Joel Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore from the state of Iowa, did something on Thursday many of us fail to do in our entire lives.
When Northrup bowed out of a match against his opponent, he did so with class, respect, and in the least damaging matter for all concerned.
His opponent-to-be was 14-year-old Cassy Herkelman, who became the first girl ever to win a state wrestling match after Northrup forfeited.
All over the Internet, the debate rages over whether Northrup was right, wrong, sexist, socially inept, or just flat stupid.
While some have argued that Northrup showed only disrespect and a certain selfishness in his decision to back out, Herkelman's father, Bill, seems to disagree.
In a reported text message to the Associated Press, Herkelman wrote:
"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."
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The focal point here should not be the morality, or lack thereof, in this decision.
It should not be the disrespect the Northrups supposedly showed to Herkelman, or the stupidity of Northrup—who had a real shot at advancing far in the tournament—forfeiting.
It should not even be the battle of the sexes that rages on, heedless of progress or education, splitting people into camps and dividing friends.
No, the focus should be on the class that these two young people exhibited.
Here is Northrup's statement to reporters after withdrawing from the bout:
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and [Megan Black, the second girl 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 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."
This young man removed himself from a situation that would violate his conscience, and he did so in a manner that showed no disrespect to his opponent.
As a matter of fact, he stated he has great respect for both girls that wrestled this year in the state.
Herkelman showed she has a touch of class herself when asked about her opponent.
"He had the right to make his own choice, and he made his choice," said Herkelman to the Detroit Free Press. "It's not like he did what he didn't want to do."
Instead of maligning a young boy for standing for what he believed to be right, or yelling about how a girl should not be allowed to wrestle, let's focus on the respect these young competitors showed one another.
After all, one doesn't see moral fiber of this sort in the sporting universe every day.
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