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February 17th, 2011
02:02 PM ET

High school athlete refuses to wrestle female opponent

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN

A high school wrestler in wrestling-crazy Iowa forfeited a tournament match Thursday after refusing to grapple with a female opponent.

"As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner," Joel Northrup said in a written statement, according to the Des Moines Register.

Northrup is home-schooled but wrestles as a 112-pound sophomore for Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa. He was a state title contender with a 35-4 record, CNN affiliate KCRG-TV reported.

His erstwhile opponent, Cassy Herkelman of Cedar Falls, advanced by default at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena.

Herkelman (20-13), a freshman, and Ottumwa, Iowa sophomore Megan Black (25-13) are the first two girls ever to qualify for the state individual tournament, which goes back to 1926.

Black lost her opening-round match and moved to the consolation bracket. If both Northrup and Black win twice in the consolation bracket, they will be paired in the third round, forcing Northrup again to decide whether to wrestle a girl.

Northrup, the son of a minister, had indicated after the first pairings were announced Sunday that he might take the forfeit.

"My understanding is that they've got strict convictions (as a family), and I respect them," Herkelman's father, Bill, told the Register at the time. "I don't have any ill will toward them and I don't think it's any kind of boycott about her being a girl."

Northrup said as much in his statement:

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. ... It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most of the high school sports in Iowa."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Faith Now • Pastors • Sports

soundoff (2,288 Responses)
  1. dave603

    I wrestled in high school and had a match with a girl. I won easily...pinned her in 48 seconds...my friends said I had a huge erection when I raised my arms in victory...I was so embarressed!

    February 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  2. Jim

    I've had to wrestle quite a few girls in my wrestling career and i don't see why its a big deal. Sure it made me nervous, "what if i lose to a girl" blah blah blah, but let these women try to excel at a sport they love. And honestly if your a true athlete the last thing on your mind is "getting hard" or touching the wrong spots, your mind set should be on the strategy you have planned, and if they don't wanna be touched that way than don't play a sport that involves close physical contact.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  3. Katherine

    Boys and girls shouldn't be wrestling each other. The kid is a gentleman for not wanting to tackle this girl. I'm tired of things being so politically correct that we no longer have morals. Good for this male teenager! He has morals and he's sticking to them!

    February 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Piffle. He forfeited the match, as was his right, because he was uncomfortable wrestling a female. What great moral value was he exhibiting here?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  4. Shannon

    No, Joel, what's unfortunate is you letting your parents' ignorant beliefs in magical dieties ruin your chances at fulfilling your potential as an athlete.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  5. PentecostalTexan

    i commend this young man greatly! it has uplifted my soul to see that there are still young people with standards. im a 17 year old female so this aint some old mama talkin about the kid like a son and im thankful that this young man would have respect for the young women here. a lot of people on this page have criticized him but HE DID THE RIGHT THING!!! im glad some people still believe in the old hymn "stand up stand up for Jesus ye soldiers of the cross. lift high his royal banner it must not suffer loss!!"

    February 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Wow, he did all that? I thought he was just uncomfortable wrestling with a girl.

      p.s. Still no punctuation?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  6. tony

    I'm just amazed that a religious conservative participates in a sport where they aren't supposed to be carrying a loaded handgun and quoting the "loving god" stuff from the bible..

    February 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • NCraw

      FYI Tony: They don't use handguns at wrestling matches, and the so called "loving stuff" is real, Jesus spoke of it, it's also called respect. That young man has "it" and showed "it". I couldn't be more proud of him if he were my own son, he sacrificed more for his beliefs than you will ever know or understand.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  7. Mark

    Cassy goes to my school and she's a freaking beast.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • NCraw

      Mark, please let me speak for most woman, everywhere! We are proud of her; the dedication, hard work and drive is impressive and not to be belittled. I wish I was half the girl that she is! This is not against her at all, it's the fact that the administration won't go to the trouble to start girls in wrestling. It's not fair to all those involved.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  8. Mike

    Honor and doing the right thing is hard to come b these days it seems. Joel Northrup reminded us that it is not extinct. Thanks. Hope you have a great and happy future.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • PentecostalTexan

      ur right. im glad for his stand.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Its not right or wrong, its personal. It was the right decision for him and that's it.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  9. damien34

    Haha... hes's just worried that he'll have a massive erection. Tight girl in tight clothes and a lot of touching, hugging,
    a little boob touching, ass grabbing.... :) A situation that could get hard for any guy....

    February 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  10. One1Two2

    "As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner." So engaging with a boy is OK in his faith? What faith is this? I thought God disliked gays?

    February 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Katherine

      You can't be that empty headed to compare what's going on here to anything remotely related to the gay cause!

      February 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, in what way is this activity improper with a girl?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  11. Play Nice

    I cant say I wouldnt act similarly. Its not a matter of equality but of potentaly getting beat by a girl. After which one could never again face his cohorts. HaHaHa Give me a break.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  12. Terry P

    The Kid Did The Right Thing By Refusing A Girl. What Are These Officials Thinking??

    February 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Shannon

      What are they thinking? They're thinking that, by law and by any reasonable understanding of human rights and equality, these girls should be treated like any other athlete. If this kid wants to throw away his shot at a state championship just because some imaginary dude in the sky supposedly frowns upon girls & boys competing in a physical sport, so be it...his handicap is of his own choosing.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  13. jon

    Sorry, but why exactly is this headline news?

    February 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • John

      Where does it say it's "Headline News"? I believe it says "Belief Blog" on the header. And if you weren't interested, why read the article and take the time to post your inept question?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  14. granadafan

    Another example of how religious extremist fundamentalists are ruining this country. Not much different than the extremists in the Middle East.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Bob

      Absolutely not,,, i went to the mall the other day and had to jump into the bed bath and beyond to keep from being blown up by a child wearing a bomb belt. and then i, as I went by the sears store, I had to go outside the mall, and sure enough they had a gal burried up to her neck throwing rocks at her head, I think her family started the chucking, you know, she was probably abused and they had to honor themselves.. but hey it's the same here with the religious extremists, huh?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  15. Patrick

    So a guy politely declines a wrestling match with a woman based on his morals, but stresses he doesn't want to be made out to be a bad guy and still respects her as an athlete... and this is pumped onto CNN for what? Showing that the dude's actually a pretty good gentleman and just doesn't feel like being put in a situation he finds uncomfortable? LET'S THROW HIM THROUGH HE MEAT GRINDER OF PUBLIC OPINION!!! sign..

    And any men on this forum seriously promoting men being so much better than women are the same guys you find giving strange side-long glances in locker rooms at each other... we all know what's up with woman haters, nothing new. Hide it all ya want, that macho preening against women only gets you and other confused men excited together.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  16. Spike238

    Back in College, we regularly had every imaginable in house tournament, guys against the girls…
    Everything from arm wrestling, to badminton, even hockey for crying out loud!
    Sure we didn’t throw all 200 lbs at them, but it was pretty darn close!
    We kept it fair, and played by the rules…
    And yes, on many occasion they even kicked our ass!
    I say, get on with it! The Cleavers have left the building!

    February 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • NCraw

      Badmitton???? Really? LOL! Watch a wrestling match and then we'll talk.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • aj

      You said get on with it, but it would be closer to "get it on." I don't blame the kid. Religious convictions aside, if you are high school dude in spandex the last thing you wanna do is roll around on the floor with a girl in front of a crowd (and probably your parents).

      February 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  17. Sad Story, wah wah wah

    Sorry, things have changed......the girls are getting tough....oops, they have been tough for a long time being soldiers in the Isriali Arrmy with no other choice but to be tough right along side the men. The issue was not of respect, but of EGO from the young man who was probably inspired by a family of snot suckers who can barely read or write. I would like to know what religious beliefs he subscibes to that prohibit or even discourage wrestling a girl....he'll find out, hopefully, that it's alot of fun when the girl is on top. Thanks to the loser the girl is the winner, and she worked damn hard to get as far as she did among alot of stupid little wimpy boys, and you know he would have lost anyway. Mud wrestling anyone?

    February 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Bob

      She was given most of her wins by real men that didn't want to inflict pain or put a woman in that situation. same thing with all police forces. if you have 2 officers sent to call and 1 of them is female, they send another car, if 2 of them are female, they send 2 more cars. Woman cannot do what men do physically. you all can whine and say they are tough all you want to. the reality of the all of this is in the way women are treated that try to enter a mans domain. every one will not lose the PC crap. but they know the truth. you are the only that don't.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Bob

      By the way, she is 20 and 13??? How "good" can she be? whisky, tango, foxtrot???

      February 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Bob

    Again, read my first post, that is all that needs to be said. she is not now and never would be in the same league as him as an " athlete" if that's what you want to call her. She is male he is female, Females do not belong in the same arena as men. period. they can not compete on the same level. he did what was needed to preserve her and his dignity. If she had any dignity, she would have recognized this and not taken the win, for that matter she would never had been there./

    February 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  19. edward

    Excuse me for thinking he did the right thing. Women wrestling with men is idiotic. If you are going to have coed sports why not put women in football and see how that turns out. The whole idea is stupid.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Ted Williams

      My cousin was a cross-country runner, a working model, and a starter for her high school football team at the same time. More girls *would* play football and other man sports if guys like this weren't so squeamish about facing a woman who will take a hit. I can give you an entire women's rugby roster and I guarantee every one of the girls would wipe the floor with this kid like it was the WWF.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • NCraw

      For Ted: & I can beat up my 22 year old son who outweighs me by about 70 lbs, because I taught him at a very early age to respect girls! Great victory, huh?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • sarah

      So should men not be cheerleaders? Or dancers? Or gymnasts?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • collins61

      Oh Ted, everyone outside of the home knows that even though there are some women who can throw a punch as good as a man, women are just not built to take a punch that a man delivers. Period.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Shannon

      Why are all religious nuts rabid misogynists? Just shameful.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  20. Ravi

    Is the girl so ugly?

    February 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • DJ Trembles

      u guys are missing the real problem that is here. its embarassing to wrestle girls because of the things that happen to our body parts especially in such a large gym with everyone watching (speaking from experience) feel bad for the dude cuz ive been there although i did not have as classy of an excuse

      February 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Jonathan F Bornman

      I applaud the young man's moral character and his choice. Good move!

      February 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.