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. bob

    We are an absurd society. The fact that we are not identical does not make us unequal. It is patronizing to insist that we are identical; it simply reflects our hidden belief that we are not equal. We should be ashamed that this young man is placed in this predicament.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  2. Marvin is back

    This kid is gay.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Joe

      anyone named Marvin would know that I suppose.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  3. Nathan

    This is where diversity meets diversity. There is no right and wrong here. There are two rights. The young man chose to make a sacrifice. We all have to do that at times. The challenge is for us to arrange things so that the same people don't have to make all the sacrifices all the time. Everybody here deserves respect. Can we find a way to pay all the respect they deserve?

    February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  4. Christian

    Good for a young man with values. Its odd that the main things missing in feminism is feminism.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  5. Marvin is back

    This comment will be removed

    February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  6. gretchen

    they didnt lose... if u know what i mean?!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  7. Mojonaamdi

    I totally agree with teh kid. Girls don't belong wrestling boys. If they do in the name of equality, then why not have all sports be open equally to all? Bet you would not see any female basketball players or baseball players or no more ladies chamtp at Wimbledon or US open.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  8. Kraznodar

    Think about it. He goes for a pin and since his face is in her crotch he gets aroused and his crotch is in her face. Instant embarrassment and maybe a lawsuit.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  9. joesmith

    what, previous post didn't meet with your liberal trashtalking AIPAC agenda

    February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  10. skinnymulligan

    Good thing he wasn't a Muslim or he would be kicked out of school already.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  11. Fig1024

    I'm all for gender equality and all. But come on, "wrestling" between male and female is something that should be done in privacy of one's home, not on public display to be judged!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  12. Corvus1

    What an arrogant, backwards-thinking little t*rd.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  13. tjm

    As a man who was raised never to hit a girl and to treat women with respect, I have to say Bravo to this kid for standing up for his convictions.

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

      Well said. Too many WWF and Oprah/Judge Judy fans who would like to watch garbage like this.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  14. Kent Allard

    An issue that has troubled me for some time is part of the equation in this incident. By home schooling your children you are making a statement that you find fault with public education, so much so that you will not entrust your children to public educators. Yet home school parents still want their kids to participate in extra-curriculars. I don't see public education as ala carte, and find it insulting that the fundamental school subject work doesn't measure up, but athletics do.

    More power to anyone who wants to home school – but, unless we let all parents pick and choose which parts of the curriculum they want their kids to participate in (which isn't realistic of course), home schoolers shouldn't get to game the system to allow their kids to be involved in sports.

    Maybe they could organize a wrestling tournament in the back yard with other (male) home schoolers.

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

      I believe that the parents of home schooled children still pay local and state taxes and thus have the right to have their children participate in extra curricular activities. If you want to take that stand, then give them their money back. By your measure, parents who send their children to private schools or prefer to hire a private tutor should also be exempt from local activities. That is assinine and backward thinking.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Private School Parent

      What a moronic comment. Why not allow home schooled and private schooled kids to compete in public school functions? The government has no problem continuing to confiscate their tax dollars for the public schools, they should at least get some benefit from it. If you don't want them to participate in public school events then refund the portion of their taxes taken and dissallow their participation, fat chance of that happening though.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Nathan

      This is so prejudiced and exclusive and discriminatory that it's hard to know where to begin. Home schoolers have many motivations and many different ways of cooperating with school systems. The families involved and the children who have been home schooled often make significant contributions to their communities. There are many ways of being a good citizen in a democracy, not just one. This is what freedom is all about. Can't we let some families educate their children differently from others? Would you abolish all schools except state-controlled ones?

      February 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Home Schooler

      Home School families pay school taxes like everyone else. They also pay the additional expense of home educating. Opting into sports is a small return on their investment. If you want to rule out home schoolers from extra curricular activities, then let them opt out of paying for all of the activities.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  15. April

    Good for him. The girls shouldn't be forced to grapple with men EITHER to be on a team.
    IT should be a personal choice. Have all girls, all boys, and co-ed divisions.
    That wasnt tough.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  16. jz

    The young man has honor ..... the rest of you need to get a life.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Mike Texas

      Honor, huh, how is running away from getting your rear kicked by a girl honorable?

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

      I think he did the right thing. He has morals. Or something like that.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • NoBigDeal

      Just another bible banger takin' a stand for bigotry. Scared to death of what his daddy would do, if he lost to a girl.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Joe

      NoBigDeal – you must be one of those rabid religion hating morons that I hear about. I never understand why people like yourself probably scream the loudest for tolerance yet you are the most intolerant people out there. The kid has some moral objection to this and you call it bigotry. How? He doesn't think that it is right for a boy and girl to get on a mat and grope each other? That is bigotry? To me, that is called common sense. I'll wait to see if you encourage your teen daughter to wrestle the boys in her grade. Idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Rod

    Amazed this is a coed sport anywhere. This is not about women's lib, this is not about whether men or women are the better athletes. Wrestling- often called grappling'- is a tough, physically invasive sport. Putting young men and women on a mat to constantly and necessarily grope one another is idiocy of the first order. The kid got it right. His good sense and ethics are more highly evolved than whoever it is that makes decisions about Iowa school sports.

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

      I agree. I think the key word here is "invasive."

      February 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • okey dokey smokey

      Well put. Why on earth should wrestling be a coed sport when virtually all other sports are not. I don't care if there is only one female wrestler, she can have a state championship trophy for the woman's division. It makes no sense that this specific, and incredibly "invasive" sport should be coed.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  18. RichP, easton, pa

    Good decision Joel, I happen to agree, they don't belong in combat either.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Mike Texas

      My wife would woop your but.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • ldean

      I don't think it is so much a "combat" thing; as it is a "creepy" thing. I am the most liberal, women's rights, go girl person in the world – but, have you seen some of those contortionist grabs guys get into in wrestling. I think he is correct to feel uncomfortable grabbing a girl's crotch, or chest in order to flip her and pin shoulders to the mat.

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

      If yer wife is from Texas too, then yeah she wood. Eye hear they grow 'em big down thar in Texas – kinda like Mongolians. Besides, my mama taught me that it's not lady-like to fight – she said, "youre just lowering yourself down to their level." God bless Mama.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  19. jman

    It was her choice to compete baecuase of that she has accepted any risks involved. The boys convictions are arcaic and back words. He was afraid to loose to her nothing more. To bad he is not man enough to treat her as an equal rather then somthing that is too dirty to touch.

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

      Where on earth did you learn English, that was pathetic.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  20. Matt

    What a loser. He has no respect for anyone but himself. He doesn't respect the sport or the other wrestlers. He should have been thrown out of the tournament. (And why was e competing anyway? He's homeschooled.)

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


      He said due to his religion he's not going to wrestle a girl. Maybe he does not choose to inflict pain on a female. Its not always black and white. It is more out of respect than anything else. he never once said that she shouldnt be there. He just chose not to wrestle her. Very bold move young man.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Joe

      Contrary to your ignorance, home schooled children have the right to participate in these events just like private schooled children. I applaud this kid for taking a moral stand... sending young girls and boys on the mat to grope each other is completely assinine. This shouldn't be a co-ed sport to begin with. The kid has morals and convictions that he stood by as opposed to ignorant off the cuff remarks like you.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:11 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.