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 • Pastors • Sports

soundoff (2,288 Responses)
  1. hmmm...

    actually im wondering how many of those wins either girl has came from forfeits? a number of years ago, when i was in high school there was a girl on the wrestling team... she also had an impressive record, but never won a mat where the opponent actually faced her

    February 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Reality

      Hmmmm? Get your tickets for "FeMa" Wrestling. In this corner the "Corn Husker". In the other, the "Pink Oink". Ding Dong!!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  2. Sooz

    Give the kid a break. He's got morals and an ethic that he is willing to stand up for. We need more men and women like this. All these other dead fish floating down the river just 'going with the flow' is part of the problem in this country.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • LEB

      Morals that treat men and women differently aren't morals that should be respected. No one would be tolerating his "morals" if he refused to wrestle a black student or a student of a different religion than himself. This is no different.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Julie

      LEB, are you for real or a troll? Men and women ARE different. Are you advocating that all sports should be co-ed and that girls and boys should have exactly the same standards for making a team? If you are to be consistent, you have to take that stand - what happens, then? Every activity that takes into account the differences between male and female suddenly excludes the overwhelming majority of women. Is that what you're after? Be consistent in your logic - either all need to be co-ed or not. Which is it?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  3. toazbearhuntr

    actually his move to not wrestle a girl would be more of a re publican move...too have girls even competing with boys sounds more of a liberal idea...Just saying...Should leave politics out y0

    February 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • burns

      Didn't you just bring politics into this? I bet cos this kid forfeited for his beliefs he must hate gays. love Palin, love guns etc...

      February 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  4. ED

    I knew somebody would say that (pete). To the male wrestler's credit, he is just being a gentleman.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  5. Josh

    As he claims, he is participating in a "combat" sport. In a real combat scenario, no one is there checking to make sure that the guys are only fighting guys and the girls are only fighting girls. It's 2 enter, 1 leaves alive.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Jp

      This isn't Highlander, you rube. It's a high school sport, so drop the "combat zone" metaphor.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  6. anti-pete

    maybe you wouldnt know conviction if it put you in a headlock...

    February 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  7. Nebraska2011

    What a wimp; he was just afraid he would get beat... absolutely no other reason. The religious excuse is just BS.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • redragon

      did you even read the article?

      February 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  8. Glenn

    Well good for him for standing for what he beleives in and not complaining about the consequenses. Bravo, In the second round I hope he sticks to his guns if the same situation arises. Then I think he should not be competing again in these contests now that he knows he may have to wrestle a girl he can forgo entering them again.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  9. Jason

    Seriously? His "faith"? So he can only grapple and play grab ass with the boys. Hmm...

    February 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ryan

      Tell a wrestler he's playing grab-ass; a junior high wrestler would put you on your head.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • A Mat Mom

      Ryan tell my son he is out there to play grab a** and I will sit back and enjoy watching him set you on your a** ...I am from a town very close to all of these kids and when my son had to wrestle a girl it really was no BIG DEAL...By the way I have seen this girl wrestle and trust me she can hold her own and most boys dont want to have to face her because she really is that good and can truely hold her own Go Cassy

      February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • A Mat Mom

      sorry that was meant towards Jason not Ryan

      February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Marvin

      Their grabass technique won't do much against my nine. Pop a cap in that ass KAPOW!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  10. Spartan

    Really Pete? The only reason is a fragile male ego eh? Fabreeze your mangina and realize that many who participate in combat based sports are very respectful of their opponents and have strong convictions in their lives that lay the foundation for their entire belief system. Notice neither the athlete, nor his parents complained that the pairing was unfair and asked the female athlete to be disqualified or asked to step down. He stood by his convictions and was polite about it, he didn't whine, he simply did what he thought was right. The world would be a much better place if we had more people like this.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • LEB

      Yes, the would would be a much better place if more males decided they had the right to decide what's "proper" for females. This boy's convictions are, plainly put, WRONG. This would never be allowed if he refused to wrestle a black student or a non-Christian student. Prejudice against women is no different. If he was secure in his masculinity and had REAL convictions, he wouldn't see a female opponent as a female... just an opponent.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Trebec

      I think there is a clear distinction between male and female, as opposed to black and white. We have different bathrooms for a reason.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  11. pauljax

    I'm thinking he is not comfortable with grabbing her girl parts.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  12. Ryan

    Gotta respect his decision, if he takes the forfeit that's his business. I do think if you are going to let girls participate, they should have their own division, but logistically that's problematic.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • guest

      Are you serious?? why do I "have" to respect his decision??? The only non-gender role reason for separating men and women wrestling is the side argument that women have lower centers of gravity but men's wrestling has the same issue with taller wrestlers. Its just another veiled way to not want women wrestling men.

      I want to hear one non-gender role reason women shouldn't be allowed to compete in every single sport, non-sport, thing, place, whatever along side men.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  13. Craig

    At 35-4 that is probably unlikely; however anything can happen. Can't fault the kid he's just standing up for what he was taught. I don't really see the harm in him wrestling a girl, but to each his own...

    February 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • leslie

      Really? You would have no problem with a boy wrestling with your daughter or girlfriend?

      February 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • John S

      Oh, Leslie, should the daughter or girlfriend make the decision to participate? You imply that its up to the man to take umbrage.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • guest

      Yes you can absolutely fault someone for standing up for what they were taught. Not to long ago the situation was "I'm not wrestling that boy because I'm white and he's black". Would you say "oh it's ok because he's standing up for what he was taught????"

      There is absolutely no reason to admire someone for having principles independent of what those principles actually are. This makes me so ashamed to be from Iowa, but this is the kind of dumb people that get churned out of certain backward places.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Bob

      Guest, you're an idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Maybe his mother and father taught him right! You don't physically fight women, even for sport. I believe the solution is to create a girls wrestling branch.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Ryan

      It's hard to do, it takes funding and enough participants to warrant it, both of which aren't easy to come by.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ian

      Why is it OK to fight men but not women? Please explain in a way that doesn't imply women are somehow inferior, or insult everyone by saying the situation would somehow be s*xual.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Shoop

      I find it interesting so many people here think wrestling is a 'fight'. It's a sport. There's nothing personal about it. Each opponent agrees to compete by the rules. This is no more of a 'fight' than if they were to sit down and play a game of chess.

      February 21, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  15. Ellen Hunt

    I'm with him. I don't think girls should be wrestling, boxing boys, nor do I think women should be serving in the military in anything but support roles. I'm a feminist, but I'm not an idiot. Women and men are different. Women are not wired for battle and we shouldn't try to be.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Eytan Weber

      Clearly you've never been to Israel. Having been there multiple times, and knowing many Israelis, I can tell you that women are 100% capable of military service, which presumably qualifies them for something as trivial as high school sports. I would love to see you say that women aren't capable of things as simple as wrestling to a woman in the Israeli army. You'd be in the dirt before you could finish the sentence

      February 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Glenn

      Hrm... I think you might re-evaluate if you ever had to train women for Combat. the only thing men have over them is agressionmand frankly todays war zones need less agretion and more smarts. I'm convinced they could salve problems like Afghnaistan/Pakistan/Saudi et al .. by arming and training a single generation of women.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • SB

      Homeschooled by a minister... the poor kid is probably terrified of getting that close to a girl he isn't married to. This is why you don't keep your kids in a box or feed them only what you yourself know about the world.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • SB

      aw heck, I didn't mean to post that in reply to you.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Ri

      You're obviously far from a feminist

      February 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • John S

      You are NOT a feminist...unless its convenient or meets your criteria for appropriate gender roles. Read some more feminist literature and try again.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Bob.

      > Hrm... I think you might re-evaluate if you ever had to train women for Combat. the only thing men have over them is agressionmand frankly todays war zones need less agretion and more smarts.

      I don't think you've trained women for combat. First of all, men are stronger, are marginally more intelligent (6 IQ points on average) and overall are able to tolerate extremes better (hot, cold, lack of sleep, etc).

      Women have better colour perception (actually quite valuable), a better sense of balance and better hand eye co-ordination.

      There are differences in the se-x-es. Doesn't mean they should be treated any differently, but to pretend that "women are just as good as guys" in certain things is patently untrue. Sometimes they're worse, sometimes they're better.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • LEB

      @Bob - There is no difference in overall male and female intelligence on average, so wherever you got that information is wrong. There are more men at each extreme of the spectrum (genius and severely retarded), but overall any difference is insignificant. Besides, the SAME person can vary about 5 IQ points either way on intelligence tests, as success on those tests is influenced by environmental factors, if the person has taken stimulants, etc. Thus, a 5 or 6 point difference is negligible, even if what you said was true.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • LEB

      Women aren't wired for battle? Ever seen what a female lioness does when her cub is threatened? Ever heard of female humans lifting a car off their trapped child? Women are ABSOLUTELY capable of combat. We're just far less likely to start wars in the first place.

      I'm also a feminist, and I think women should be eligible for the draft. I think women should be allowed in war zones. I think there should be all-female companies, particularly in the Navy. Although women overall aren't physically capable of tasks of strength as men overall are, physical strength is only one asset. Intelligence, quick thinking, marksmanship, problem-solving, and speed are also assets, and women aren't lacking in any of those areas. Female soldiers can more easily reach out to female civilians, which is important in countries where the genders are segregated. And there are times when being smaller with little hands is an asset, too.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Julie

      Eytan, clearly you haven't read much on the failure of women serving in combat, including Israel. Please do a little homework before spouting your ignorance.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  16. tom

    yes, he;s just using the religious aspect as a smokescreen. he should have to forfeit!

    February 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • anti-tom

      He did forfeit you tool

      February 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Aeromechanic.

      Apparently you don't see the problem here. If he beats her, he "only" beat a girl. If she wins, he got beat by a girl. Shame on her, shame on her parents and shame on the school for allowing this.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  17. surprise!

    bet he's afraid he'll get excited. wrestling singlets are pretty tight

    February 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  18. big tuna

    down on all fours takes on a whole new meaning

    February 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  19. Scott

    Good for you Joel Northrup. At least someone in the U.S. has got character to show what he stands up for.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • LPeters

      Amen, Scott!

      February 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • leslie

      Hear, hear!

      February 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • superhit

      Thanks buddy, I applaud your moral. God bless you

      February 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      How come you aren't also applauding the girl for the character to stand up for doing what she wants to do and not be scared away by those that would decry her for being there?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Robert

      Good for you man! Ignore the people angry that you're getting spotlight for following something you believe in, you have a couple more years to prove that you're the best, without having to do something you don't believe in.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  20. pete

    maybe he just doesn't want to get beat.....

    February 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • exactly

      that's what i thought

      February 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Repete

      Shut up, ass.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Trent

      Can I take his place?

      February 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • mobrule

      what? this h0m0 should want to grope a girl, wait...

      February 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • dave

      It seems they both have a lot in common. She has one and he IS one.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • ThereisnoGod


      If he was a liberal he would be all over that girl believe me. He is the son of a preacher so he is most likely a conservative still in the closet gay if anything.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Frank M

      Right, next time to see a man decline to fist-fight a woman who is insulting him, just assume he doesn't want to get beat. Brilliant.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Yet another example of prejudice and ignorance disguised as religious dogma.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Kyle

      Compare their records. Do you really think he was afraid of losing?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:55 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.