Cassy Herkelman can take of herself. After all, she’s one of the first girls to ever qualify for the Iowa State wrestling tournament, along with fellow high-schooler Megan Black.
And yet when she was set to face off against tournament favorite Joel Northrup in the division finals, she won only by default. Northrup forfeited the match, stating publicly that he had moral qualms about fighting a girl.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan 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 other high-school sports in Iowa.
Needless to say, the gender politics behind this are complicated. I’ll admit my first reaction was to take umbrage. Herkelman had qualified by state standards and she had made the conscious choice to place herself in potential danger. She was talented, trained, and game. So what right did Northrup have to take the competition away?
Well firstly, this was in no way an easy decision for him. As SportsGrid explained it:
Wrestling is to Iowa as football is to Texas, and Northrup was a favorite to win the 5A state tournament in his weight class—so he gave up a lot by not fighting Herkelman.
Further, Northrup was clearly acting in large part out of religious faith. And whether or not I agree, his old-school sentiment reflects good intentions. I’m torn between admiring a young man who gave up something to stay true to his own convictions, and shaking my head at an archaic notion of femininity being rehashed yet again.
So I leave it to you, readers. What are the implications behind a decision like this? What would you have done in Northrup’s place? Leave it in the comments.