I have tremendous respect for Joel Northup, a sophomore homeschooled student who wrestles for Linn-Mar High School in Marion, IA. Joel went 35-4 this year, and qualified for the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament in the 112 lbs. weight class. Two girls also qualified for the tournament, the first time in state history, and Joel was supposed to wrestle Cassy Herkelman, a freshman at Cedar Falls High School who qualified after going 20-13 this year.
This morning in the first round Northup refused and chose to default instead. He cited religious reasons and the fact that he was raised that this is not “how you treat a girl.” He released a statement through his school later this afternoon:
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan (another girl from Ottumwa, IA who qualified) 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.
Some have said this decision was made because he was afraid he’d lose to a girl. The kid was a favorite to win the tournament, so no that isn’t it. He stood by his principles even when it cost him, and that is something we all should admire whether or not you agree with his decision.
I happen to agree. Having wrestled myself, I understand the sport well enough along with different moves, etc. to know that there are positions you can be placed in that would be inappropriate. There are many sports where girls and boys can compete, but because of the physical contact involved I don’t believe wrestling should be one of them. Joel wanted to avoid the very appearance of impropriety.
More importantly I think it is a sad commentary about our culture when people don’t understand why he made this decision. I do. My son wrestled for a couple of years until he decided he wasn’t interested. We were confronted with the possibility that he may eventually have to wrestle a girl (something I never even had to think about when I wrestled). My wife and I (and my son) believe that was inappropriate, and it went against everything we had taught him about how he should treat women.
We’ve raised him to treat his mom and sisters with gentleness and respect. We’ve taught him to never, ever use physical force against a girl (unless there is a legitimate need for real self-defense with an older woman). He does things like *gasp* opens doors for his mother and sisters. We want to raise a modern-day knight. I assume it is the same with the Northups, as it is with many Christians within (and without) the homeschool community.
So Joel was to abandon that in order to win a wrestling match?
Joel you made us proud. In the spirit of Eric Liddell you stood for what you believe. Hold your head high. Thank God chivalry isn’t dead, at least on the wrestling mat at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA today.