Friday, February 18, 2011

Youth Wrestling: Girls Wrestling Boys

This past week, a boy from Iowa named Joel Northrup refused to wrestle a girl in the Iowa state championship tournament. The standout wrestler, ranked 5th in the state with a 35-4 record at the 112 pound division, gave up his dream to become a state champion to adhere to his faith. Read the Daily Tribune article - Iowa Wrestling Standout Refuses to Face a Girl.

I am not really sure where I stand on this debate: 

I am a dad of a girl athlete. Two years ago, my daughter was the only girl in a boys basketball league. She played on the boys team because she was good enough to compete and because there was no organized girls league for her age at the time.  I watched her play with pride. I felt so good when the dads of the other players commented on how good she was. 

I am the husband of a wife who played little league baseball while growing up in Iowa. Like my daughter, she played on the boys team because she was good enough to compete and because the town did not have a girls softball league at the time. She went on to play softball in college.

Cassy Herkelman, the girl Joel Northrup refused to wrestle, earned a spot into the state tournament. She complied a record of 21-13 during the season with eight pins. She finished 2nd at districts. She did that in one of the most, if not the most, competitive states for high school wrestling. Like my daughter and my wife, she competed against boys because she was good enough and because her high school did not have a girls wrestling program. 

Still, I am not sure that girls should be wrestling boys. From reading up on this issue, I understand that some boys feel that wrestling a girl is a no win situation. Apparently, boys who go all out and wrestle a girl to win are often admonished by their peers for beating a girl. On the contrary, boys who hold back or avoid certain holds and end up losing are chastised by their peers. What is a boy to do? But what is a girl to do?

The Main Point

This is a complex issue with two sides of the story. People who only see it one way are myopic.

The one thing that everyone can agree on is that both sides handled this situation with class.

Joel stated:

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy, 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."

Cassy Herkelman's father stated: 

"My understanding is that they've got strict convictions, and I respect them... I don't have any ill will toward them and I don't think it's any kind of boycott about her being a girl."

The best scenario would be the development of girls wrestling programs in every state. (The following states have girls wrestling California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.)


  1. Cassy Herkelman is a tough girl and I think Northrop was afraid that she would beat him and used his relgious beliefs to get out of wrestling her.

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