It is not unheard of for girls to wrestle competitively at the high school level. In fact, nationwide more than 17,000 of them do, according to ESPN. But this season Saucon Valley High School’s wrestling team’s use of a female team member in matches against area Catholic schools has caused a stir, both on and off the mat.
Why the kerfuffle?
The Allentown Diocese of the Catholic church regulates how and when the members of its single-sex high school sports teams can compete against opposing teams composed of members of more than one gender.
In the case of high school wrestling, the diocese forbids teams such as Notre Dame-Green Pond’s squad from allowing members to wrestle opponents of the opposite sex.
That’s where Saucon’s Aaliyana Mateo (106), a junior on the Panther squad, comes in.
Some local fans have called foul on Saucon Valley for utilizing this legal strategy and were allegedly heard to use some colorful language to describe not only Mateo, but also “Saucon girls” in general at the match a Notre Dame wrestler forfeited Saturday.
Meanwhile, Saucon Valley and other public schools, as well as their fans, tend to see things a bit differently.
The long-held belief by some that local Catholic schools use recruiting to strengthen their rosters and maintain an unfair advantage over public school opponents has given teams like Saucon and Wilson–normally rivals–a surprising solidarity in seeing the forfeitures.
Evidence of the sense that schools like Notre Dame are “receiving a dose of their own medicine” can be found in tweets like this one by SV Wrestling Talk (@wrest2020_sv):
Coach Shirk followed the high school wrestling rules 100% and yet most local sportswriters are questioning his strategy ?— SV Wrestling Talk (@wrest2020_sv) February 2, 2020
Yet none of the local sportswriters will even write one article about the elephant in the room - RECRUITING.
It should be noted that the Twitter user referenced above is not affiliated in any way with Saucon Valley School District or the Saucon Valley wrestling program.
We’d like to know what you think about the assignment of gender roles in high school wrestling, and how they intersect with religion and sportsmanship–at Saucon Valley, at local Catholic schools and in general.
For example, do you think Saucon Valley should refrain from allowing wrestlers like Aaliyana Mateo to compete against Catholic opponents, in order to be “sportsmanlike?” Or should Mateo’s right to wrestle as a female trump the feelings and religious beliefs that prevent her Catholic male counterparts from competing against her?
Should the Allentown diocese change its rules in order to allow male wrestlers from schools like Notre Dame-Green Pond to wrestle female opponents from other teams?
Should the PIAA get involved in policing how and by whom these matches are wrestled?
There’s no single correct answer to any of the questions above, and at the end of the day it’s important to remember that high school athletics exist for the betterment and enjoyment of young people; not to boost the egos of their parents and fans, and certainly not to create enmity between “them” and us.
There will always be disagreements about how certain aspects of high school sports should be regulated, as society itself continues to evolve. Now and in the future, the best representatives for these sports will always be the individuals who compete honestly and for a love of the game, no matter which team they are on.