January 07, 2016
For the first time since Pennsylvania's Catholic school wrestling teams banned female students from participating in co-ed contact sports, the resulting forfeit rule was used by a public high school to defeat an opponent at last weekend's Canner Duals in Biglerville, about seven miles north of Gettysburg.
The policy, instituted by the Diocese of Harrisburg in July 2014 and picked up throughout the state, requires that male wrestlers must automatically forfeit matches against females permitted to play on public school teams, according to GametimePa.com.
In a tournament match between the McSherrytown-based Delone Catholic Squires and the Lancaster-based J.P. McCaskey Red Tornadoes, coach Isaias Rodriguez made a controversial call that proved pivotal in a match that had been tied up at 30.
Rodriquez sent out Mariah Polite-Lemon and Yanahis Arredona, two junior varsity girls who hadn't participated at all in the tournament, in a move that left Delone Catholic's male players with no choice but to forfeit their matches.
Delone Catholic coach Frank Sneeringer said his team opted not to protest the use of the rule, but added that he felt bad for the young women who were "exploited" by their coach.
"It’s sad for them because they were a token," Sneeringer said. "My kids understood immediately and nothing was said, they just accepted it because they know our rules.”
Jonathan Mitchell, Athletic Director at J.P McCaskey, defended coach Rodriguez's decision and said he believes girls deserve an opportunity to compete, especially in light of a double-standard against female only wrestling competitions.
"Unfortunately, because we tend to be somewhat conservative in the wrestling world in Pennsylvania, people not only don’t want to see them wrestling boys, they don’t want to see them wrestling each other or wrestling at all. If anyone thinks (Rodriguez's) decision was made to exploit the girls, that certainly wasn’t the spirit behind the decision.”
The Squires ultimately fell to J.P. McCaskey by a score of 42-36, putting a dent in their prospects for the remainder of the season. Still, since no rules were violated at Canner Duals, Mitchell felt that utilizing the forfeit rule was simply a strategy geared toward qualifying for a district championship, not an unfair ploy or a statement.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Harrisburg praised the wrestling team at Delone Catholic for adhering to the rule and reiterated that the goal of Catholic education – including the athletic arena – is to form "the whole person" by attending to the mind, body and spirit.