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)


    February 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  2. EddyL

    GOOD CHOICE... why should he wrestle a lesbian?

    February 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • ep

      I agree. Gays shouldn't have to wrestle lesbians.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  3. Ellie

    The problem isn't the boy, it's his religion and the faith it has taught him to believe. Herkelman was clearly talented, and strong enough, to enter the tournament so absolutely nothing should have kept this boy from thinking it was alright to wrestle her. If his religion is teaching him that it's not right to engage a girl in an honest event because he thinks it will be too "violent" for her solely because she is female, even though she has proven to be strong enough to qualify, then he should reconsider his religion, his faith and his over outlook on what equality is.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  4. Denver Morgan

    Its great that he stood for his beliefs i dont think its right ethier to wrestle a girl or woman for that matter.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • ep

      Nonsense. Although he has a better record, her win/loss record is pretty good also. And in this sport, anything can happen. He just felt he wouldn't be able to handle the embarrassment of losing to a female. Unless of course he has aquired a social disability brought on by his home "schooling", which almost always results in some form of social retardation – an inability to interact with normal children in our modern society.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  5. dottie peterson

    I am proud to see a young man respect a girl. I don't think it is appropiate for a boy to wrestle a girl. I know it happens in my granddaughters school and i think if girls want to wrestle they should wrestle their own gender. You don't see women and men wrestling each other in the real world of course that kind of wrestling is fake anway.
    I would think the girls should have more respect for themselves than having a boy to be careful where he puts his hands and also a girls where she has to put her hands. ABSOLUTELY INAPPROPIATE

    February 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Denver Morgan

      I agree 100 percent its just not right for girls and boys to wrestle like that any girl that respected her self wouldnt
      want to put her self in that position.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  6. Curt

    wow – an individual proclaims to have morals or values and sticks to them and you throw them under a bus! just because you either don't agree or don't have a set of values or morals you stand by does not belittle that boy's stance. good for him for having ANY lines he won't cross. those that want zero boundaries and personal restrictions usually smirk at those that use self imposed personal moral guidelines to guide them in their decisions throughout life. bravo to that boy and shame on most of you for trying to demean him for his integrity. would he be slammed for not wanting to cheat on his spouse (when he is married) because that set of morals is so passe or something you might wish was lax so you could cheat with abandon? Praise the young man and look to yourself for any shortcomings you may have that you are projecting on to him.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  7. Frank

    i would feel kinda uncomfortable wrestling a female ...its all about morals and hadling them.... as much as i would want to think that shes one of the guys....in reality shes not.... shes a female.... i dont care how to though a girl says she is.... it doesnt change the fact that shes a girl...... why would they even do that at a school...? do you ever see a male Boxer or MMA Fighter vs a female...course not......

    February 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  8. rp


    February 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  9. Oh please

    I disagree with the idea that he shouldn't wrestle her because he might harm her. SHE chose to wrestle and in doing so accepted the possibility of harm. It's not his job to make that decision for her.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Frank

      hes not telling her not to wrestle....he just feels uncomfortable doing it.... next thing you know if another male does agree to wrestle her and breaks something on her...its gonna be all over the news... its not worth it.....Good luck kid!! your still young and have a bright future...

      February 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  10. Jason

    He respected his religion, not her. She was not forced into competing at a state level scholastic sport

    February 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  11. Cathy Scott Pollard

    Very much admire this young man, and would think that my sons would do the same. Testosterone is considered to give strength, in SO many sports boys/men do NOT compete against girl/women! Why Now? He is correct, He is a classy gentleman, Would ask G-d bless him.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  12. j4sef

    He's totally gay

    February 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  13. Your Panties Inna Wad

    He is a wiennie kid. He should go ahead and wrestle her. That's the way life is.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  14. Allison

    I was a female wrestler in HS, and I totally respect the guys decision to wrestle me or not. I went out for the sport because a ton of my guy friends were in it, there were open spots on the team. I saw what great shape I could get in, and I wouldn't sit a whole season on a bench in a different sport. I wasn't very good because I had never done it before, but I dropped 20 lbs, and whenever a guy on the other team refused to wrestle me it never offended me- it's thier choice, if it bothers them or they are worried about being embarassed they don't have to. However, in the state arena he does have to forfit and lose the bracket. I feel for the guy, but after all this is a sport that more and more women are getting involved in, and doing well. I am proud of both the women and men in this who are sticking to thier convictions. Sorry buddy you gotta lose in a lotta ways on this one. Go Ladies! Take State!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Your Panties Inna Wad

      I am very much impressed with your message.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  15. Winner

    He should have taken her down with a high crotch and owned her a**

    February 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  16. groundguy

    Im 15 and have werstled all my life. I personaly have never westled a girl, but have seen the matches. I have as much respect for femal westlers as I do for male wrestlers provided they give respect.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Grammar Police

      Maybe you should wrestle with a book and learn how to type.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • neophase


      February 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  17. Ken

    Joel has demonstrated that he is as effective wrestling tough challenges to his personal ethics as he is wrestling opponents on the mat. Whether we support his convictions or not, it's hard not to respect him for his display of integrity. It would be refreshing to see more people from all walks of life identify and stand for what they believe, whether we agree with them or not. It's disheartening that current events are more often repleat with those who failed to adhere to some standard, to the detriment of the well being of themselves or others.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  18. Rick McDaniel

    If he grabs her in the wrong place, he's in trouble.......so he was right to say NO!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • ep

      If he grabs his male opponent in the wrong place he's also in trouble.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  19. Aristocles

    He has a right to refuse and forfeit the match. It means a free win for her. It was his right of conscience to refuse to fight when his morals and his heart told him not to. We have those rights in America; it goes beyond freedom of religion, and goes down to the right to live one's life in the manner one sees fit within the bounds of the law. You don't have to agree with it. It can take more courage not to do something than to do something others want you to do, but you believe is wrong.

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

      Within the context of high school athletics, why can't boys and girls compete against each other in football, baseball, and basketball?

      February 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  20. amased12

    I must have missed the part in The Bible that said "thou shalt not wrestle a female" I wonder if his bigger concern is losing to a girl?

    February 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • guest

      Why it has to be a negative reason. He must have been raised with wonderful values that the youth today is lacking.

      February 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Craig

      this does not directly apply but you can infer from the passage that a woman is not to touch any man's junk other than her husband's......and there is incidental junk touching in wrestling

      "If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her."
      Deuteronomy 25:11-12

      February 17, 2011 at 6:09 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.