I have a tremendous amount of respect for Joel Northrup. He’s a home-schooled Iowa wrestler who qualified for State with the Linn-Mar Wrestling Team. When he got to his first round, he discovered he was paired with Cassey Herkelman of Cedar Falls. Cassey and fellow wrestler Megan Black are the only two girls to qualify for State since its inception in 1926.
When Joel discovered that he was slated to wrestle Cassey, he “defaulted” on his match – he gave it up and took a loss – rather than wrestle her. In a written statement, he said:
“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.”
Herkelman and her family support his decision, and in their response, they were gracious: “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 Northrup family especially since it was made on the biggest stage in wrestling. I have heard nothing but good things about the Northrup family and hope Joel does very well the remainder of the tourney.”
Grace, on both sides. But it brings up an issue that I wrestle with, a couple times a week.
Josh is in Tae Kwon Do. There are at least two girls in his class, one is just one belt under him, and one is a beginner. He’s a “low green”, which is still in the beginner-ish ranks. But here’s my moral dilemma. I generally teach him that he does not raise his hand to a girl. But then he gets into the “ring” in class, and he’s paired with a girl for sparring!
So the other side of me says, “well, she put herself there, she knows how to defend herself, so he shouldn’t hold back.” And, from a girl’s perspective, I would not want my male opponent to hold back – for two reasons. One, I placed myself there as his equal, regardless the ‘equipment’ I have on my natural person. Two, I am in a martial arts class, in part, to learn self-defense. If I can’t trust my male partner to give me his best shots in the ring – a guy that I trust because we train together, and I know won’t hurt me, but knows my moves and counter-moves – how can I be sure that, when the time comes to really defend myself, like on the street when I’m being mugged, that I can?
So, the moral dilemma endures. How do I teach Josh, a 7-year-old boy who doesn’t really understand nuance yet, the difference between sparring with a girl in the ring, and not hitting a girl on the playground when she lands a swing on him?