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. Stephen Daedalus

    He FOREFEITED Larry, that means he's losing. You think that national media attention like this is MORE comfortable than assuming he cares about "losing to a girl"? Which, I would add, is a stupid thing to say in any context. If you are in the army, may you find the golden BB that you've avoided so far.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  2. ocorrea


    February 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Stephen Daedalus

      His parents aren't doing him any favors, but don't you think he's a little young and sheltered to be pigeonholed so quickly? Maybe he'll change his tune when he GROWS UP... something you might consider trying.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • U.R. AnIdiot

      Boys should never compete with girls when it comes to organized high school wrestling. If you can't see that, fool, then you are truly a moron.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • U.R. AnIdiot

      And you are an ignorant trailer trash toad.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  3. Rick

    Even if you lose to a girl in a wrestling match, you still won.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  4. Debbie

    Sporting wood

    February 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  5. SourDsl

    Everything isn't for everybody! I'm sorry but he did the only thing that he could to save any kind of face. This was the fault of the Iowa HS athletics board. Whats next? Maybe females can compete with males in basketball or coed mma perhaps!?

    February 17, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  6. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    I think both the boy and the girl in this case have good intentions.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  7. MissyMe

    Some of these comments are insane. I am from a sports centered town in WV, growing up here girls we wrestled the guys. Sometimes we won sometimes we got out butts handed to us. It doesn't matter. She decided to go into this sport so let her fight. I mean let's be honest. Women we have to fight twice as hard just to get half the respect as the men. I would be upset if I went in to fight and the guy wouldn't fight me. I have had guys tell me that in boxing and it's bull. I can take the hits just as hard as the guys. The only difference is anything that men do we can do backwards and in heels. The guy should have wrestled no question. If you claim to be a feminist and have the nerve to say women can't fight in combat, rethink what you said. But what do I know I'm just a college educated girl from WV

    February 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  8. Blink

    She should be wrestling girls. This is pathetic. I played college athletics and we brought in all the $$ and paid for all the girls sports. Its politcal correctness gone awry. The minute a girl gets hurt I guarantee there is going to be a lawsuit. To me I say they should beat her bad on the mat – make an example out them both. I hope they break some bones.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  9. The Master

    Women are weak. I commend this young man for having the "conscience" to not step into the ring with her and shatter her dreams and her physical future with his stunning young Christian prowess.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  10. Jack Daws

    The female wrestler risks nothing if she wrestles a male and loses. A male would be uniquely diminished and tarnished if he was defeated by a female. That's just the way it works. He should never have been placed in this position by school officials. They are the cowards.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  11. Danny

    This young man respects women and should be applauded. He however should not have go give up his championship chances for our political correct society. Everyone needs to wake up men and women are different and having unequal treatment by injecting themselves into sports with men is not right. Set up their own wrestling league and let women compete with women.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Claudie Thompson


      February 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  12. Steven0560

    I am amazed at all the angry posts directed at Joel Northrup. I give him credit. whether you agree with him or not is besides the point. He is sticking to his beliefs and I think he should. Supporting feminism is not the same as being willing to grab a woman in places you are comfortable with... nor is it being ok with taking a woman and throwing her to the floor in a violent body slam. he said the right things here. He respects the young ladies and their accomplishments, but cannot bring himself to combat them in a very physical sport. I don't think i would either.

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

      Totally agree. I may not share his beliefs but faith can be such an important thing in maany peoples lives. If he felt this compromised his faith so much that he was willing to basically walk away from something most people saw as "big" then it was the right decision for him, period – and should be respected not judged.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  13. Marvin is black

    "i would totally hook up with him!"

    Yes I would

    February 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  14. Traci

    Just as she has the right to join the wrestling team. He has the right to refuse to wrestle her. That is what America is about. Our freedom of choice. Good for him for standing up for his principles. It's hard to find that quality in anyone anymore.

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

      She shouldn't have the right that's the problem. Just like I would not have the right to join any girls sports in HS. Total BS they r even on the mat with guys.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  15. jman

    what a coward

    February 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  16. KentAZ

    That's the only scenario under which I would ever engage in wrestling. The last thing I want is to roll around on a mat in the clutches of another guy. Yuck...

    February 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Jeff

      Kent, I wrestled D1 and you just don't want to get your a** kicked

      February 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  17. JakeF

    No win situation for the kid. Beat a girl? Way to go touch guy. Lose? You lost to a girl.

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

      "touch" guy? Anyway, what's so bad about losing to a girl? Are you still in middle school?

      February 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Stephen Daedalus

      Freudian slip? 🙂 Still, I get it, it's not going to go over well if he hurts her. She might be fine with it, but he's saying that HE is not. Frankly, if he's just really shy and religious, that's fine too, although I'm not in that camp. Again, the key here is that he has done the honorable thing and taken responsibility for his choices.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  18. Marvin is back

    i would totally hook up with him!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  19. Heebie Jeebie

    If she want the true respect, maybe she arrange a match with Mike Tyson. She will feel the equality when he bite off her ear.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      When did Mike Tyson wrestle? Or don't you know the difference between heavyweight boxing and wrestling?

      February 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  20. bob

    You'll notice, he never said she shouldn't wrestle, or that it was wrong for a female to be there.

    Just that he doesn't feel comfortable attacking a girl. Respectable, in my opinion.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Stephen Daedalus

      Agreed. I feel for the guy, and the ladies who can't feel good about this. Still, he had the guts to say exactly what the deal was, and FORFEIT, not whine or sue. I dont' share his view, but I can respect it.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Claudie Thompson

      I can not believe that they have boys and girls wrestling in the same tournament. We have boys basketball, girls basketball, both have baseball or softballs teams. My children were very sports minded, but I promise I would never have allowed my girls to be wrestlers if they had to compete with boys. Their hands would have been all over parts of the body that they should not be. I feel sorry for this young man and he deserves an award for his stand on what is right. May God bless you; remember His rewards are much better that a gold medal.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:23 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.