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. JoJo

    Beyond grade school boys and girls should not be wresting one another-unless its in jello or mud of course!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  2. Guest5

    I respect his decision if it was own. But was it really his decision or his father's? Young kids can easily be swayed by their parents... I don't agree with his decision though, being a sister to older brothers that wrestled. I don't think my brothers would have ever "forfeited" to girl just for those reasons. I know when they wrestle they don't think about where they are placing there hands or body they just want to win, thats all. Also, if he would have lost to Black then he wouldn't be getting all this media attention therefore people across the country wouldn't be slamming him right now. Hopefully he doesn't read what people are saying cause that could really hurt him psychologically. Another reason, is since he lost he must work his way back up the bracket to place higher and I know that can be extremely difficult for any wrestler.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  3. Jerry

    There are a couple problems. Potential for a lawsuit if any girl claim they were groped inappropriately.
    Also the reverse, I am sure there are creepy guys that can't wait to grope them, I wouldn't want my Daughter in that situation.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  4. Michael Scarborough

    There are practical limits to the otherwise worthwhile goal of gender neutrality and this has got to be one of them. Do we really want to see men and women boxing as well?

    February 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  5. Raf

    So, his convictions and faith do not allow him to wrestle with a girl. Considering the girl earned the right to wrestle him by her own achievements, I'd like to know exactly what his convictions and beliefs are. It's ok to get up and close with another man, feel his body against yours in a match of skill, but not if the body belongs to a girl. Ooookay.

    Anyone else think he's in the closet? Come out already.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Sixoh

      If it doesn't make sense to you, no one can explain it. You're an idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm |

    THIS IS A BUNCH OF BULL! for a boy and a girl to wreslte means nothing they both know what the sport concists of and how dangerous it can get! who ever wins in a match is not because hes and boy and shes a girl its because there the better wrestler. boys and girls should not have any descretion about wreslting each other its a sport and everyone needs to deal with the fact of girls on a mat!!!!!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  7. saylorscreek

    Wow....Does anyone understand what a conscience is anymore? What about integrity? This kid sounds like he is the only one who has either of those anymore. Do what you feel is right, Mr. Northrup. You are the only one who has to live with your conscience...

    February 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  8. Rizzzod

    Ill wrestler. Ill give her the Bronco. Perhaps a portugese breakfast.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  9. Hapal

    Good for you Joel!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |

    this is bull girls and boys should not have any problem with wrestling each other its a sport, and who ever wins wins not because there a boy or a girl but because there the bettter wrestler. for ANY

    February 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • FreedomBaby

      I would not allow my son to wrestle a girl. it's inappropriate.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  11. Ken

    I feel bad for the kid. He was put in a tough spot. He has his prinicples so good for him.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  12. sadie

    I am so glad that this boy stood up for his convictions. It's a great day when a teen doesn't fold and do the expected or pc thing.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  13. Dave

    My hat is off to you Noel! You will never regret standing up for principles you believe in – even if it seems hard at the time.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  14. Thomas

    this guy is chicken(four letter synonym for crap) for not wrestling a girl. citing your faith as an excuse not to wrestle, i bet you were too scared you were going to lose. even jesus is laughing at you right now i bet.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • FreedomBaby

      what a cop out. this is just an opportunity for you to make fun of a christian. But you are to coward to admit it. guess you just don't believe in standing up for YOUR beliefs.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  15. Shawn

    He is a coward. He's afraid he's going to lose or he's afraid he's going to get made fun of or both.
    This isn't about convictions. He just needs to learn to leave his ego at the door.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • FreedomBaby

      It is about convictions. My son has be raised the same way and I would disapprove of him man-handling a female even if it is in the name of sports.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • ftalbert

      I'm proud of this boy. I've raised my sons with the same beliefs. As some one pointed out earlier, it was a no win situation for the boy no matter what

      February 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • nick

      Spoken like a man full of ego.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  16. Keith


    February 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  17. Mick

    I've got a large Beauoner

    February 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  18. Guest

    You would be suprised how many girls that wrestle want to be touched in the way that guys wrestling them are trying to avoid...

    February 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  19. Hahavens

    Those who say he's had a bad education - I wonder how good your education is, especially in Americna History and Government, that you don't realize he's simply excercising his right to have his own beliefs and opinions.
    I certainly don't agree with the kid's "convictions," as he calls them, but I respect that he is not forcing others to live by his creed. Kudos to him for simply taking the forfeit, rather than demanding that the female opponent be penalized in any way, or that he should receive special treatment.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  20. Pete

    A guy at my high school wrestled a girl and his lil wrestler came to attention... seems like a lose-lose situation no matter what... you either 1. Lose to a girl 2. Beat a girl 3. Get publicly excited and humiliated, LOL

    February 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • WayOutThere

      You failed to mention: 4. State your core beliefs, follow them, and face ridicule of judgmental / ignorant people. He chose #4.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Sixoh

      Both of you are right!

      February 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Farrah

      II'm with you guys. No matter which of the four options you choose, it's a no win situation. I'm proud of this boy for sticking to his beliefs. I hate he had to forfeit, but props to him!

      February 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Jo

      If he was putting all his concentration where it belonged, which was with the the job at hand, he wouldn't have had a problem. I've seen many a mixed wrestling match with no problem.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
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