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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 • Pastors • Sports

soundoff (2,288 Responses)
  1. Christophe

    In principal and theory I disagree with him, but in reality he is soo right!! Slam her to the mat, grab her crotch and whatever else in front of an audience?? It's bad enough with a guy, but all is done with extreme force to pin the opponent. Sounds like of years of therapy down the road to me. Good call.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Chris

      Yeah hes smart about it. Either way women(in general) do not belong in these types of sports. Men naturally have more muscle so they have a leg up. Either way there should be no "womens" and "mens" sports. If your good enough to compete and have proved it then you should be allowed to compete.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Amy

      Oh come on. The guy just didn't want to risk losing to a girl.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Chris

      @Amy most men aren't that insecure and either way who cares if he loses to a girl? Are you saying that your inferior?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Amy

      Nothing freaks out a right-wing dude more than losing a physical contest to a female. A male who is truly secure in his manhood wouldn't hesitate to compete against an athlete who had earned her right to be at that level just the same as he had earned it. The only reason to refuse to wrestle her is his terror of losing to her. Duh.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      MattMChugh: If a Girl can qualify in a sport against a Guy why shouldn't They be allowed??? There would be nothing wrong with that!!! As long as it doesn't lower the Sports standings...

      February 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Linn Mar Alum: You have a good point there!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Teena: Isn't that Her choice to make not His??? He is probably more afraid He might get hurt by Her!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Family Of 8: He is just afraid to lose with a Girl!!! He shouldn't be Wrestling if He is afraid to lose to anyone that could be better than Them...

      February 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      AG: If a Woman thinks She can beat a Guy in Boxing why Not??? Shouldn't it be the choice of a Woman what They feel they are qualify to do??? If They prove They can why deny Them the chance to do it??? That goes with any sport are and Job!!! Hopefully in My life Time I will see a Woman President??? Israel had it and She made the Country better!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      She just might grab You in the crouch too!!! (Wink)

      February 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Chris: Who are You to take Her choice from Her???

      February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Amy: You are 100 percent right on that!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Cal

      I agree with Amy

      February 18, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  2. Ann Marie Lynch

    History is full of hypocrites who use religion to demean and keep women down. This is an early example of what will be a future misogynist. Let's flip the tables here, if a girl refused to play a guy in say, badminton, would she be considered a whimp? Men used to refuse to compete against men of color, now it's the female gender that they are afraid of. Simply put, he's afraid of losing to a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Nick

      Hey, you lost to a girl bob.. ha-ha..

      February 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • WT....

      How would you like you boyfriend loosing to a chick? oh wait, maybe u have a girlfriend...if so, hit me up ?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Lizzie

      No, simply put, he has respect for her. Badminton is not a contact sport so that's a bad example

      February 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      Yes... let's get rid of all gender restrictions in sports, from the Pros and Olympics on down, and really make things interesting!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Andrew Self

      You're an idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Chuck

      Just impeccable logic, there, Ann-Marie. Don't ever stop raving, and Don't forget: Most men are out too get you.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Linn Mar Alum

      I went to Linn Mar highschool and I have 3 cousins that were 4x state winners(One from LInnmar) and one cousin who one 3x at state. They all have said they would have fought her! Religion should not be the issue when it is a high school sport. If he is against wresling women and women are allowed in the sport he should NOT be participating in the high school sport of wresling at all! For, it goes against his "religoius" beliefs.
      He was affraid to get beat by a girl!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Teena

      I think it has everything to do with respect and obeying his religion. Badminton is WAY different from wrestling. His issue is not that he could be beat or even that she could be weaker and he might hurt her. He's just not comfortable touching a girl that way even with her permission. And don't EVEN talk about a long past race factor because that too is unrelated.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Daniel

      You are quite simply the biggest idiot ever. In a world where the instances of male to female violence is abhord, why would you berate a young man for not wanting to engage in activities where the female could be hurt? Chances are that he would not be able to compete at the level that the sport requires for fear of hurting the girl, If he were to compete against her, and wins all he did was beat a girl, a no win situation for him. I applaud him and his decision. I would make an exception in your case however – I love watching stupid people get hurt.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • family of 8

      I think the comment regarding a girl playing boy in badminton is not the same as wrestling. Wrestling is a contact sport & I applaud his decision to not wrestle a girl. He is clearly standing up for his values & that is something that should be commended not ridiculed. Especially this day & age. Way to go, Joel!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • AG

      Oh Please, this have nothing to do with whatever you are saying. I am guessing you haven't discover this yet, but... men and women are different. YES, crazy! I know I know!! but it's true! What's next? female-male boxing? please... this have nothing to do with machism or feminism... female/male bodies are different, no matter how much testosterone you may ingest.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      WT: If He can't beat a Girl He shouldn't be doing it in the First Place!!! I was taught to do My best in everything I tried... What more can You expect from anyone???

      February 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Mojonaamdi

      In wrestling the hand sometimes gets into the private parts areas. If you have a daughter, how would you like for a young many to be holding her that way? This is just plain stupid.. to have girls wrestle with boys.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • asdff

      holding women back? i dont think you realize that by refusing to wrestle her she moves on in this tourney... and a person can decide through his or her own moral compass what to do and not do.. for him it was to not wrestle a girl....

      side note... i think we should combine the NBA and WNBA and see what happens.... lol that would be funny

      February 18, 2011 at 5:07 am |
    • Cal

      Daniel- what do you mean if she gets hurt, I've seen males get hurt in wrestling. This is what she chose to do, and she knows the risk. Why deprive her of her choice. I say let her wrestle. As some poeple have stated, they only reason there's no female division is because there aren't enough females, which makes sense. Those 2 females in the state have no choice but to be included in the male division. Some of you guys are trying the play the romantic romeo role in here for some reason. If that was my daughter and she felt strong enough to fight, I'll let her and support her 100%

      February 18, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • Maverick

      My, my, have some issues, don't we Ann?

      You cannot compare wrestling to batminton because one is full contact and the other isn't. Learn your sports before you speak out on something.

      AND, you are playing the gender card like so many people do. Remember the exchange between Steven Segal and Erika Eleniak in "Under Siege"...

      "I thought you believed in equal rights."

      "Only when it works in my favor."

      And THAT'S The Final Word.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • Dex

      That maybe the worst reasoning I've ever seen on one of these boards. His decision had nothing to do with fear of loss, he didn't want to hurt her or touch her in a way that was demeaning. You will righfully denounce violence against woman but if a young man takes the same stand you slam him. Ann you cannot have it both ways. Violence against women isn't okay just because a "championship" goes along with it.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • LEB

      @Dex - Wrestling is not about violence, it's about getting the other player to tap out. There are rules and protective head gear and referees intended to help keep players from being hurt. When you wrestle someone else, you're not intending to hurt them, you're intending to pin them. Players do get hurt, but these girls are aware of that and choose to compete anyway.

      Oh, and they've both BEATEN male opponents.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Daniel

      @ Cal – you really need it to be explained? Males will always relent when they know that they are about to hurt a girl, therefore his best effort would not be present. Why go against his belief knowing that he would not be giving his best effort, even the girl would not want to compete with someone who was not 'giving his all'. Kudo's to him for standing his ground and curse the diatribe by anyone who assumes that he didn't want to fight the girl because he didn't want to lose. His 35-4 record shows that he didn't mind putting himself to the test by wrestlers better than the girl, who only made the round because of another forfiture.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  3. Enoch

    How is it a matter of conscience or faith?

    Conscience would indicate that he thinks it is wrong for him to either wrestle a girl or that he thinks girls shouldn't wrestle. And what faith says wrestling women is wrong? That is just so much BS. If it is a "combat sport" as he indicates, then he should realize a woman can kill you just as dead as a man can. It is entirely disrespectful. Would he quit if it was a guy with a prosthetic? Who else falls on his list of unconscionable opponents? He is basically saying that because he doesn't value the physical worthiness of the opponent, then he won't wrestle them. That is a slap.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Julie

      Enoch, you have it completely backward. It is because he VALUES her as a female, desires to protect her, and would not think of harming a woman that he chooses not to treat her like a man. When you grow up a little, you'll learn in your health class that men and women are innately different. We cannot, as a society, teach our sons not to hit women, that "no means no", and that women are to be cherished, and then turn around and claim that they are the same as men. If these girls want to wrestle, let the school make accommodation for them to wrestle one another. I'm sure that if they had a women's program, others would join.

      What kind of men are the fathers of these girls? What a shame that they are not growing up being treated as lovely, feminine, and loved little girls. Shame, shame, shame.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • asdff

      very often those with faith derive their conscience from your faith.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  4. Jiu Jitsu Mark

    Judo (another olymipic sport) and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are both Combat Sports, and you never see male and females competeing against eachother. But that's because there is a defined male and female divison, this tournament only had 2 girls so what else are they going to do wrestle for 1st and 2nd place? I think if more girls took wrestling in HS then there would eb a better chance of a defined Female division. Our school only had one female wrestler, we also had one Female on the football team (not starting obviously). But all our teams sucked so it never made a difference anyways.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      My Son took Judo and He fought against Girls!!! Since when Do They have a choice Who to fight???

      February 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • LEB

      Wrong. My husband practices jiu jitsu, and because he's in a light weight class he sometimes grapples with women. He doesn't have a problem with it, and neither do the women who are used to fighting male opponents. He also says that female opponents are an interesting challenge because they tend to be faster and way more flexible, so they can get out of holds that male opponents often can't.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  5. Adam_in_Mass

    I had to wrestle a girl in high school. And I think that it's great that girls are wrestling, and can compete with boys. But I also see young Joel's side of things and respect his decision.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      How can You respect a person that is afraid to lose to a Girl!!! Let the better Person win I always say... If You don't take chances in life... You will never get any where in life!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  6. Riduclous

    this is absolutely ridiculous. grown up son. you chose this line of sportage. geez. absolutely ridiculous. respect the respect but your just wrong on this one.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  7. Hannibal7

    This young man has class. He has honor. He has conviction. I salute him.

    And why in the world are boys and girls wrestling each other? Come on! Politicallly correct to the point of DUMB. Typical liberal feel good bunk. Like putting girls on a boys varsity football ball team. I am not anti women. I am not a cave man. I hold girls out to be ladies and treat them as such. This young man has been raised well. He knows what he stands for.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      I'm sure I'm older than You and I don't see nothing wrong with it!!! If She doesn't mind why should the Boys??? Are They afraid to lose to a Girl???

      February 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Coach in CA

      Please don't make this about politics, because its not. I would label myself conservative, and I don't have a problem with it. It's pro-freedom to let the girls wrestle, not PC. Not letting girls wrestler because its "not appropriate" is wrong.

      The kid chose not to wrestle a girl, I personally would have accepted the match, but he's within his right to do so, and I respect him for that.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  8. Ryan

    I'm all for equality for women in the workplace, education, and most areas of life, but there are some places where a line should be drawn. You'd think that a man who doesn't wish to accidentally or purposefully violate a women's body would get some respect for his ethical standards, not a verbal beatdown. I think the boy should be applauded for his willingness to forfeit a game he obviously loves (look at his record) and take a hit for the team rather than compromise his beliefs. After all, isn't America constantly told to "stand up for what you believe in?"

    February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      I think You are jealous that it isn't You!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  9. John Galt

    Unfair situation to put the boy into. The girl should compete against other girls period.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Are You Gay??? When I was in School I loved to Play with Girls Bodies!!! They get to do it without getting slapped...

      February 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Coach in CA

      How is this "unfair"? Boys have an inherent advantage with lower average body fat than the girls, which means they are likely to be stronger in the same weight class. The girl is in effect making the girl wrestle up a weight class. If the girl wins, she's earned it, just like any other wrestler.

      Also, many of you probably don't know the different styles and moves, but there are plenty of ways to win a match withouth touching the other wrestlers chest or crotch, so this whole "inappropriate touching" is BS. A good throw and they are done: Head & Arm, Russian Role, Fireman's Throw (arm only) and cover back to chest. It can be done.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • oklahoman

      Hey Larry,

      You are perverse! Oh, and by the way, you were not a part of the US Army and never have been... how do I know this? In your username you have misspelled US Army! Dude, if you are going to fake it – fake it well! Geesh!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • LEB

      @Coach in CA - And since you know wrestling, you're probably aware that women have greater flexibility than men, and flexibility is an advantage. So is speed.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  10. Geoff

    Religious fanaticism by any other name is still religious fanaticism which is really this boys problem. He is a home schooled robot. I pity him

    February 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Dex

      Since when is refusing to touch a strangers private parts in a battle of strength religious fanaticism. Sounds to me like you probably think all religion is fanaticism. This is an honorable young man. My only question is why her parents have so little reguard for their daughter.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  11. Jr High Wrestling Coach

    Perhaps they should have a girls league like we do in Washington State. The girls have their own state tournament. It has proven quite popular and successfull.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Then how do They know Who is a better Wrestlers???

      February 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jamaes

      Exactly, go Cascade High School, Eisenhower Middle School...You go Coach!!!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  12. Tom

    He definitely has the right "not" to wrestle the girl. Wrestling boys is bad enough with faces in crotches and such.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      I rather have My face in a Girl's Boobs!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Cal

      What kind of wrestling have you been doing? I never once had my face in somebody else's crotch duting a match. Please do us all a favor and grow up.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:50 am |
    • oklahoman

      Hey Larry,

      You are perverse! Oh, and by the way, you were not a part of the US Army and never have been... how do I know this? In your username you have misspelled US Army! Dude, if you are going to fake it – fake it well! Geesh!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  13. haha

    wrestling is barbaric. No wonder Iowa got flooded.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Your all Idiots!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  14. Iceman83

    Young man you are a credit to the human race. I not only admire you I respect you. Your friends and family should thank God they have the opportunity to breath the same air you do. I'd hire you in a heartbeat.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  15. LG

    Good for him

    February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  16. Julie

    What sort of father lets his teenaged daughter wrestle against teenaged boys? Shame on those dads.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Why is it any different from two boys fighting??? Especially with the big deal They make about Gays!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  17. mathias machin

    does anyone remember the episode of zoey 101 when guys wouldnt wretle zoey?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Shawn: What could be defensive in fighting a girl unless Your afraid to lose with Them??? I see know different from Losing from another Guy!!! If She is better so be it...

      February 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      I never heard of it myself!!! Why was that???

      February 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  18. Nick

    I think its pretty insulting to the female wrestle, and women in general,r that he would refuse to compete if its against a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • John Galt

      Insulting? Our whole culture is based on the fact that its bad for a guy to hit a woman. Women do not serve combat roles either. If this is the case then get rid of men/women sports period. Let people compete and get their heads handed to them...

      February 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Shawn Mitchell

      If anything is insulting, its the fact that he would be forced to engage in an activity that he finds offensive to his personal convictions. Are you advising that in order to not offend this young woman, he himself should become offended by being required to act in direct contradiction to his personal convictions.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      Why would any Guy refuse to fight a Girl unless He is worried He might lose to Her!!! It happens to most Me after They get married... That doesn't stop Men from getting Married!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • LEB

      @John Galt - Uh, there's no hitting in wrestling. Wrestling has rules and requires protective head gear, and that helps keep players from getting hurt.

      And in case you didn't notice, this kid is 112 lbs. He's a twig. A girl could outweigh him easily.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  19. Prunella

    I don't understand why he's home-schooled and gets to wrestle for a public high school.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Julie

      Prunella, if he lives in the district where his parents pay taxes, home educated students may compete in government school sports (and, in some places, band, science enrichment, etc).

      February 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Pam

      I have the utmost respect for this young man. How nice to see someone stand up for their convictions rather than bow to pressure from others. Even if you don't agree with him, respect his right to decide for himself!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  20. joe

    I had the same issue in high school in CA. i was 125lb and forced to wrestle 3 different girls at 3 different tournaments. At first I said no because its a loose loose situation and awkward for a 15yo but the coaches made me and i was made fun of by my team mates until i decided to. each time i had to wrestle a girl it was added as some of the most awkward moments of my life. Girls should not be allowed to wrestle guys just like their isnt coed soccer, basketball, or baseball at most high schools. Not to mention whats to stop any unwanted physical contact anyone could use a "move" as a excuse.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Larry Kegek (USARMEY)

      What is the matter You didn't like Feeling the Girls??? It would be fun for Me... But I'm a dirty Old Man!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Stephen Daedalus

      What's the matter Larry, you need to wrestle a girl to "cop a feel"? You truly disgust me.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • oklahoman

      Larry,

      That's Perverse! Oh, and by the way, you were not a part of the US Army and never have been... how do I know this? In your username you have misspelled US Army! Dude, if you are going to fake it – fake it well! Geesh!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • LEB

      My husband has wrestled women in jiu jitsu and has no problem with it. But the difference between you and him is that you were a little boy, and he's a grown man. Maybe when you grow up you'll learn to respect a female opponent, too.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:51 am |
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About this blog

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.