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I was not going to blog on the male wrestler who defaulted rather than wrestle a female.  Too risky.  But I felt it was right thing to do.  To paraphrase my favorite sports hero, Eric Liddell, in Chariots of Fire, if I blog, I blog for God.  (Any reader who wants to know more or feels led to know more about Jesus Christ and what He did for all of us, click here!)  Hence, I need to blog in support of this decision.

The background is better told by Fox Sports here.  Joel Northrup elected not to proceed with his match in the tournament against Cassy Herkelman due to respectful but conscientious objection:

“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,” said Northrup. “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.”

I might get in trouble but it does not seem right for a guy to wrestle against a woman.  I respect the efforts of women to achieve equality in sports.  They should get a fair chance based on merit.  But wrestling involves physical contact and touching.  You got to be relentless in seeking an advantage (within the rules) and that means you can’t be worrying about what body parts of your opponent you might have to touch or handle.  (I know something about wrestling as I was the JV 98 pound wrestler at Wurzburg American High School in my sophomore year.  I was not very good, winning no matches and being pinned all but one match.  I obviously wasn’t relentless enough!)  I am aware that in a competition, you are focused on the match ahead.  This is not right to place a man or woman in a situation where he is in any way apprehensive about doing his or her best.

I do absolutely think women should wrestle.  But only against other women.  If it takes a few years for enough girls to try out, so be it.  Maybe exclusive women’s wrestling will bring out more competitors. The article cites 6,000 girls wrestling around the country and five states have girls only tournaments:  California, Hawaii, Texas, Washington and Tennessee.

I would add:  I admire Northrup’s stand for principle.  It recalls the stand for principle portrayed elegantly in the Oscar-winning movie, Chariots of Fire, where Liddell refused to run on Sunday.  I also admire how her father handled it – with respect for the other:

“It’s nice to get the first win and have her be on the way to the medal round,” Bill Herkelman wrote. “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.”

I am not the first one to compare Northrup to Liddell.  All God’s blessings in life to Joel Northrup and his family.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. Mike Wilburt says:

    My wife and I found it interesting that this story is receiving the attention that it has received.

    A young man standing on principle has become so foreign to so many that when a principled stand is actually exhibited, it is front page news.

    I’m certain Joel will be mocked and derided by those who want to believe his stand is some demonstration of religious zealotry. But those who mock him lack the character and values that guide Joel’s life.

    Bravo Joel! You are a champion.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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