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. fastfreddie

    no win situation, if he wins... yopu beat a girl.. if he get beat.. he'll never live it down
    I agree with the woodie comment, thats funny

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

      In a singlet the slightest breeze shows right away. It's like a curling dog turd in a tight confined space, everyone knows.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Aniram

      I'll bet when you look at the bras in the Sear's catalog you laugh and say "look boobies!"

      The woody comment is only funny to pathetic men.

      Pathetic men are the reason so many women are becoming lesbians these days.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • zx67

      your comment is ignorant. I wrestled in high school AND was voted prom queen the same year. How did boys lose fighting me? I got beat, I beat some.... it's HIGH SCHOOL.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Cornqueen

      He is screwed either way. Why dont they just start a girls wrestling team? More girls would join.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • ROFLCatDown

      @ANIRAM – Really? Every lesbian I've ever met claims to have been born that way.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  2. cj

    i hope you continue to hold to your values....don't be swayed by public opinion. we all have a higher power to answer to someday....you will be glad you did...

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

      I love how you imply that people who dont believe in God are immoral people. I know many Athiests I consider to have way better values then many very religious people I know.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  3. Marsha

    Wait, aside from the stupidity of his position, what stands out is that he is "home schooled" but participating in team sports. Nope, sorry, shouldn't happen. Either you are a part of a functioning, maturing society or you are drawing lines and hiding – can't have it both ways.

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

      Give me a break.

      I'm not religiously conservative, but even I can see that overall, education in the US is poor. Perhaps his parents ARE doing the right thing homeschooling him, while also making sure he is well rounded in other areas.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  4. Tribble10

    Wonder if he feels she should be stoned as an abomination to the Lord for wearing men's clothes as the bilble states???

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

      I expect you've heard this before but choose to ignore it. The law you cite (Deuteronomy 22:5) was given to the Israelites when they were still under temple worship. It's the Old Testament. We have a New Testament now that has change the expectations.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  5. ijreilly

    I knew a guy who had to wrestle a girl in high school and it weighed on him pretty heavily up until the match. I think I'm a fairly open minded person and I want to say that it shouldn't matter that she's a girl, but in this situation I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it either.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  6. Sixoh

    Girl and boys are not the same. That's not to say one can't beat the other, but it's not a matter of that. We are not the same. You same people who are telling that family to "Get over" their convictions would be the same people wanting to beat or sue the boy for getting a handfull of her hair y taco. You can't have it both ways to shu tup.

    I applaud their convictions, and they are right. He was honorable.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  7. Monkey

    I agree with Peace2All. My husband is an Akido instructor and when he gets woman who join his class, he always tells his male belts not to "treat them like a girl" . The females do not last long in the classes because their bodies are Not built like a mans, and cannot take the beatings. I'm all for Girl Power, but know your limitations. I would like to see woman Football Refs. Think that will happen anytime soon?!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  8. Joe

    Looks at his record and look at her record before saying something as silly as "he was afraid of losing to a girl". There is no reason to think he had any real chance of losing.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  9. rebekah23

    I am a very strong woman, independent, used to play football, and would make all the boys cry.
    I am tougher than most men I know. However i have immense respect for this kid. He knew that
    he would be persecuted for this decision, and he stuck to it. Honoring his parents, forfeiting the match,
    getting national attention, i say he is a real man. And that is very attractive.
    One of the main reasons I love my husband is because he is the one person who is stronger than me, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and even though I am so tough, I can be weak with him....and know that he's got me.
    This young man will make a good husband. He did do the noble thing, the respectful thing, the honorable thing.
    These comments by these women on here who are attacking him for being a man of integrity, are the confused and scary ones who are being bigots and intolerant. if you cannot live in a world where a young man declines something in a civil, respectful manner, then what would make you happy? you are NOT for equality, you are for OPPRESSION, oppressing men.
    think about that.

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


      February 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  10. Ted

    I had to wrestle a girl in HS and it was my first varsity match. It was awkward at first but in a matter of seconds it was just another wrestling match. I pinned my opponent in 27 seconds that night and was happy to get the win.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  11. Beware_of_God

    Everyone is taking this and all the responses way to seriously. It is all meaningless, and is no more of a story than a kid choosing not to eat what they are serving for lunch in the school cafeteria. Everyone knows that guys see girls in sports as the small bit of parsley they leave on the side of the plate in a restaurant.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Aniram

      What an idiot you are comparing this to passing on eating the cafeteria food.

      That's as idiotic as David Letterman comparing Lindsey Lohan's apprearance on his show to the superbowl!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  12. Wiggin

    He made his choice based on his beliefs. He did not blame anyone for losing a match in that manner. While I personally would have no problem grappling with a woman, I salute him for standing beside his convictions, no matter the personal cost.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  13. Joe

    Good for this guy for sticking to his merit. I wouldn't wrestle, hit, or tackle any female either. Any person here calling him a "bigot" is simple being a bigot themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him choosing not to forcefully grope a female in front of a bunch of people at a wrestling event. Any hypocrites who think otherwise might be more comfortable in some place like Iran where people don't get to make their own choices.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • wittywife

      Couldn't agree more.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  14. BillyBob

    I say...


    February 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Smokey Waterz

      What an ignorant comment to make. Too bad your parents can't have as much respect for you that this young man's family can.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  15. Jay

    People who think it wasn't fair to the girl are ignorant... she has nothing to lose... It's the boy who it's not fair to. No respectable guy could feel good about himself for beating a girl. And to lose to her would be even worse, and could lead to serious consequences for him. It is a complete lose-lose situation, and it isn't fair to put a high school kid in that position. Clearly he is the better wrestler (based on records) and had to give up a once in a lifetime shot, simply because he was put in a position he never should have been put in. The girl should be ashamed of herself for doing this and causing people to be put into such terrible situations. Shame on her.

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

      @Jay - Yes, shame on her! For... um, what was it again? Oh yeah, PARTICIPATING IN HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS. Unless there's a rule that says girls can't participate in wrestling, then she didn't do anything wrong. Quit blaming her because this kid has been brainwashed by his parents and society to think that girls are inferior. She chose to wrestle, and somehow she has managed to survive losing a few matches so far this season, so I don't think one more loss will kill her. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that if she made it to the STATE TOURNAMENT she might actually be good (imagine that - a girl who is actually good at something other than cooking and cleaning and popping out babies? Did you know such a thing existed, Jay?). And if she is good and happens to beat this kid, please don't use the fact that she's a girl as an excuse for why he lost ("he didn't try because he didn't want to hurt her feelings... waaah"). Give me a break. She chose to compete in a male-dominated sport and I imagine she wants to be treated equally - she just wants a chance to compete!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • DenverGrl

      Seriously... shame on her? She wanted to compete in a sport that she is clearly good at and is allowed to do so by school rules. I applaud her for being good enough to beat a bunch of guys and get to the point of this high level tournament. She deserves respect for her ability to compete in the sport. That being said, I understand this young man's point of view from a religious perspective. Most people do not have that perspective and therefore, the rules are made for the majority, not for the individual. He is a good kid, will certainly get a wrestling scholarship to the school of his choice and will do just fine in life. Just because he has his convictions doesn't mean the rest of the world should be subject to them, and he seems to understand that as well. I am impressed by both of these kids and wish them all the best!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  16. Nobody N. Particular

    Having completed in Taekwondo, I can understand where he's comes from. Having been brought up to not "hit" a girl, it would povide a female opponent an unfair advantage as I would hesitate or pull my "punches"; which I would not do against a male opponent. I'm sorry there aren't enough females to compete with but it is not a fair contest if you insist on allowing these matches, unless you want young men to learn how to fight young women with hesitating or pulling their punches.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  17. Jeff

    This world would be a lot better of a place if all parents taught their sons to treat girls with this much respect...

    February 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  18. Smokey Waterz

    I thoroughly respect this young man standing up for his convictions. If doing so was because of parental influence, then I double that respect.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  19. jim l

    Boys wrestling girls sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen when someone thinks there was inappropriate touching in the middle of a match.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • mac178

      If another guy touched my junk, I'd think it was inappropriate as well.
      It has zero to do with males vs. females.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  20. godzuki

    Beliefs are like seasons – they are forever changing. If you are presented with a challenge – then face it in spite of your beliefs... You may find yourself trancending your own prior boundaries and thus find life!!!

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

      The challenge here is not whether he could win the match. The challenge is to do what you believe is right knowing that it will bring the type of scorn seen in these comments.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:19 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.