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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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Blogger Zachary said...

Northop's a sexist wimp.

February 21, 2011 at 2:23 AM 

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