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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. happy mom

    I'm trying very hard to teach my young son that violence against a woman is NEVER appropriate. Even if she's "asking for it" so to speak by participating in a violent sport.

    Even with all the "girl power" messages out there today, being physically rough with a woman is NEVER okay.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • from iowa

      Mom, seriously? She made an informed decision about going out for wrestling. She knew what she was getting into, just as all of those boys did.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • bobby

      The violence in this case is part of the sport. It is not the same as domestic violence or abuse.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • mycatsbreathsmellslikecatfood

      yes woman are fragile little snowflakes that should never be let out of the house.

      way to set women back 30 years

      February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • DJCowboy

      Or how about teach violence towards anyone is wrong instead of just women. But this girl went into wrestling knowing that it is a physical sport and will probably have to face several males. I wouldn't have forfeit

      February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Bob S

      I agree and also it goes along with the lowering of standards so the best is dininished and the worst is raised up.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Tina

      I agree with happy mom 100%. In their obsession with political correctness, society lost all sense of common decency. I miss the days when a girl was still a girl and a boy was still a boy. Now the schools (aka government brainwashing centers for political correctness) are trying to masculinize the girls and feminize the boys. This is not progress – this is insanity.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Linderella49

      Talk about sending our kids mixed messages! What a terrible position to put this young man into! We're not talking Little League baseball here or soccer. If this young man touched a girl outside the a match in the places he would be touching her during the match, he could be charged with assault! Give the kids a break. Adults need to keep their political, religious, and other agendas outside of kids sports. There will be time enough for boys and girls to compete in the same arena when they're adults.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • nother happy mom

      Good For Northrup, he sounds thoughtful and clear in his opinion, he articulated it well. I was a structural firefighter, in a largely male dominated. I worked just as hard as the guys, side by side, and they treated me with respect (because I earned it, I was never thin skinned about being the old gal around) and they protected me like a sister. When the uniform is hung up, I am a mom and a lady and I appreicate a gentleman who is kind and wise with his strength and character. I'd be proud if my son turns out like this man (yes more man than many older than him) and can appreciate women for their talents and not need to engage further. Good for him!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'I'm trying very hard to teach my young son that violence against a woman is NEVER appropriate.'
      How about you just concentrate on teaching him that violence against anyone is never ok, rather than just violence against women.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'I agree with happy mom 100%. In their obsession with political correctness, society lost all sense of common decency. I miss the days when a girl was still a girl and a boy was still a boy. Now the schools (aka government brainwashing centers for political correctness) are trying to masculinize the girls and feminize the boys. This is not progress – this is insanity.'
      So do you go out to work or do you sit at home like a good little housewife, with dinner ready for your man when he gets home?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • happy mom

      Thank you to those who replied to my earlier post. You have given me some ideas and concepts to think about.

      While I don't think that deliberately and intentionally hurting anyone is okay, maybe I need to carefully examine my long-held idea that male vs. female violence is somehow more wrong than male v. male or female v. female.

      My thinking is not that women are "fragile little snowflakes" as one writer put it. I do not believe that women are weaker or incapable. I just think boys need to be taught to respect women of all ages – girls to grandmothers because they deserve to be honored and cherished.

      I want to teach my son to value women. We tend to treasure things that we value, and treat them with gentleness and respect. I was just applying this same thinking to people.

      As stated earlier, thank you for giving me some ideas to think about.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  2. Joe Seattle

    I sympathize with anyone with the misfortune of being born a girl in this stupid world, but Ms. Herlkelman needs to accept her gender an get on with life, instead of blaming it on men.

    Did she sign a waiver authorizing groping?

    How could she possible be strong enough to outwresstle a man? The happy-happy-joy-joy crowd can stick their heads in the sand or wherever, but the fact is for a female to compete in a sport which depends significantly on strength is a bunch of la-la. Women can be as strong as wimpy men, but the simple fact is a few callisthenics a day and there'd simply be no contest unless she's doing male hormones.

    We've become so mentally impotent that there's little hope for us – but there are places in the world where common sense still reigns and I expect they'll be happy to step over our graves.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Jim

      If she made it to state in class 3-A in IOWA then she can hold her own against the boys.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I do not see her blaming anyone for anything in this article. I'm not sure its them that need to get their head out of the sand.

      And if you think brute strength is all that is required to win a wrestling bout then you need to do some more research.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Betty Anne

      @Joe – She's obviously out-wrestled 20 opponents, and if women are truly rare in this sport, most or all of them were men. Why would you even ASK a question like that after reading the article, which quoted her win-loss record?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • JohnnyOh2323

      You're an idiot guy. Usually I just roll my eyes at people who don't read the article, but I'm responding to let you know that this article was so damn short that you have no excuse...uless you're 9 years old. Nobody blamed anything on anybody.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  3. JohnnyOh2323

    If he's worried about touching her can't he just stick to the folding chair attack method?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  4. jimmynog

    He must be gay, I'd wrestle a girl anytime. Of course, if you lose, that would totally suck...

    February 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  5. MuddyBuddy

    Why is a home schooled student wrestling for a High School, isn't that unfair on several levels?
    Do his parents pay for it, and what about the real students that did not make the team.
    Maybe he was just afraid he would lose to a girl that seems more likely to me.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • sajhkadsgflk

      Home schooled students have the same rights as brick and mortar students to compete in sports, band, choir, etc etc at the schools. Everything is the same except where they do their actual learning. In Ohio, where I live, we pay property taxes to fund the schools. I still pay those taxes even though my kid was home schooled.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Homeschool mom and tax payer

      Why shouldn't a homeschooler be allowed to wrestle? Parents of homeschoolers still pay property taxes like everyone else, which support the school systems. The only difference is that we teach our children using our own personal time, money and other resources (thereby saving the school a lot of money, and helping to decrease the class size). If a student tries out and makes the team by his or her own merit, so be it. They deserve the spot.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • DivaHick

      Yeah it's called taxes. And if there's a school activities fee, then they'd have to pay that as well. Don't knock the homeschoolers, they pay the same as you for public school, but still keep your class sizes low and you can roll their higher test scores in with your low performing schools. Oh yeah, and now the high school gets the publicity for a student they don't teach.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  6. diet pepsi

    Good for him and it has nothing to do with winning and losing. It has to do with being put in a compromising position with the young lady.

    I am female. I know where he is coming from.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • from iowa

      Give me a break...I've watched wrestling at the High School and Collegiate level for years. Guy on guy wrestling puts them in PLENTY of compromising positions. If they can handle that, I think they can handle it with a woman. The kid is a coward and didn't want to get beat.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  7. Jorge

    I'm not a bible-thumper or anything like that, but BRAVO FOR HIM for exhibiting unflappable common sense in the face of adult stupidity, I mean, COME ON, I was an athlete in high school and college and contact sports between males can get pretty rough and brutal, even within the rules. I know that if I had wrestled a girl my weight class in high school (she would have had to be a heifer) and poured on the juice, I would have dislocated one of her rotator cuffs or something worse, and everybody involved would have lived to regret it, especially me. If you think that an athlete among gentlemen can live something like that down, think again. The organizers of such a mismatched event truly have no class.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      She qualified for the tournament, its about as mismatched as every other bout there I would say.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • brian

      EXACTLY!!!!! Thank you for saying that!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  8. hangslow

    @leanne

    Why don't you throw on a little spandex leotard and come over to my place and we can wrestle.

    If you can't take the heat, get back in the kitchen.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  9. BuzzerKiller

    Females have been fighting for equal rights for years. As such, if they want to be our equals, they will have to prove themselves in contests where men generally dominate that they can compete on our level. I've seen female hockey players for example that could compete with men with skill and determination. I've seen female martial artists hold their own against full grown men on the same mat. I'm pretty sure this has to do with reputation, more than any kind of "belief" . If he wins, he wins, and if he loses, he gets ridiculed and loses his "manlihood" just because he lost to a female.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • BuzzerKiller

      manliness * I was about to put manhood, and mixed the two words together. That's what happens when you can't decide what word to use until you put them together to form a word that makes no sense. Go me!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  10. Dusty2701

    This young man has integrity! Doesn't let opinions of others influence his decision. I support and admire his decision. The young woman and her family, however, should be ashamed of themselves for participating in this type of combat sport with males. The unintentional groping that takes place in wrestling should be enough for parents to keep their daughters away from this type of sport. If there's that much interest in girls wrestling then start an all female team. Even roller derby doesn't mix the genders.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'This young man has integrity! Doesn't let opinions of others influence his decision. I support and admire his decision. The young woman and her family, however, should be ashamed of themselves for participating in this type of combat sport with males.'
      Dont talk about integrity for the boy and then spout that nonsense about how they should be ashamed of what the girl and her family are doing.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  11. Eric

    Here's the hypocrisy in Iowa: Since girls teams are not fielded for sports like football and wrestling, the girls are allowed to compete on boys' teams. Even though boys teams are not fielded for sports like volleyball, boys are not allowed to compete on girls' teams.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • brian

      Thats what Im saying!!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  12. Adam

    This is the thing that gets me. Women want equality, correct? They want to do what men can do so they choose wrestling or football. You take a guy and try to put him on the female volleyball team or any other female sport and it's wrong. How is that equality? I'm from Iowa and I know wrestling. No kid would give up his chances to be a state champion just because he may lose to a girl. If you don't believe me why don't you come on over to Des Moines during tourney time and check it out.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  13. JMFM

    Dude is 35-4 wrestler out of IOWA.
    He is not scared.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  14. Mike

    .

    I can see his point.....This has nothing to do with getting beat.

    Some of the holds would mean putting hands and arms between her legs and across her chest. That's just not a good position to put a youngster in.

    .

    February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  15. from iowa

    I haven't read all of these comments, but to let all of you uninformed people know, there was another girl that wrestled in this tournament and lost by pin in 52 seconds. No one is saying the win by the guy that wrestled her is any less significant than any other. The truth is that there are hundreds of kids that wrestle in this state and only a small portion go to the state tournament. If these girls made it to the state tournament, it is because they earned it and deserve it.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  16. justin

    I respect the way it was handled. He was raised to not hit woman or become physically engaged with them until marriage. He did not say that girls in wrestling was wrong, it was just wrong for him personally to wrestle a female. Good for him for standing up for his own convictions while showing respect to the opposition.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • mr. manners

      His religion strictly prohibits striking women until after marriage – gotta respect that. Personally, I think he has trepidations about public wood.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'He was raised to not hit woman or become physically engaged with them until marriage'
      And then he can hit them.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Kathy

      I agree with you Justin. He was very respectful about the situation. Kudos to this kid for standing his ground on his beliefs.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Tchr89

      Mr. Manners and Cedar Rapids...don't be so literal. May I say...don't be so ridiculously literal. I didn't even THINK Justin was saying it's okay to hit a woman after marriage. And I am a woman!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  17. Reads

    I think he is more worried about getting a woodie...
    Yeah make teenage boys wrestle teen age girls, what a dumb idea.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jason

      You probably aren't too far off. It is because of the fear of losing to a woman or being overwhelmed at the thought of touching a girl so closely like that.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  18. Jason B.

    "...I don't think it's any kind of boycott about her being a girl." Um...yeah it is. He wouldn't have forfeit if he was going against another guy.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Mike

      What he was saying is he's not boycotting girls wrestling in the Iowa High School League ... he's boycotting himself personally wrestling against a girl

      February 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  19. Bellabeans

    Girls should wrestle with girls, boys with boys. Period!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  20. Papa

    I have a son and a daughter in high school. Both of them are on the wrestling team. If you look at high school sports – soccer, volleyball, and basketball are divided into seperate boys and girls teams. However, Football and wrestling are not, they are classified simply as 'Football' and 'Wrestling' teams. Having a high school boy playing on the girls volleyball team is not quite the same as having a girl on the football or wrestling team. I respect any male wrestlers decision to not engage in a match with a girl, but we shouldn't deny these girls the chance to compete in a sport they enjoy becasue there are not all female teams. At a college and olympic level there are all female wrestling teams, but these girls need to have the chance to increase their skills just as the boys get. And as far as comparing the the records between the 2, if she earned the right to go to state, in Iowa of all places, she earned and deserves to be there.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • brian

      to papa.. you said..."Having a high school boy playing on the girls volleyball team is not quite the same as having a girl on the football or wrestling team" ....how's that?? if a girl can wrestle then a 6'5" guy with a cannon should whale on girls on the Vball court and no one should say a thing.....come on get real. So if I love sitting down to pee I should be allowed in the girls bathroom too!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Papa

      @Brian – The point I was trying to make is that in high school football and wrestling, there are not girls teams available to them. If the school has seperate teams for them, then I am in total agreement that they should be seperated. But, unless there is a girls team available, they should be allowed to participate. If there is a boys volleyball team, and a girls volleyball team then is would be ridiculous for either to try and play on the others team. I'm not trying at all to jump on the equal rights bandwagon, I just think that every high school student, male or female, should be allowed to enjoy the full highschool experience of sports.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:43 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.