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. Adam Parks

    This happens all the time... I have a lot of respect for this guy considering he forfeited the match in the state tournament in IOWA! It's the super bowl for wrestlers...

    February 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Seidan

      Would be interesting to find out how many of her 20 wins were by forfeit.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Puterio

      :Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too oawseme. I love what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. This is really a great blog.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  2. Sam

    Good for him.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  3. kimberly

    maybe he was worried about the transparency of being "tuned on" by the situation...which would totally suck for the son of a minister

    February 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      While I submit getting "turned on" while wrestling in public would be embarassing. It is however a natural reaction unless the kid was neutered. That would suck for anybody!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  4. a2rjr

    This is what a man of integrity is all about. You did the right thing Joel. And Ned you are an idiot and like most, no all but most liberals you have no sense of what it means to be a man.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  5. Gino

    As a former high school and collegiate wrestler, I applaud Northrup's decision. Religious convictions aside, a male paired against a female in any combat sport is a no-win situation for the guy. If he wins (as he's supposed to, since males are typically stronger and faster than females), society views him as a bully. If he loses (which can happen if the female's athleticism is superior to his own), he's a pu$$y. He loses face whether he wins or loses the match. Better to take the forfeit.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • bigdad

      Now, that's a bunch of bull. Women were equal to men until the Catholics went on a power frenzy and killed millions of women centuries ago.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • a2rjr

      Bigdad only says that because he got beat up by a nun in 8th grade.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • bigdad

      Don't knock it until you've been "nunned".

      February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • tacticalhillbilly

      "bigdad" once again your an idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Minkakross

      that really is BS. when your personal image/losing face matters more to you than the sport maybe you get a bad rap for being a pig not because you won or lost a match.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  6. Santonio

    Any man who can wrestle a girl and treat her like a man needs a mental check. It takes a man without a conscience to grope, subdue, and inflict the pain necessary to win matches on a female opponent. I myself was not a weak guy coming up through high school. I could have easily harmed any female who I went against. I commend this kid for the stance he took. This state and any other state allowing this needs to change this ASAP.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  7. Steve the real one

    No win situation. This can go 100 ways wrong. Lets suppose he gets her in a certain pin position or when they get started one wrestler gets positioned (very closely) behind the other! What's the outcome? A se-xual harrasment suit?

    February 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • civiloutside

      The girls each have something like thirty matches apiece to their credit. Not to mention they have to be practicing against someone. Apparently they've worked that part out to their satisfaction.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  8. bigdad

    Of course we never heard of it until it was a minister's son. It's just plain dirty. Dirty, dirty, dirty.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  9. NobodySpecial

    I wonder what the Feminists have to say about this.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • a2rjr

      Nobody cares what those guys think.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Minkakross

      this one would say it is a pitty she did not get to improve her skills win or lose she would have likely learned something from the match that she could have taken with her into future rounds.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  10. ShannonG

    This really is unfair to both of these young people. Unfair to him to have to make a choice of forfeit and lose his chances at becoming a champion, and unfair to her that there is no girl's wrestling oppotunities. Please don't judge either of these people or their families, you don't know them.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Dave

      Well put!

      February 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  11. Jett

    Anyone who would criticize this young man for his decision is small-minded in matters of conscience.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Leann

      I believe his reason for not wrestling her is the REAL small minded issue.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  12. DAve

    You commentors are just mean. Leave him alone if he doesn't want to wrestle a girl. It doesn't mean he's gay, afraid of getting beaten or afraid of getting a woody. He signed up for a combative men's sport and is now told he has to be combative towards a woman and that doesn't seem honorable to him. We should applaud someone with integrity, not belittle him.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Tchr89

      I, too, appreciate his integrity. The thought has come to me about the integrity of CNN for allowing all these posts...some very hateful...about a minor. I doubt this kid was planning to be in the international news arena. Leave him alone. CNN, I call on you to shut down these posts. I know, I've posted others myself, but I've given it consideration and this is my last one on this topic. Minors under 18 who are accused of crimes very often have their names withheld; CNN is allowing this trashing of a minor whose name has NOT been withheld. He has committed no crime (even though some liberals might think he has...yes, I have anticipated your retorts to my statement about "no crime"). Let's leave him alone.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  13. bigdad

    I'd give anything to wrestle this girl. She can twist me in any direction she wants.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • ok.

      so you're a "bigdad" and she is a high school girl.... that makes you a pedophile.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Joe

      No not really...But a teenage girl is pretty hot . No one (at any age ) can deny that... It is just nature

      February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • bigdad

      On the serious side.....there is absolutely no time in a wrestling match to think about ANYTHING other than getting a hold and pinning the other person, male or female. It's the same old excuse to not take on the challenge by back-dooring your anti-equality bias. Women are just lower? Admit it, cowards.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  14. Jett

    What extraordinary strength of conviction.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  15. ned

    So it is part of his religious convictions to rub against men in tights, but not women? I'll assume he and his family support gay marriage.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  16. John S

    Maybe he would be more comfortable if she wore a burqua, or walked behind him to the arena. Wrestling is violent at times for males, too. These young women chose to participate, as did Northrup. He is refusing them the very opportunity he has received from all the other wrestlers he has competed against. I hope that he will ultimately see that his refusal is a form of social Neanderthalism re-packaged to be sold as "strict convictions." Bias is bias, discrimination is discrimination. Hope all your future bosses are women!

    February 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • jsh13

      Ur an idiot

      February 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Jp

      So, if I said that I was uncomfortable competing in a physical sport like say, boxing, with a woman, for moral reasons, that makes me a Neanderthal?

      You say bias is bias and discrimination is discrimination, but where do you draw the line? I see no implied or explicit gender discrimination in his polite refusal to wrestle this young woman.

      Oh, and the burqa thing? Please. Get off of your slippery slope.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Leann

      Great post and I completely agree. This girl decided to take one of the hardest challenges by playing a male dominated sport. I bet she will be great in any field she goes into when she gets older. She won't be intimidated by the guys......

      February 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Chris

      I can say for my part that I have no problem working for women. If you respect someone, you will do things for them. His decision not participate had nothing to do with chauvinism. He didn't imply that it was a silly match because he would win or that she was weak. He simply indicated that he felt wrong fighting / hurting women. I think it's good in this day and age of domestic violence and relationship abuse that some young men still think that you shouldn't hit a girl... and when you have that mentality, it's hard to give it up, even when it's just for sport... especially if you don't know the person.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  17. rickster

    i cannot find fault with this young man over this. i would not have done it. and not because my sister could whip my keester either.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • ned

      But she could.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • rickster

      yes my sister could whip my keester. she was bigger than me.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  18. mel

    Boys shouldn't be wrestling girls in the first place. As a woman I would be uncomfortable wrestling a guy. There's definately a chance of getting hurt, not to mention getting touched inappropriately.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • rickster

      i'm with you. i cannot even fathom doing this. wrestling with my sister when we were kids is one thing but this? sheesh.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Leann

      This may be due to the that generation that you grew up in. Girls should be allowed to participate in any activity that a boy do. This is a step to equality..... The fact that her gender is playing a role is the real problem.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jess

      Of course there's a chance of getting hurt. That doesn't stop two boys or men from wrestling each other. These girls are fully aware as indicated by their participation in the sport of the inherent risks. On the subject of inappropriate touching, this is also a known "risk" of the sport and has been seen countless times accidentally of course in match between two male contenders.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • jtr

      yes, but it's not YOUR wrestling match to be uncomfortable about. The girl was happy to do it. Also, spell 'definitely' correctly. Maybe you also missed that part of school.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Jp


      The fact that her gender is not playing a role is the troubling part to me.

      I believe that women should be able to participate in the same things men do, but I feel there is an obvoius limit when it comes to physical sport. Women are not built to be as muscular as men. In a sport like wrestling, it's just ridiculous to expect a girl to have a fair physical match-up against a boy. We aren't made the same.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Kelly

      @jtr Ha ha. You made fun of someone else's spelling when you didn't capitalize the first letter of your post and ended the sentence with a preposition. You must have missed that day in school.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • derp

      My wife and I wrestle all the time. I let her win. It usually works out better that way.

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

      I totally agree. When I was younger, I had no want to compete against boys in sports because it's unnecessary. This isn't about equality, it's about pushing the limits to get what you want under the umbrella of equality. When girls start getting hurt because the guys are sick of the BS, then we will see what the feminist cry is. I am sure it won't be pretty.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Jm

      Leann is funny. Boys/Girls/ Men/Women are not equal when it comes to physical prowess. That is why when the best athletes in the world compete they separate men and women. I DO believe girls/women should have the same rights as boys/men in life. However, to say that the guy has no right to "say no" when it comes to physical contact with a girl is hypocritical.
      Funny how people automatically think that it is the boys who might wrongly touch a girl. You do know that there are a lot of female perverts out there right?

      February 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Debi

      So it is better for the boys to touch other boys like that?

      February 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  19. Nancy

    I don't see why people posting here are angry with this young man. He's given his reasons and has been respectful and more than willing to take the forfeit. I think it's kind of nice in this day and age that he, his family, and the female wrestler's family are able to be amicable about this situation and not make it a bigger deal out of it than it is. JMO.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  20. Aeromechanic.

    He was totally wrong. Right.

    Pete, he very well may have not wanted to get beat by a girl and he should have never of had to face that possibility. the schools are making a horrible mistake by letting this go on.

    Why not just have all the good baseball players go out for the girls softball team, they would be standouts. Would that be fair? There is a reason we have boys sports and girls sports.So tehy can compete on even levels. Her parents should be ashamed of themselves for letting their "daughter" wrestle anyway. Why would she want to do this?

    I am very liberal, but this is beyond anything I have seen.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • ok.

      Where else in the world is a female able to physically dominate a man?

      Looking at their records and Northrup's success last year I think there is an extremely slim chance that the woman would beat him wrestling.

      When I wrestled in High School I saw a few female wrestlers at tournaments. There is no women's wrestling or football in high school. Cassy's record is 20-13 meaning she had already beaten atleast 20 male opponents. Wrestling is an enjoyable sport.

      I also find it funny that you claim to be liberal yet seem to condemn her for choosing this sport.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • JJ

      Girls were wrestling in my county in 1998 and since then, there have been no problems. While I agree that there are boys and girls sports for a reason, most counties do not offer a female wrestling team, so if they want to wrestle, they have no choice but to do so on the boys teams. And you are in NO position to tell them that they are bad parents for letting their daughter wrestle. If so, I must be a bad parent for letting my son play on a little-league team that allows boys and girls to play together.....it must promote violence and promiscuity....

      February 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Darrell

      Finally, a young man that has morals and values and isn't afraid to stand up for them, regardless what anyone else feels. GOOD FOR HIM!!!

      I think its great someone doesn't want to exhibit violence against a women even in the name of sport. I hope this young man wins state, goodness knows he deserves it.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Girls Can Grapple Too

      @Aeromechanic: He was not wrong, nor are the girl or her parents wrong. My husband and I take pride in the fact that our daughter is wrestling, both boys and girls. At a certain level, athletes want to challenge themselves to the highest degree possible. While our daughter will be competing against girls at the State level this year (because our state rules do not allow a freshman girl to compete in the boys' tournament even if she qualifies), if she qualifies for the boys' State tournament next year, we will definitely support her right to compete if she so chooses. It is completely fair that girls who meet the standards get to compete against boys. More power to them.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • pete

      you said there is a reason we have girls and boys sports

      kinda like we had lunch counters for white people and lunch counter for black people....

      i'm sure the reason he didn't want to wrestle her is not because he didn't want to get beat by her. i'm sure he believes and really feels what he said. but what about how the girl feels. she wants to participate, but can't because there is no girls only wrestling. so she does what she can, and the someone flakes out on her.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Jane

      I see nothing wrong with girls wrestling. I do see how it is unfair to the boys and yes it is something the schools need to settle out but until there are enough girls to make their own division it wont happen and it's only fair that they to get to compete. It goes for all sports. At my high school we had no girls hockey so the girls played on the boys team if they were good enough. Your basically saying that there are stereotypes for girls and boys, how is that liberal in any sense?

      February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Heid Theba

      You're being pretty loose with the term "liberal" – what you have written and being a liberal in practice are, of course, totally inimical. Perhaps you're more of a "closet conservative"...?

      February 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jessica

      She's able to wrestle because there is no girls wrestling team. There are men's and woman's ball teams so no you can't go out for the girls team.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • brian

      i would love to wrestle your daughter I would beat the tar out of her and maybe then you'll realize how selfish you are living thru ur kids. I would give here the "highest" level of a thrashing on the matt!! bring it!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • HSwrestler

      @ok: her record may have been 20-13 but that does not mean she beat 20 male wrestlers. Chances are that a substantial amount of those "wins" are also forfeits. I wrestled at the varsity level in high school for four years. I saw a lot of female wrestlers win by forfeit because no one wants to fight them. It's a lose-lose: there is no honor in beating a girl, and if you do lose you will never hear the end of it. Luckily I was never matched up with a girl so I never had to make this difficult decision.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Jamie Wright

      Frankly, there shouldn't be any such thing as men's sports or women's sports - just sports. The best athletes of any gender should make the teams. There should be upper divisions for better players and lower divisions for worse players. After that, the gender mix on the teams will shake themselves out.

      February 19, 2011 at 6:23 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.