Should a Boy Wrestle a Girl?

This question was raised last year due to the Iowa High School State Wrestling trournament.  For the first time in history, girls competed in the Iowa state wrestling tournament.  Joel Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore who wrestles for Linn-Mar High School, made a decision, based on his faith, not to wrestle Cassy Herkelman, a female.  Who knew this would ever cause such a chaotic buzz? People make decisions every day.  Why was this one so newsworthy?

Joel chose to base his decision on an unchanging standard of truth: God’s Word.  Like three Hebrew young men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) before a powerful king (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon) chose not to bow and worship an idol (anything or person other than the living God), Joel chose not to bow to the idol of public approval or personal desire for gaining a great name (Gen.11).   I thank God for a young man with such spiritual strengh.

In short, “no”, boys should not wrestle girls.  Now, let’s wrestle with the reasons why the answer is “no” biblically:

The Right Source of Truth

Many in the news argued back and forth based on emotion, experience, societal acceptability, political correctness, and personal desire.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an unchanging standard that comes from an authority that knows man and his greatest needs, despite what man’s latest and greatest minds and emotions can concoct?  God, as the Creator of all living things/people, has graciously provided that standard by writing for us His love story to us – the Bible.

A correct view of “equality” that impacts daily decisions and policy

“Equality” does not automatically mean equality of role and function, but rather in value.

“Equality” does not automatically mean equality of role and function, but rather in value.  Genesis 1-2 outlines the Creation account.  God clearly established between that one man, Adam, and that one woman, Eve, the sameness of coming from one Creator.  However, God also established the uniqueness of the man and the woman in their roles and functions in the marriage and in society.  Ephesians 5 outlines some of the uniqueness of a husband’s role and a wife’s role. Neither spouse is less valuable, but they have different roles designed by God.  True and lasting fulfilment comes in fulfilling the role God designed for each spouse.  Likewise, teen males and females will find their greatest fulfilment in living out God’s designed role for them (part of which is outlined in these three reasons to the subject at hand).


Moral guidelines established by God’s Word (as one’s  source of truth) provide direction and protection in times of question, temptation, and decision-making.  Two issues arise here:

  1. Men have been given the moral responsibility to protect, not harm, women.
  2. Men have the responsibility to view woman respectfully as woman, not as objects.

Putting a male and female on the wrestling mat together, especially into or beyond puberty, goes against God’s design for them both. Unfortunately our world seems more and more comfortable and desirous of gender and moral  confusion instead of clarity.

A few solutions to the situation of a boy not wrestling a girl

  1. Learn to say “no” as parents, coaches, schools, and organizations.  In this situation, help the girls to find other sports that enable them to excel while maintaining the points made above.
  2. Boys/men – Out of respect for the ladies and in seeking to protect and value them, refuse to wrestle them.
  3. Re-direct that energy to a different sport or activity.
  4. I’m not saying I agree, but at least go the route of an all-girls wrestling club.

(For more on this topic, see Al Mohler’s post, Should Boys Be Forced to Wrestle Girls?)

Andy Woodall
Andy Woodall served as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Faith from 1999-2012.