In recent weeks, a story came out of Iowa regarding the state wrestling tournament. If high school wrestling exists in Arkansas or Texas, I’m unaware but from what I understand, wrestling is king in Iowa.
The news; however, was not in regards to the wresting itself, but in regards to whether boys should be wrestling against girls. Joel Northrup, a high school home-schooled student in Iowa, drew as his opponent Cassy Herkelman, one of two Iowan female wrestlers to have qualified for the state tournament. Citing religious beliefs, Joel chose to default the match because of his conviction and his church’s teaching that boys and girls should not “touch in a ‘familiar way'”. His actions cost him the chance for competing for the state title.
Rick Reily, a sports columnist and author, criticized young Mr. Northrup for defaulting the match stating,
“Fourteen-year-old wrestler Cassy Herkelman doesn’t need anybody protecting her from anything. She’s broken her collarbone, split her lip, deviated her septum, wrecked her elbow, all from wrestling. She’s about as dainty as a forklift.”
Toward the end of the article, Reily further states,
“I don’t feel as bad for Cassy as I do for Joel. He was the fifth-ranked wrestler in the state at 112 pounds. He was 35-4. He had a chance to win the whole thing. In Iowa, that means a lifetime of people buying you lunch. It’s corn-state royalty. To give all that up to protect a girl who loathes being protected? What a waste of a dream.”
I think I understand where Reily is coming from. We’ve been trained over the past years to think that boys and girls are the same, with only their anatomy separating the two. I understand, but I heartily disagree.
Albert Mohler offers great perspective on the issue:
In forfeiting the match, Joel Northrup cited his concern that wrestling is a physical sport that often turns violent. When he said “I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner,” he was only expressing what would have been taken as common sense and common decency just a few years ago.
In response to Joel’s statement, Sarah Spain wondered aloud what many others were thinking: “It’s tough to tell whether Northrup is actually concerned about harming Herkelman or if he’s just worried about accidentally touching parts of her that he might never have touched on a girl before. If he or his parents were uncomfortable with the prolonged physical contact and the very high possibility that he might grab, for lack of a better term, a ‘lady part,’ then I suppose it’s tough to reprimand him for defaulting.”
Clearly. But the great unfairness is that this boy was put in such a position in the first place. His failure to cite the sexual nature of his concerns reflects a basic sense of decency and propriety. It would have embarrassed both Joel and the girls in the tournament for such a concern, though obvious, to be articulated. But, given the nature of the sport, there is no way that a boy and a girl wrestling as opponents in a competitive match would not have contact where boys and girls should not have contact. In fact, we are talking about contact of a nature that the boy would be in great and proper trouble if the contact happened anywhere else.
The fact is that boys and girls are equal, but quite different. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 To ignore our wonderful differences is to reject the origin of our creation. Males, in all our “male-ness” represents part of who God is. Likewise, females, in all their glory also show us part of God’s person and character. We were both created in the image of God. To reject our differences claiming that we are the “same” is to reject how our differences reflect and glorify God.
As a dad, I vote with John Piper:
Come on, dads, have some courage. Just say, “Over my dead body are you going to wrestle a girl.” Of course, they will call you prudish. But everything in you knows better.
Yes, I am talking to the boys’ fathers. If the girls’ fathers don’t care how boys manhandle their daughters, you will have to take the lead. Give your sons a bigger nobler vision of what it is to be a man. Men don’t fight against women. They fight for women.
I will raise my sons to cherish the differences boys and girls. Not out of superiority of one gender over another, but equality in our differences.
Thank you, Joel Northrup, for taking this stand. May many others follow your lead.