In terms of gender equality, sports are kind of a dicey area. Realistically speaking, there are certain physical differences in men and women that render competition in certain sports … well, uh, not exactly fair. While I am all for keeping gender out of it, you have to admit that a 300 pound senior linebacker could potentially cause serious damage to a 5’1” 98-pound freshman who decides to go out for the football team, no matter how agile or athletically gifted she might be.
Because competitors are divided by weight class, wrestling is one of the sports that you could make a legitimate unisex argument for. In fact, I see no reason in the world to keep female wrestlers from taking on their similar-sized male counterparts.
Iowa’s Joel Northrup, however, feels otherwise. After being matched against female wrestler Cassy Herkelman, Linn-Mar’s Northrup refused to compete against her at the recent Iowa state wrestling meet.
Northrup did not speak with the media, but did release a written statement:
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan (Black, the tournament’s other female entrant) and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my 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 of the high school sports in Iowa.”
You know, Joel Northrup is a buffoon. He was either scared of the looming stigma of being beaten by a girl or he’s a misogynistic twerp. Or both.
Of greater concern to me, though, is that Cassy Herkelman made history at the meet as the first female wrestler to win a match at this popular tournament … and it comes with a “won by default” footnote.
That totally sucks. With all the Title IX stuff out there, with the leaps and bounds that have been made in female athletes being taken seriously (ESPNW notwithstanding), why is it that a female wrestler had the opportunity for a legitimate win taken from her?
Let’s step back for a moment. What if Joel Northrup had declined to fight a male wrestler to whom he was matched? He would be ranked to the dogs and back. This is a clear case of sexism, of a female athlete being singled out for her gender.
Although Northrup obviously gave up his chance to advance in the meet, I feel like he should be further penalized. I just can’t help it … talk about a low blow.
And it just opens up a huge can of worms. “I won’t wrestle her because she’s a girl” could very easily lead to “I won’t wrestle him because he’s African-American” or “I won’t wrestle him because he’s openly homosexual.” I really believe that something has to be said, that an example has to be made of this.
It’s certainly not going to come from the powers that be at Linn-Mar.
[Northrup’s] coach Doug Streicher did not speak with the media after the match.
Linn-Mar Athletic Director Scott Mahmens did speak with the media, and said Northrup’s parents are not at the tournament. Mahmens added that nobody from the school tried to influence Northrup, who is home schooled, to wrestle or not wrestle.
“He’s a Linn-Mar Lion, and we’re going to support what he’s doing,” Mahmens said. “Obviously his beliefs are more important to him (than a chance at a state title).”