Star Wrestler Defaults Instead of Wrestling Female

By: Ryan Atkins 0 Comments   2/19/2011

This week Joel Northup, a home-schooled sophomore who was 35-4 competing for Linn Mar High School this season, defaulted in the first round of the Iowa State wrestling tournament due to beliefs that a man and woman should not wrestle against one another.

The female student, Cassy Herkelman freshman, was one of two females to be the first girls in the 75 year history of the state tournament to qualify. Megan Black was the other female wrestler.

In a statement released by his school, Northrup wrote “I have a tremendous amount of respect for [Cassy] and [Ottumwa's Megan Black, the other state qualifier] 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 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.”

The debate of whether or not men and women should wrestle one another has raged on for decades.

As a sixth grader at Axtell Park middle school, Sioux Falls, SD, during the 1992-93 school I recall listening and participating in these same conversations. We had a female who wanted to wrestle but as I recall she was not allowed during that time.

According to an NBCsports.com poll 78.4% do not believe females should wrestle males compared to 21.6% believing females and males could wrestle one another.

Ryan Lumley, born and raised in Big Lake, MN, acheived 2nd place in the Minnesota State Wrestling tournament at 145lbs in 2003 has the minority view.

“He should wrestle her,” Lumley said. “She probably has thought through the fact that she is a girl…she has already decided. Her parents are OK and she’s OK with it.”

Lumley, like Northup has a strong religious faith, but sees high school wrestling different.

“I respect where he’s coming from, doesn’t want to wrestle (her). I agree in any other area of life you’re not going to treat a woman like that,” Lumley said

“but he has a goal all year long which is probably to get a state title, so now that he is there at the state tournament, if I was him I would go for the dream, look at her as another competitor and wrestle her and move on.”

The debate will rage on as the quantity of components linked to this singular situation is tremendous. 

Should guys and girls be allowed to wrestle one another? Is it taking females rights away forcing her to wrestle females only? Should wrestlers who desire not to wrestle the opposite sex be forced to forfeit and not default as Northup did?

These questions can and will be debated another day. I would like to commend the young man for standing for his convictions. He doesn’t believe males and females should wrestle, and he didn’t just talk the talk he walked the walk. He stood for his beliefs when it counted the most; a state championship was a possibility.

The majority of the athletes I know compete to win, and this young man chose his beliefs over the possibility of a dream coming true when he defaulted. I hope others will look at this young man and see he’s standing for what he believes in.

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