boys in wrestling for two decades, Cassie is the first to win a match in Iowa’s legendary state wrestling tourney. The problem, for some, is that she won by forfeit.
Her opponent Joel Northrup, a home schooler who wrestles for Linn-Mar High School, cited his religious faith as the reason for the decision not to answer the referee’s call to “wrestle.” In a curiously polished statement for a 16-year-old, Northrup said: “As a matter of conscience and faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.”
Northrup prefaced his remarks by saying, “‘I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan [another female wrestler who qualified] and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times.”
Northrup may continue in the double elimination tourney through consolation round matches but can finish no higher than third. Henkleman advances.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, slightly over 6,000 girls competed in wrestling in 2009-10 – compared with nearly 275,000 boys. California, Texas and Hawaii have girls-only wrestling while most other states allow combined competition.
The incident raises several issues: Would it have been fair to ban Northrup from future matches under notions of sportsmanship for forfeiting with no medical reason? Should home-schoolers have the benefit of participating in public school sporting events? Is Northrup a prisoner of conscience or a vestige of Victorian attitudes of chivarly that women are somehow physically and emotionally unworthy of competing against men in physical sports? Should girls and women’s sports be “separate but equal”?
The episode calls to mind the poignant and fact-based film, Chariots of Fire, set during the 1924 Olympics when UK runner Eric Liddell refused a scheduled heat because it fell on Sunday. The strictly religious Liddell was portrayed as heroic in the movie. What are your feelings about Northrup?
Source: Mail Online
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger