Blogs > Extra Points

Thoughts, news and notes from the sports staff of The Saratogian newspaper, located in historic Saratoga Springs, New York. The gang in the corner office on Lake Avenue give you the post-game wrap-ups, news and notes from the games we cover and opinions about the sports we read about every day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A local wrestler's take on Herkelman-Northup

Making its rounds through the national sports media in the past week has been the story of Cassy Herkelman, a female high school wrestler in Iowa who had her opponent — Joel Northup — default rather than face her in the state’s prestigious high school tournament.

Northup cited his religious beliefs as the reason why he elected to not take on Herkelman, believing it unsuitable to engage a female competitor one-on-one in a physical sport; for her part, Herkelman took the high road and said she did not agree with, but did support, Northup in his decision.

This story actually played out locally several years ago. Sarah Anderson, who wrestled at Schuylerville and now competes for a women’s team at King College, said she had an opponent refuse to face her in sectionals when she was an eighth grader. The default win ended up allowing Anderson to move onto the third-place bout, but left her "discouraged" and "flustered" that an opponent would refuse to face her at her sport.

"When you step on the mats, you're a wrestler," Anderson said. "It's a sport and everyone can play it, so it shouldn't be like 'I'm wrestling a girl and it's against my religion.' It should be 'I am a wrestler and I'm going to go out there and wrestle.'"

Anderson said when she first heard the story it brought back memories of her experience, a moment she said she had rehashed several times in the past few days with her teammates at King College. Anderson, a two-time sectional champion in high school, said having someone forfeit a match to her because of her gender made her feel inferior.

"I wanted to be considered a wrestler; I didn’t want to be considered as just some girl," she said, adding she worried that people looked down upon her third-place finish that year as some form of charity and that she had not earned the spot.

Anderson also took issue with Northup’s characterization of wrestling as a violent sport, saying that while injuries do occur — Anderson herself is recovering from a shoulder injury — that wrestling is not a "kill sport" and that the "fighting" in wrestling is technique-based and not just two people brawling.

"On one hand, you do have to be a little violent to win a match and get pumped up for it," she explained. "But I’ve had really great matches, win or lose, and you’re out there hugging the other person afterward because it was such a good match.

"It's like a soccer game. It's just a competition."

What's your take? Was Northup correct in holding to his stance or should he have simply wrestled Herkelman like any other (male) competitor?

Either way, there's no denying the irony of the whole situation — Northup's stance resulted in the first win in the state tournament’s history for a female competitor.

For more on the Herkelman-Northup story, check out these links …

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS BASKETBALL: Saratoga beats Niskayuna, 56-51

Few extra notes from Saratoga's 56-51 win over Niskayuna on Feb. 7 ...
  • First of all, it was too bad the game was so lightly attended, though because of the circumstances of the night — hockey showdown against rival Shenendehowa and that the basketball game was a make-up contest — a heavy crowd was likely unattainable. Really well-played and exciting game — several dunks, back-and-forth action, and a lot of intensity from both squads. Most importantly, with the win, Saratoga moved a half-game ahead of Niskyauna in the Suburban Council's North Division.
  • Couple of odd calls in the fourth quarter marred the game's finish, leaving Niskayuna coach Mike Black pretty upset. Black's team had two questionable flagrant fouls called on them in the final quarter. I couldn't get a great look at the second of the two fouls — it was in a scrum on the other side of the court from me — but the first one was pretty bad; on a Blue Streaks fast break, Niskayuna's A.J. Akpanikat first tried to make a play on the ball from behind and then ended up wrapping up Dan Keehn. Akpanikat did grab Keehn from behind, but did so in a way that Keehn never fell to the ground. Black offered a quick "No comment" after the game in response to his thoughts on the calls.
  • Had not seen the Blue Streaks personally yet this season and I came away pretty impressed with Mikey McElroy. I knew he could score a bunch of baskets, but often times I am wary of guys who are scoring a lot for a team mostly losing its games because usually it indicates someone who might be out for themselves; however, McElroy only forced one (maybe two) of his shots on Monday night and really let the game come to him through coach Mitch Snyder's offense. Very impressive.
  • Did not get to talk a lot about the game Keehn had in the actual story, but he was a great steadying influence for the Blue Streaks. Each of his 18 points seemed to come at a time when Saratoga really needed a basket. It was fitting that he hit a pair of free throws with just a couple of ticks left to seal the win. Keehn is definitely playing his best ball of the season.
  • As a whole, the Blue Streaks are playing their best basketball of the season, too. They started off 3-7 but have been able to even up their overall record and just seem to be a confident bunch. Snyder said after the game that the team's practices have been a lot better in the past couple of weeks and that he feels like his team is improving every day, something he felt was not happening in the season's early going. Saratoga has three more regular season games — @Shaker, Burnt Hills, Shenendehowa — to try and improve its sectional seeding.
--Michael Kelly

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Traveling Steelers couple extras

For Super Bowl Sunday, The Saratogian sports section had a feature about a retired couple, Ann and George Frantti, who brought a Pittsburgh Steelers “Terrible Towel” along with them for the duration of their trip around the world. The basic gist of the story was that Ann and George took pictures and videos of themselves in many of the places they visited — they touched down on five different continents and visited over 60 cities in 13 different countries — with the gold towel waving.

Here’s a link to a copy of the story on The Saratogian’s website.

Below are a few extras and tidbits that did not quite make the story, as well as a video the couple made of themselves with their towel on the trip …
  • Ann and George kept a blog documenting their trip; it can be found here and is worth a look for anyone who wants to make themselves insanely jealous for not getting to go on a similar trip. Lots of fun stories and great photos.
  • The couple’s story was also featured on a Steelers-themed blog hosted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Both said their favorite (current) player is “Number 43,” or Troy Polamalu. “You could just go down the list off all the Steelers, but Polamalu stands out,” George said. “He’s a tremendous player and person off the field.”
  • Besides Polamalu, Ann added she is especially fond of linebacker James Harrison. The defensive standout was subjected to several fines this season for illegal hits after the NFL decided midseason to more thoroughly enforce some of its rules, but Ann is glad Harrison has not altered his style of play. “I’m glad he’s not backing off,” she said.
  • While overseas, the Franttis said they never met a Steelers fan. They said most in soccer-loving Europe were dismissive of the “America Football” team, while knowledge of what a Pittsburgh Steeler is was in shortest supply in China and Japan.

Personal Note: As if getting to go on a 10-month vacation around the world was not enough, the Franttis regularly taunted me throughout the process of putting together the story about the weather. The couple now spends its winters down in Naples, Fla., and while they never actually said anything about their consistent 80-degree and sunshine-filled days, I could sense they were always (internally) laughing at us for our frigid/snowy/wet weather.

So, if you are reading this: I am on to you, George and Ann.

--Michael Kelly

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