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. Heebie Jeebie

    I am superman, but I not pick on a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  2. Mamare

    Good for you, Northrup!!! Stay true to your faith. Took a lot of courage to take such a stand in this day and age.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  3. jaybird

    I feel bad for the guy. If he wins people will be like "oh you beat a girl". If he gets beat by her, everyone will make fun of him and his life and confidence will go down the tubes. Sports is used as a tool to build people and help a boy become a man. Do we really want to see him lose this fight. If he does it could really really effect the rest of his life. Im all for woman in sports. Co ed team sports is all good with me. But the focus of a one on one fighting match at that age is just wrong.

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


      I dunno, I think the way he's handled the situation, as well as the attention he's getting because of his decision, shows he's well on his way to making the jump from boy to man already.

      Just sayin'

      February 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  4. tony

    I think CNN's belief blog is just an excuse to fill more web pages with low-IQ fodder.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  5. JD

    Girls should wrestle girls. In jello.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  6. DisgruntledGrrl

    Of course, he's a minister's son. We all know the Christian faith's views on women equality.
    That being that all women are equal. To each other.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  7. bobdobbs

    Would rather another man rub against him rather then a woman... Next stop the priesthood.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  8. can't believe you women

    I bet Northrup is a good 'ole midwestern boy who respects ma and pa and yes, women too. Maybe pull a chair out for a gal or hold a door..... Any of you hate-laced women had that happen to you lately? I bet you wanted him to. Give your man-hating – equality-pushing rhetoric some perspective....

    February 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • JD

      Women want equality only when it suits them best.

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


      Nah, just when it lets weirdoes like you lot out of the woodwork so we can all have a good laugh at the walking evidence supporting the popularity of viagra.

      Just sayin'

      February 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  9. Heebie Jeebie

    I think maybe he not want a wrestle becasue she brawny and look like a boy.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  10. rebekah23

    I am a very strong woman, independent, used to play football, and would make all the boys cry. I used to wrestle guys in college. 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. All of us could learn from him.
    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 this story makes you upset, that a teenage boy forfeited his match based on a matter of conscience, than what kind of world would make you happy? You are not for equality, you are for OPPRESSION…. Do you realize that?

    February 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  11. larrywi

    He forfeits the opportunity to cop a feel! I would have been all over that stuff when I was a teanager!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  12. avis

    One should wrestle on bed with a girl 🙂

    February 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  13. 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 4:23 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I agree with you. My daughter has fought against boys during TaeKwonDo bouts, some she wins, some she loses. If the boy underestimates her then they have a shock coming.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Agree wholeheartedly

      First smart comment I've read on here. Agree 100%

      February 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Kate

      Yeah, what Peace2All said

      Just sayin' ... or is that echoin'?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Where the heck have you been !!!!! We miss ya ! 🙂


      February 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  14. Ronin

    This guy made the right choice. Everyone knows it's hard to wrestle when your Sgt-at-arms is standing at attention.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  15. B-Dog

    'NO WAY COACH! I already told you that I'm only going roll around and get sweaty with other men!"

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

      LOL. Made my day buddy, made my day.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  16. dobee

    He is a courageous man willing to stand for his convictions. He will go far in this world.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • zx67

      Au contrair, discriminating for ANY reason will get him NO WHERE in America, where we have a diverse workplace.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • CoolBreeze

      "He will go far in this world"... if by "world" you mean he never leaves Marion, IA.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Cory

    sooo... being involved in a "violent" spot is okay, but touching girls isn't? somebody needs to recheck their priorities.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • zx67

      right, because athletic events and "touching girls" are the same thing. you are retarded.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  18. wacky omo

    I live in Iowa. I say, let all the girls wrestle. Maybe this violence against women would decrease and go away. As a woman, this guy has some class about dealing with this.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  19. SP

    Why is this big news? What absolute junk.

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

    His reasoning may be flawed but boys should not be wrestling girls anyway. Not because of any sort of religious conviction but because women have an unfair advantage on the mat. Anyone who has wrestled in high school or college knows first hand that a woman's center of gravity is well different from a man's. In essence, she can not be pinned or at least... it's much much harder. For a woman to bridge on the mat is trivial compared to what a man must go through. This means that men must always be better technical wrestlers than women.

    Most other sports are segregated because women can not physically compete with men. When the opposite is in effect, why is it integrated?

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

      absolutely! I cannot understand why women and men are in this sport together. This is not like volleyball or baseball – you're talking about wrestling where center of gravity is key and women have an unfair advantage. That's just ridiculous. I can't believe schools actually allow that.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • zx67

      Unfair advantage? Umm.. they divide it by WEIGHT. I was 7th in state, and the record-setter in my high school was also a FEMALE, fastest pin. Wow, you guys are seriously from trailers or somewhere uneducated... there were tons of girls and boys in EVERY Sport at my high school.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • TominMA

      HIs reasoning isnt flawed. It is his belief. And boys shouldnt be wrestling girls. It's an unfair match no matter how you view it!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • gerbiltea

      I'll be sure to tell the Olympic committee that they're backwards for segregating their sports. Your personal anecdote doesn't mean anything and who cares if you supposedly made 7th in state. I could probably say I was an Olympic gold medalist and there wouldn't be any need to naysay or agree... it's the internet. You even admit that the fastest pin was a girl (unless you mean that YOUR fastest pin was a girl?) ...

      It's simple, a woman has most of her strength in her hips and this makes her very difficult to pin. If girls want to wrestle other girls, fantastic.

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


      I think you just kind of gave the game away with your avid suggestion that we just wrestle other girls ... man you have one twisted mind for a religion blog!

      Just notin'

      February 17, 2011 at 4:56 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.