A top-ranked Iowa wrestler defaulted rather than compete against the first girl to qualify for the state tournament.
Joel Northup, a home-schooled sophomore, balked when he was matched against Cedar Falls freshman Cassy Herkelman (one of two girls to make it to the tournament) at Des Moines' Wells Fargo Arena. He defaulted rather than wrestle her. Explaining his decision, Northrup wrote,
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.
In response, Herkelman's father responded,
It's nice to get the first win and have her be on the way to the medal round. I sincerely respect the decision of the Northup family especially since it was made on the biggest stage in wrestling. I have heard nothing but good things about the Northup family and hope Joel does very well the remainder of the tourney.
Well, you certainly can't fault the manners of the Hawkeye state, and clearly there's not going to be too much interpersonal drama from the main protagonists. However, the story is already sweeping the web and eliciting strong reactions. While it's any wrestler's right to default against any opponent, one can't help wonder what "faith" it is that explicitly bans wrestling against a willing, equally-weighted and qualified combatant on a sporting field. Indeed, there's no sport in which people are more evenly matched, and in this case both had worked hard to get to this point. And if the issue is with the close proximity to the opponent — well, wouldn't same-sex wrestling be at least as problematic? This guy's sense of chivalry seems misguided; in denying his opponent the chance to face him, he's belying the respect he claims to afford her.
That said, I appreciate that he did express that respect for her, and framed the decision as a personal one. What's more, he's taking the consequences: he's basically taken himself out of the running for champion. Meanwhile, she advances.