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. Ofra

    Religious conviction? It's wrestling for goodness sake, not intercourse! Maybe he's just a lil scurred!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  2. Patrick

    His faith forbids him from wrestling a woman. But his faith doesn't forbid him from becoming very aggressive during a match. (His reason for not wanting to wrestle the girl) Perhaps, what was not said was, his faith doesn't allow him to lose to a woman either.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Dr. Equality

      Wasn't it Jesus who said that we are all equal, men and women alike. How can he look at religious morals to keep from wrestling a girl? I think he was afraid of his reaction to fighting a girl and what his daddy's reaction to that might have been!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  3. Gingeet

    I love how he feels that it is wrong to be touching a female but has no problem about doing it to a male? Ha!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  4. Marvin

    Looks like a peter sucker

    February 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Scoobie Doobie

      I think you desire to wrestle the lad yourself, but there again, he has religious convictions, so forget it...it's never gonna happen.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Rick

    When I was in high school I would not have wrestled against a girl. Period. It would have just been plain morally wrong.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  6. Marvin

    He's thinking about one eyed wonder worms in that picture.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  7. chelseagifford

    What a gentleman. We need more Joel's out there!

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

      What was gentlemanly about it? By refusing to wrestle her he acknowledged that she was not his equal. For religious reasons. He can do it if he wants, but it doesn't help her be any more competent as a wrestler.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  8. Conan

    "Conan, what is best in life?"
    "To CRUSH your enemies, to see their herds driven before you, to hear the lamentations of their women."
    What would he do if he was in real combat against a woman, refuse to fight her? Treat he like an equal, respect her as such, and CRUSH her if she is not good enough. Making special exceptions for women only lets them think they are as good as the men. And they are in a few sports, but not most. If they were, then there would be no need to have a women's division. Everyone would compete as equals.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  9. Gerry Heter

    This young man is to be admired. Oh that you nay-sayers had as much integrity as he!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Anon

      God isn't real. Get over it.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  10. Old Gal from Montana

    Poor guy is in a lose-lose situation. I believe he took the high road.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • jacob lind

      how is it lose/ lose? If her had wrestled and won no one would have thoughtr twice about it. She had already lost 13 times this season and none of those losses were news stories

      February 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Mike

      I think he meant "lose/lose" in that this boy's peers (forget about us adults) would call him a whimp for not fighting, yet if he did fight and lost, then he'd be called worse. Again, through the eyes of teenagers...it's always different.

      However, I think he took the high road as well but my perspective is different than a teenager's.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  11. Marvin

    I once wrestled a girl or two.....in pudding.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  12. Lucie

    Wrestling is a coed sport in most cases. The kid knew what he was getting in to. Why is he even wrestling when he knew he'd probably have to go up against at least one girl? So silly...if you can't take the heat, DON'T PLAY THE GAME. Just like people who join the military and then BAWWWW about having to serve with women and gays. You signed up for it buddy...no one is forcing you.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Heebie Jeebie

      He still play a wrestling game and he play fair. He not want a wrestle so he forfeit according to the rules so what is a problem for you? He like a wrestle, but when he not want a wrestle he say OK, I forfeit. He can do whatever he want and you cannot stop him from doing what he want. You want to force him to wrestle?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Don_J

      Lucie... go shave or something, your 5 O'clock shadow is showing.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • USMC Combat Vet

      sorry there lucie, but no one joins the military expecting to serve with gays. that was ridiculous statement, and on top of that, and i know im gonna get heat for this, but gays have no place in the military. period . and explain to me where wrestling is a coed sport? do you just watch wwf or are you really that ignorant?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Lucie

      You 'ent gettin' any pu$$y like that Jon, sorry. 😉

      February 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Lucie

      "No one joins the military expecting to serve with gays"
      That's like saying no one joins the military expecting to serve with asians. Maybeee you don't believe that, but if you are you are a complete dunderbrain and not using BASIC COMMON SENSE (Hmmm they are 10% of the population...MAYBE I will be serving with at least ONE gay person...) Where is wrestling a coed sport? It was a coed sport at my highschool, it is a coed sport in most parts of the country, I know plenty of female wrestlers around the country...so obviously in HS divisions it is a coed sport...

      February 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Don_J

      Do you even have one?

      February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Opinion0731

      Historically wrestling has always been a male sport. Coed participation is a new development in my opinion is politically motivated, and is largely fueled by select individuals wanting to make a point. I don't think anyone opposing mixed gender wrestling think girls are not capable, however there are some real social issues associated with it the put the male wrestlers in a bind.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  13. Don_J

    ... he should have tied her @$$ up in a knot and walked away with his win.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  14. hi ho

    He is a real gentleman. 😉

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

    Heck, I remember girls wrestling against boys in AAU tournaments more than 30 years ago. And there were some boys back then who refused to wrestle a girl.

    Why is this news now when it wasn't back then?

    February 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  16. mercjh

    Maybe we should allow him to go out for girls basketball or win the state championship in girls track and field, but that would be against the rules, just like this should be.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • jacob lind

      In my state of Pennsylvania there is no male field hockey, therefore anyone can try out for the team, male or female. A high school girl on the wrestling team is the same thing. If there were seperate female and male leagues then this would not be an issue

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

      You are right jacob lind there needs to be separate leagues, there is nothing wrong with admitting there are bonafide differences between men and women especially in sports.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • jacob lind

      I would be for seperate leagues if there is the demand. If there is only a few students who want to play a particular sport, then there is really no problem with coed teams

      February 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  17. Bundy

    Physical contact like wrestling , he made the right choice. Badminton, Volleyballl, Boxing, soccer or even football , compete in swimming, Karate, motorcycle racing etc is fine but NOT wrestling! I mean i can imagine the grouping, body to body contact, awkward position ohh no. i don't think so! There is a limit to the call of order. That is why god made man man and women a women. HE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE AND A GROWN UP FOR RESPECTING THE LADY OPPONENT. I don't care about you ladies or gays who wants to beat the crap of the guys cause that only shows your true color. Man needs to respect ladies and vice versa. Period! Im liberal by the way but its got nothing to with it.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Refusing to fight an opponent who knows what she is doing and is there of her own choice is not respecting her at all.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • WhatUTalkin'BoutWillis

      So, what's wrong with having moral convictions? I wouldn't want to touch a female opponent in the way that I would need to win a match. That's my moral conviction. I would hope that I would make the same decision as this young man did. It's nothing bad against his opponent. She got to advance because of it, and he gets to feel that he made the right decision for himself. Was it the right decision for her? I couldn't tell you that, but he's not in charge of making the right decisions for her...but for making the right decisions for himself.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  18. Merv

    Slow news day CNN? This is something the masses needed to know? Total non story!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • marym

      But you read the article! Perhaps you're having a "slow life".

      February 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • iRex

      Since this is in the belief Blog section of the site, it seems appropriate. When you used to read newspapers, did you complain every time you got to the Auto Section or the Comics? Like a Newspaper, the "Important" news is listed first, and the further down the list the less the "importance". If you only want to see important news only click the first 2-3 stories on the list.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • gman5727


      February 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • mercjh

      You clicked on the story Merv, learn to use your mouse

      February 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • gman5727

      It may not be news to you, but you my friend are only 1 count em, one pereson! Kudo's to the kid for sticking to his personal beliefs at a young age!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Mike

      Your post is a bigger waste of time. I hate it when a person purposely clicks a link to a story they fully intended and wanted to read or worse yet, you probably google'd this story and tried to find it....only to say, "slow news day cnn..." (sigh) Perhaps your life is slow hence the need to post such drabble. I can say this because my day is slow and your post has irritated me, thus...I have to now post drabble.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  19. BOB

    I think he should be commended for taking a stand on his personal beliefs. The kid had the opportunity to be in the final match for state champion and instead elected to do what he thought was right. Agree or disagree, it was a mature thing to do for a 15-year old kid.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Shelly

      I'm just glad to hear that there are stillsome respectful young men out there. You dont hear of that everyday...

      February 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  20. Beware_of_God

    A women wanted me to touch her once. Yuck, it was creepy.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Heebie Jeebie

      If you know a secret to be the platonic friend, you can explain the no need for the intimate touching, and perhaps she can understand for respect the choice that you choose.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
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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.