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. Benjamin

    Let's be honest here: the lad is probably afraid he'll end up with a woodie while wrestling this female, and in his religion, that would be a sin. So we don't have to AGREE with his religious worldview, but I don't think we should belittle it either.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Rudy1959

      Let's be honest here. You don't have a clue.

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

      I wouldn't want to wrestle a girl either. It'd be the same ifin I were taking a Karate class and I was told to spar with a girl. Regardless of whether or not she's a well-suited opponent, I'd feel like a complete tool if I were to hurt a girl.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  2. Aaron

    It's nice to see a young man have strong convictions and then accept the consequences of them; in this case losing a match in a tournament. When you read his full statement below his conviction is that he does not feel it is appropriate to engage a woman in a violent manner and was probably taught at home that women should be held at the highest esteem. If only we lived in a world where young men were taught that women are not equal; but instead they should be treated with more respect and honor then you give the average man. It's what I was taught, JC taught, and I'm teaching my son. HIS FULL STATEMENT: “I have a tremendous amount of respect for [Cassy] and [Ottumwa's Megan Black, the other state qualifier] and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other High School sports in Iowa.”

    February 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  3. Rocketman

    Hey....i think what this kid did was honorable....he wasnt scared of her. He believed he shouldnt wrestle her because of his faith? so what!!! give him a break.....i say Way to Go!! thats the way to stick by the stuff.....

    February 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  4. J

    Typical Christian teenager displaying the backward and archaic beliefs imposed upon them by their parents.

    This isn't news.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  5. Clarkkent83

    I punched a frog once

    February 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  6. ReadBetweenTheLines

    Being a teenage boy, he is probably mostly afraid of popping a woody during the match.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  7. Amy

    It's good to see teenagers who can respectfully disagree. It sounds like both are great kids, with great parents. This is exactly how things should be resolved when there is a conflict–peacefully, no name calling, dignified. This young man stood by his beliefs and this young lady did not take it as a personal offense. Love it!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Julie

      How is a POS father who lets his teenaged daughter be touched all over by many different teenaged boys a good parent? Her sire needs to take a long, hard look at what he is doing to her.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  8. Michael

    Bravo to Joel for sticking to his convictions.
    Shame on the school system for listening to the feminazis and even allowing girls to compete against boys in wrestling.
    Boys should not be wrestling girls in high school.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  9. Grumpster

    A kid that age not wanting to wrestle a GIRL!!! What....cooties? Girl germs? Afraid of being labled a wimp if you lose? What? WHAT!!! I'd have done anything to get that chance to potentially wrap my arms around a girl...at that age with raging hormones? Sorry...but it is what it is....and the kid's a wuss.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  10. Ryan

    Awesome! I applaud his integrity, character, humility, and courage. That is faith in action, not lip service. If only our country had more young men like this growing up and becoming leader's. God takes note of people taking a stand like that, and he rewards it.
    Way to go Northrup!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  11. DC

    Actually, I meant to say "reiligion" should not be mixed w/ societal rules.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  12. Cohen the Barbarian

    Wow! So, they prohibit dodgeball but require boys wrestle girls? This is the most retartded thing I learned about my country so far.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Edd

      If you think THIS is the most retarded thing, you need to get out more.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  13. ss

    Her father "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." What? Are you serious? Then why is it, mister?

    February 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Why can't girls be girls?

      When did it become archaic for a lady to behave like a lady and a man like a man? Did women's lib kill chivalry and common sense? That is ridiculous. I can have any career I want to and be an equal contributor to society – but I expect my husband to hold the door, protect me, watch his language, and I'm more than happy to cook for him anytime.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Sean

      He's not protesting her being allowed to wrestle. He just doesn't want to wrestle her. I mean, you can view it as a boycott, but meh, that's grasping. If he is in a religion where men and women don't really do much beyond holding hands until marriage and he takes it seriously, then he is right not to want to put his hands on a woman. Now, if he's worried about being beat by a girl, then he's just a prig.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  14. DC

    Initially, I thought this kid was right not to wrestle because he's a teenager i.e.: if he wins, he gets picked on and if he loses he gets picked on.
    But, after reading his decision involved his "faith" it is just further proof to me than anyone who makes life decisions based on religion is a nut bag. Morals and religion are not mutually inclusive or exclusiive and are highly dangerous when mixed societal rules.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Seriously

      So because his personal beliefs have taught him to honor and protect women and he is uncomfortable intimately contacting her he is a nutjob? Neither of those things are exclusive to religious people, I know plenty of people with no spiritual background that would uncomfortable wrestling with a girl...outside the bedroom at least. Get off you atheistic high horse and try looking from the kids perspective even if its different than your own.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. brian

    How altruistic (NOT!). Get over yourself and your "convictions" and wrestle the girl. She's just as equal to you!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Julie

      It's not about "equality"; it's about the physical differences between a man and a woman. Wrestlers touch each other EVERYwhere. What sort of horrid, shameful, pathetic father willingly lets his 15-year old daughter be touched EVERYwhere by teenaged boys?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  16. WT....

    Women need to do women things and men do men things. Just because you can don't mean that you should. These girls are trying to prove how much a man they can be. What next, NFL with chicks....give it a frek!n rest!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • brian

      how ignorant!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • DenverGrl

      There are some great female kickers out there that can kick further than a some of the best male kickers in the NFL! They would be awesome in that position. But, I can't see a female linebacker, or female running back. I certainly wouldn't want to get slammed to the ground and piled on by a bunch of sweaty, stinky, testosterone infused guys that have probably peed themselves on the field rather than head back to the locker room! Yucky!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • WT....

      Brian, I like my ladies looking like ladies. Not cauliflower ears. Men in wrestling touch everywhere, on top, below in the croch. Do you have a daughter? No......then ST@U

      February 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  17. SomeDude

    Most guys are taught all of our life not to hit females so, it's not fair because, instinctively, he may not be able to go all out. Then, that wouldn't be fair to him. I'm all for co-ed sports as long as the playing ground is even for everyone.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  18. Julie Labrouste

    Dear Northrup family,

    Grow up.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Counterpunch

      Maybe it isn't about the female for once?

      His beliefs may just be such that he doesn't want to engage in that amount of contact with a female before marriage or whatever... (I'm not saying he's right or that she shouldn't be competing)

      I am saying that maybe you should grow up and look at whether or not he made a considered decision, which by all accounts he seems to have done.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  19. m

    this is news?

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

      Hit the nail there. Why is this news?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Aniram

      you took the time to read it, didn't you?
      Hell – you even took the time to comment on it.
      Welcome to the 21st century.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  20. Peace2All

    Being in the martial arts world, in karate, and especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have encountered situations where I have had to spar either in stand-up (punching/kicking, etc..) and/or jiu-jitsu, which is extreme grappling on the ground.

    My instructors had often warned us guys, that 'be careful of the girls, do not let your guard down and underestimate them, or you may get hurt.' They didn't say ..'be careful of hurting the girls, etc..' They were warning us.

    It seems if a female is willing to step into an arena, especially like martial arts or wrestling, etc..., then 'they' are well aware of the risks, and in one sense will not and should not get treated any differently, in general, from the males.

    I have seen several times, when a male and female opponent were paired up, and the guy 'felt bad' or underestimated her, as he didn't want to hurt her, and in several of these situations, the male got his a-s-s kicked by the female, and in a couple of situations, the male got hurt, 😯 because he didn't want to hurt the female.

    My belief and experience is if, the women has chosen and earned the right to compete with the men, then they have earned that equal respect.

    In relationship to this article, the girls have obviously earned the right to be there to compete at the state competi-tion.

    And... if this young man 'chooses' for his own reasons to not wrestle the girls, that is his choice. Whether we agree with his world-view or not.


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

      Well put

      February 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
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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.