A high school wrestling team has enflamed the passions of some Facebook users … and it's not for their performance on the mat, but for posing for a promotional poster some consider to be inappropriate.
Some parents have raised concerns about the poster, featuring wrestlers from Norwalk High School just outside Des Moines posing shirtless in firefighter gear.
As the Des Moines Register reported this weekend, parent Danielle Lynn posted an image of the wrestling team poster on Facebook last week, saying it both sexualizes teenagers and is an example of the double standard that exists between male and female students.
"Could you imagine the outrage had a girls' team dressed in bikinis and taken a team photo?" she wrote. "This makes me so uncomfortable as a parent. The sexualizing of children and teenagers needs to stop."
The post generated more than two dozen replies mostly supporting Lynn's comments before it was removed from social media.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register last week, Lynn said, "Some of these boys, I know, are only 13 years old," she said. "And the only girl in the picture, who is a manager for the team, is wearing a T-shirt and jeans, while all of the boys around her are shirtless."
As Norwalk High School Athletic Director Al Lammers made clear to the Des Moines Register, this year's wrestling team poster is not produced by the school, its athletic department, nor official booster organizations.
"Those posters are produced independently by each program," Lammers told the Register. "The revenue goes to offset the cost of producing the posters. They probably don't break even. The posters are more of a promotion."
In fact, the Norwalk wrestlers approached a freelance photographer with the idea for the poster.
"They put it together and they decided who was wearing what," said Dale Tunender. "The boys requested to not wear their shirts. These guys are wrestlers. They are proud of what they've done and what they look like."
This year's Norwalk wrestling team poster would not be the first time high school or college wrestlers have appeared shirtless in print … or on the mat.
A quick search of The Web's Best of Amateur Wrestling -- a website featuring tens of thousands of links, photos, and videos relating to the oldest and greatest sport -- confirms this notion. Among the team posters on display are past promotional posters featuring two bare-chested wrestlers from the University of Iowa arm wrestling ... and the Fighting Scots of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, wearing kilts without shirts. The website also features posters of shirtless wrestlers posing as firefighters.
Promotional posters aren't the only places where amateur wrestlers have appeared bare-chested. In the past, wrestlers at a number of college mat programs in the U.S. took to the mat wearing trunks and/or tights -- and no shirts -- including Cornell College of Iowa, the University of Iowa, Iowa State, and what is now the University of Northern Iowa. All-time greats such as Oklahoma's Dan Hodge and Stanley Henson of Oklahoma State usually competed sans shirts … as did thousands of college and high school wrestlers until the mid-1960s.
If promotional posters of the past -- as well as images of legendary wrestlers of decades past -- aren't enough, consider what Norwalk High AD Lammers had to say. He hasn't received any complaints about this year's wrestling poster.