So Joel Northrup, a HS sophomore in 112 lb weight class with a stellar record of 35-4, refuses to wrestle a female opponent in the opening round of the Iowa state tournament. Northrup, who comes from a religious family which strongly believes that males and females shouldn’t be exposed to this kind of physical touching, said all the right things about his opponent, but in the end, he stuck to his religious convictions. He defaulted on the match. The girl was declared the winner while he moved on into the consolation bracket.
Lots of good calls today about this situation. Is Northrup to be saluted for giving up his chance to win the state championship by putting his religion first? Or is he to be castigated for not having the guts to wrestle a girl and risk losing (the girl has a record of 20-13).
As one caller pointed out, does Joel’s religion also say that any physical contact between males is wrong? If that’s true, then Joel shouldn’t have wrestled any boys this year. Another caller suggested that the ideal situation would have been for the girls to have their own tournament. But even though there are more than 6,000 female HS wrestlers, only a handful of states actually have male and female separate wrestling tournaments.
From my perspective, I have to give some credit to Joel Northrup because, if nothing else, he’s been consistent in his appoach. Three years ago, he also had to face a female opponent, and he declined to wrestle her as well. This time, in the states, he once again abides by his religion, and defaults.
There was once a time in the US where a boy being defeated by a girl in sports was truly humiliating for the boy. I’d like to think that those old-time biases have begun to wash away a bit as more and more younger athletes fully understand that one’s gender makes no difference when it comes to athletic ability. As such, I don’t think the thought of losing to a girl was what drove Northrup’s decision. Judging from the media accounts, it was all about his religion.
But the boy is only a sophomore so there’s a good chance this could repeat itself next year and the year after that. Is there no way to figure out a solution or compromise to solve this kind of dilemma?