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. Scott

    Why is this news! A boy forfeiting to a girl happens about every other weekend in wrestling tournaments here. Win or lose, this is a no win for the boy so many will choose to not wrestle. Girls wrestling needs to become a separate sport.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  2. Blasphemer

    If he forfeits the match, then he has no chance to be tournament champion. The best he can do is wrestle back to third. I guess god isn't on his side.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  3. Logic

    This is an example of how someone can be put into a situation where no matter the outcome, people with an agenda can manipulate the motivation for the situation into a negative attribute for the subject. If he; Refuses to wrestle a woman, he is therefore afraid to wrestle a woman. Wrestles a woman and wins, he is therefore a misogynist and wants to beat up women. Wrestles a woman and loses, he is therefore not as strong as a woman. This kind of manipulation is rampant. Applying this manipulation to children is wrong. Gender roles have changed for women much more than men. Example: As a man I can wear pants, but not a skirt. As a woman, I can wear pants or a skirt. There are many more options for women in choosing their role, and no decision is seen as a bad one. Men are still constrained by their gender, and there is still a perceived right decision, and a wrong decision. This has led to an imbalance in society. Equality has to cut both ways. Whether this is truly practical in all scenarios is questionable.

    I think the kid did the right thing, I wouldn't want my son to hit a girl either.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  4. ctc

    I think he should wrestle her an use the time to feel every inch of her, this is what she wants. This is what all of you in favor of him wrestling her want. Maybe a law suit out of it for her to get college money. If she wins I doubt any college will offer her a scolarship to the mens wrestling team. Those of you in favor are not wanting equals right, you are looking for some other benefit.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  5. Jonnyola

    It's a shame that society has come to this. I treat women equally but not as a gentleman would treat a lady. I don't put my raincoat over a mud puddle for you to walk on nor do I open any doors for you. It's what you women wanted. Welcome to the work force.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • wrestler

      Well, even as a woman I open doors for other people. It's called welcome to being a grown up and not a petulant child.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  6. Eleiana

    If this young man had decided against wrestling a female opponent for reasons of wishing to avoid body contact, I would have nothing but respect for him, his decisions, and his morals. However, it appears his decision was made not from wanting to avoid body contact with a female, but from the fact that wrestling can be a more violent sport with risk involved, and frankly, it was/is HER decision to accept risk and to engage in violent activities; it is her choice and none of his business. If he wishes to avoid wrestling a female because he feels uncomfortable in body contact with one or because he feels it morally or religiously wrong to make such contact, fine by me and descriptive of moral character (whether or not one agrees with that version of moral character); but if his decision is based solely off of believing females shouldn't engage in violent activities...Well, I suggest he wake up and join the 21st century; females engage in plenty of "violent" activities and it happens to be THEIR choice to make and should remain their choice to make, just as it is for males.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  7. deb

    where have all of you been? My niece wrestled in Oregon against boys since she was about 5 or 6. She went on to wrestle for her high school and then entered into womens wrestling where she placed first in her state a couple of times and ranked third in the nation her second year at Nationals. Had she not started in a wrestling club that allowed girls to compete against boys she would probably have not received the training she needed to go as far as she did. She was well respected by the boys on her team. Especially the ones she could out wrestle!

    February 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • sara

      I wouldn't be surprised if the boys chose to lose as they missed opportunities that required them to grab her in awkward places

      February 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  8. JiminTX

    Its appalling how many fundies want to take this country back to the days when women couldn't vote and their only career options were a maid or a nurse.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • wrestler

      Oh, come on! This boy just doesn't want to wrestle with a girl. It's his choice. No one is taking away anyone's right to vote.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Robert

      I am searching for an old photo which you may have heslibpud. It was provided by Maringi Osbourne and information and names provided by Ngai Tahu archives . the photo is of girls at te waipounamu college in 1911. there is a reference number ISSN 1175-2483 Of interest to me are the photos of 4 Taiaroa girls and the Walscott sisters can you help me . thank you

      April 1, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  9. Eva da Diva

    Joel Northrup did the right thing!!! Since when do girls and boys/male and female participate as opponents. In every other sport genders are separated!!! He is an honorable man and will make some woman proud and happy some day. Men are stronger than women physically and girls have tender body parts such as breasts.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  10. Tim

    I spent a year as an assistant coach on the high school level and I can agree with this young man on his decision. There are at times some holds that involve grabbing in areas that we have been taught is social unaccepted. I have seen fights at tournaments between boys where one thought the other was being inappropriate. And for a young man at this age, I can imagine that contact to some of these areas will be mentally disturbing for him during a match.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  11. Guy

    There are two simple reasons he wouldnt wrestle a girl.

    1. He doesn't want to touch her in any way he would consider inappropriate which would likely be inevitable if he wrestled her.
    2. He is not comfortable with competing aggressively with a girl in a way that he could potentially harm her. Its not disrespect for her skill. He simply doesnt thinks its proper.

    Bravo kid!

    February 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Eva da Diva

      exactly!!! Why should he have the right to put his hands all over a female and call it wrestling??? Then when they aren't wrestling and he does it it's illegal??

      February 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  12. Brian

    CNN is trying to make this a story about intolerance towards females, but it is always wrong as a male to fight a female, even if it is a sport and even if she wants to. He said he doesn't want to be violent towards a girl, and he is not protesting anything.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  13. Eva da Diva

    Joel Northrup did the right thing!!! Since when do girls and boys/male and female participate as opponents. In every other sport genders are separated!!! He is an honorable man and will make some woman proud and happy some day. Men are stronger that women physically and girls have tender body parts such as breasts.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  14. Bob in Pa

    If Girls are to wrestle, it should be with Girls. With all the hormones racing at that age, what will the poor kid do should he become aroused ? An overall good decision.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  15. Refreshing To See

    I'm a from CT and can assure you that such principled decisions are rarely witnessed around here. We're in the business of celebrating poor decisions by our youth. He's my new hero.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  16. former female wrestler

    I was on the wrestling team my freshman year, and had to deal with this kind of crap all the time, but it is one of the things you accept when a girl signs up for such a sport. But as far as boys being stronger than girls... let me tell you that is BS, at least in the lower weight classes. I was 99lb and the closest teammate to my size was a boy who weighed 106lb. He was really scrawny because he hadn't really gone through puberty yet. I could do more weight on the leg press, I almost always beat him on the mat, and I could do more push-ups than almost everyone on the team. Of course, the bigger guys always beat the crap out of me... ^_^;;

    February 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  17. Samdou

    Amazing how nasty things get over an article and so far off the track. The kid doesn't have to be a nut or a wimp just because he doesn't want to wrestle a girl. He made a choice and is willing to take the consequences. The girl, however motivated, isn't going to make it very far simply because she is a girl. These young men work out, are strong, and unless the girl weighs 230 lb, outmatch any female. It's just the nature of the sport. It's interesting to see a few girls at the wrestling tournaments but they normally lose their matches and are admired for the most part for their willingness to put themselves out there in a male-dominated sport. Those of you criticizing this boy should attend some tournaments and see what they're like. For those who aren't particularly wrestling enthusiasts, even some of the holds the boys get into seem weird. I can't judge this boy and certainly don't see any point in condemning him.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Parkwood

      Samdou-did you read the article? How do you think the girl got this far in the tournament? Obviously she has to be strong enough to have defeated somebody.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  18. sockpuppet

    This isn't about not respecting how great the girls are as wrestlers, it's about respecting them as women. It's refreshing to see a young man that recognizes how inappropriate it is to be physically grappling with a female and touching intimate parts of her body. Good for him, standing on his convictions.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Gary


      February 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Curt


      February 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • commonsense77


      February 17, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  19. Adam

    Don't blame the kid, with our litigious society and with all the ambulance chasers, he'd probably get sued or arrested for "inappropriate" touching.

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

      i applaud this young man's character.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • forwardbias

      ha ha.. good one..

      February 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  20. SuzinFL

    It just seems strange to me why they wouldn't have boys wrestle boys and girls wrestle other girls. To me, it's awkward to have them wrestling against each other, especially during the teenage years when things are awkward anyway. I respect the boy for not wrestling the girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • former female wrestler

      nice thought, but on a team with 28 boys and 2 girls, and the other school has no girls, and there is a 30lb between you and the other girl on your team... not likely

      February 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • waitasec

      maybe society is afraid of putting a boy to shame...
      it is possible.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • sara

      I agree

      February 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Tim

      Some states do girls and boys in separate tournaments. I find it odd that a key state in wrestling doesn't have a separated system. I would think if the state doesn't have enough female wrestlers, they should do a multi-state tournament.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:22 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.