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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. gretchen

    I am a huge fat chick and would wresle any guy in here!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  2. gretchen

    but what would i know of being homeschooled... im a retarded chick

    February 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  3. Jay

    Joel Northrup is a class act.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Chaos

      ...and you're an idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      Usually, the person who first starts throwing out insults when someone else expresses an opinion is the idiot. Sorry to say.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • pokesalad

      what about the 2nd?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  4. All American

    If this guys is simply afraid to wrestle the girl he should admit it.
    If he is being influenced by his Iron Age belief system and the ethics of ancient desert tribes as they relate to contact with women, then I would say he's nuts. Judeo Christian belief systems have no place in America.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      You are so right - Judeo Christian ethics had zero positive impact on our laws, financial systems, work ethic, principles of human rights, etc. What was I thinking?

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

      When you go out on the mat to wrestle you go out there to intentionally hurt someone. No guy wants to hurt a girl. No real wrestler that is any good wouldnt actually lose to a girl it is fact, and guess what women have their own tournament in the olympics i wonder why? Because wrestlers at the olympic level would destroy a woman. I applaud joel's desicion this is only Folkstyle any way (little kid wrestling).

      February 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • fry

      What? I'm afraid that's our country's frame of reference, regardless what you believe.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Edwin

      Why do you attack the guy for following his convictions? He took a loss instead of doing what he believed would be immoral. That takes character - whether you agree with his decision or not.

      He did not berate his opponent, nor did he question her right to compete. Respect his beliefs and choices (without insult) if you wish to get respect for your your beliefs and choices.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  5. Roundhouse

    I lost all respect for this nut.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  6. mike hunt

    if he feels touching a girl in the manner that wresteling requires is innappropriate, then it must be equally inappropriate to touch a male in the sameway therefore making him gay.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      You might want to get a biology 101 book - most men don't have breasts like a woman. And the chest is often grabbed in wrestling.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Guest

      In wrestling you dont touch gentials it is a lot of chest to chest pressure to pin. Women have breasts men dont that is why it is inappropriate.

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

      Guys hands are on others guys butts during wrestling. So much for your little theories about there being no inconsistencies.

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

      I have wrestled a couple of girls before, and each time i wasnt worried about grabing their behinds it was about what was up top because so many move require you to get chest control. This match probably would of been the guy taking her down letting her get back, then taking her down again until it was over.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  7. Rosemary Peppercorn

    So he doesn't want to wrestle a YOUNG WOMAN (assuming she's hit puberty, she's not a "girl.").

    So what. Big deal. He forfeits. End of story. If the rule is that he can't forfeit, then he should just get kicked out.

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

    At that age just thinking about touching a girl would have given me an erection. It isnt fair to expect this young man to wrestle a girl.

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

      don't worry, it wouldn't put the slightest dent in your cup

      February 18, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  9. Roundhouse

    Back that a$$ up

    February 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  10. Godstar

    I wonder if his personal morality would get in the way if a female were pointing a gun at him. Or would defending himself offend his morals so greatly that he would let himself get shot.

    While I understand it's his choice to make, at the same time, it's also this sort of backwards religious thinking that leads to situations where women are forced to wear burquas, etc.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      Yep - I reread his statement, and it's got burkha written all over it. Or maybe, just maybe, he actually respects women - which the Quran does not do. For all our modern science, we have a backwards view of history - Christianity has done the MOST for women's rights.

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

      "he actually respects women"

      Respects women?

      Remember those "I'm with stupid" shirts? You could have one where the arrow is pointing at your face.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      Are you saying that to respect someone, you MUST wrestle them? Oh, I forgot - you had no real argument so you had to resort to insults.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Godstar

      Cedar, if he respected women he would have wrestled her, since she's there, and did exactly what he did to get there. Respect has absolutely nothing to do with his refusing to wrestle her, his religious sensibilities did. Christianity has done the most for women's rights? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You have GOT to be joking. Women have done the most for womens rights, religion wasn't a part of it.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      Really? Is that why the Apostle Paul says (2,000 years ago) that men and women are equal before God? Remind me again where the feminist movement was back then?

      February 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Godstar

      Here's an even better quote, "Actions speak louder than words."

      While certain quotes, not others, might be used to advocate some notion of equality, others do not. The reality of the gender oppression the Bible dictates, in addition to the actual practice of Christians for the last 2000 years speaks to the contrary. Why did it take so long under Christianity for women to get many of the same basic rights men have? Even now, while the laws may guarantee equal rights, obviously in the perception of most Christians nothing really has; women are still inferior to males, or he would have wrestled her, despite his religious convictions.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Fran

      Right Cedar, Paul loved women so much he wouldn't even marry one. Paul – who wouldn't let women even talk in church? Christianity – where men were encouraged to own as many women as possible? hahahahahaha.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  11. Kenny

    I'm 63 years old and remember back when I was a kid. There were boys back then that would not wrestle with a girl. They were smart because they had already gotten their butts kicked by the girls and were not about to do it again. I do, however, respect this young mans wishes not to engage with a female.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  12. Spence

    I think he should humiliate her, like Andy Kaufman would do, telling her to get back in the kitchen, etc.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  13. Monkey

    I might have done it. HEY PRTYY GURRRLL, WANNA RAAAAHHHSLE? c'mere sweety this won't hurt a bit

    February 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Girls shouldnt wrestle with guys. Its not about gender equality. Some aspects of life should be gender specific without people crying about it. If girls want to wrestle they need to form their own league. Is that so bad?

    February 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Katie

      If there were enough women who want to wrestle, it might be a considerable option, but as it stands, there just aren't – the women who compete have to join the men's league.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Chaos

      You would like living in Saudi Arabia. They have a mindset much like your own.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      Funny, but your disappointment with others who have a dissenting opinion is more along the lines with how Saudi Arabia operates.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  15. John Mitchell

    Here is what I don't understand - It's not OK to touch a girl like that, but it is OK to touch a guy like that? Do what ...

    February 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  16. Spence

    If she's a pig, I'd pass too. But if she looks like Kim Kardashian....

    February 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  17. Jon King

    'Religious' dude who would rather roll around with sweaty guys....I think we know how this one turns out. He comes out in a few years and dad the minister disowns him.

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

      lmao bedknobs and broomsticks!

      February 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  18. Conan

    Secretly all the women who read this know that they are NOT equal to most men - at least physically - and that's why he forfeited to her. Women do okay against men in other realms, but usually not physically. If so, then why does there need to be a womens division in sports? Why not have, for example, only one marathon in the Olympics and if women are good enough they'll qualify?

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

      Its funny how you attribute secretive motives to an entire population of one gender but then tell us this boy's state of mind in a manner inconsistent with what he actually said.

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

      Well technically you are quite right – But just looking at the pictures of him I'd say "He's still a BOY" and since girl's do develop faster at that age they may very well be on equal physical ground.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • falvo

      The nice thing about wrestling is that it's divided by weight class. It's not the same as other contact sports. In this case, individuals are put against others that are comparable in size and strength. That's why there is not a separate division for women in wrestling. In sports like football and hockey, there is more of a difference and it's understandable why few women attempt to participate in those sports. Because of the weight divisions that already exist in wrestling, it makes it easier for women to get involved.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • ChivelveryIsDead?

      Boxing has weight classes but still separate men and women. Try again you fail.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  19. Andy

    He was probably just afraid of getting her pregnant. I can understand that.

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

      So...did you stumble upon CNN.com as an assignment for your 5th grade current affairs studies? Just curious because most adults (at least past the age of 20) wouldn't make a comment like that.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Andy

      Shut up, Ben.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  20. cj

    I think it is commendable.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Margie

      I totally agree CJ. It's commendable, and in my view, he is going becoming a fine young man. I hope he continues to stand up for what he believes, even if he gets hassled for it. The comments will stop, but the knowledge that he stood firm in something he believed in will stay with him the rest of his life. Well done!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Chaos

      Its commendable to invoke faith for this decision? He's either lying or clueless. The latter describing you as well as a result.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Cedar Tree

      You're right Chaos. This country has never moved forward when people based their decisions on faith and convictions.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • pokesalad

      you think?????? good progress!

      February 17, 2011 at 7:47 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.