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The Predicament of Girls Wrestling

(flickr-Chris Hunkeler)

Grand Valley High School senior Cody Pfau made history last week when she became the first female wrestler to win a first-round  match at the Colorado State High School Wrestling Tournament. Her tournament run came to an end the next day, however, when she lost in the quarterfinals. Cody’s state tournament victory was historic in Colorado, but  she is far from alone  in the sport,as girls wrestling is actually a growing trend nation-wide.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, girls wrestling is the fastest growing sport for high school girls in terms of percentage increase. In 2010 there was an estimated 6,000 girls competing in high school wrestling. In 2011 the number went up to 7,351. No doubt it’s popularity as boosted when women’s wrestling became a sanctioned Olympic sport in 2004. It’s future, though, is very much in doubt with the International Olympic Committee’s recent decision to drop wrestling from the Olympics beginning in 2020. The decision has been met with much criticism and could possibly reversed in May, and a final decision is expected in September.

The problem with the growing popularity of the sport is that only five states hold high school sanctioned championships for girls; Washington, Hawaii, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Currently there are about 20 colleges that offer women’s wrestling. It’s likely the sport will continue to grow in popularity, and one day may be as accepted and popular as girls soccer and lacrosse. But, until then, many girls like Cody Pfau who want to pursue the sport will be forced to wrestle against boys, which for some people brings up a myriad of questions, like ‘Is it morally and ethically appropriate for boys to wrestle girls?’ ‘If girls are allowed to  wrestle on a boys team, should a boy be allowed to play on a girls volleyball team?’

There have been a number of boys in recent years who have refused to wrestle a female opponent for moral and religious reason.  One of those was  Joel Northrup, a highly ranked wrestler who two years ago defaulted his first round  Iowa state tournament match by refusing to wrestle a female opponent. In a statement, Northrup wrote “As a matter of conscience and my faith I do  not believe it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner.”

It seems that girls should be allowed to wrestle if that is their desire. Less clear is whether girls should be wrestling with boys. It would appear that most, if not all high school athletic associations across the country are allowing girls to wrestle with boys. The question is, should they?

 

 

 

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