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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. Norm Mowry

    I think back to when I was a teenager. I can imagine myself ducking this match, too, for fear that everyone in that school would see me with a raging hard-on.

    If the kid don't want to wrassle, leave him alone, man.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  2. peoplearestupid

    guess he still gets to point up to heaven even though he forfeited.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • jabo j

      And you just proved that you are stupid with that comment.. Stupid people like you refuse to see the good in anything or anybody.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  3. don

    The boy is not only correct in his belief but very wise in how he handled it – many of those who posted on here could learn a lot from him.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  4. Parkerman

    No matter how much women push for equality. most men (boys) will feel uncomfortable physically fighting a women in any form. Its how we are hard wired in our brians to protect females. Even if we aren't a big guy and can reallly do little physically we still have that conditioning in our brain where we feel thats our role. I am not a big guy and could not hold my own against a lot of other males physically, but I would still be trying to push my wife out of the way of harm at the risk of my own life.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  5. Parkerman

    No matter how much women push for equality. most men (boys) will feel uncomfortable physically fighting a women in any form. Its how we are hard wired in our brians to protect females. Even if we aren't a big guy and can reallly do little physically we still have that conditioning in our brain where we feel thats our role. I am not a big guy and could not hold my own against a lot of other males physically, but I would still be trying to push my wife out of the way of harm at the risk of my own life.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • jabo j

      Spoken like a real man Parkerman. I feel exactly the same.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  6. Reads

    Conisdering one of the starting postions you are almsot ramming the girl down, I can see why he is afraid of getting a woody. What a cruel and horrible thing to do to a teen aged boy.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  7. Wrestling Mom

    I completely disagree with the practice of letting girls wrestle boys. If this was a predominantly female sport, for example, volleyball, and a boy wanted to participate, he would not be allowed to. I am sick of the double standard. Most boys are not comfortable wrestling girls. If the girls can't generate enough interest among other girls to build a female wrestling team, then find another sport.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Ituri

      Sorry, "Mom," but I happen to know two boys who tried out for a girls volleyball team and were admitted since there was no boys team to play on. Not one complaint from what I know of it. Your double standard against boys doesn't exist, not nearly the way it has for women.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  8. David Bustamante

    Did he sign up for girl's wrestling?

    February 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  9. OCroger

    It doesn't take "character" or "convictions" to refuse to wrestle a girl who has already proven herself to be worthy of the challenge. All it takes is a lot of backwards upbringing based on useless tradition and gender inequality being passed off as "family values." It's unfortunate that someone with his talent and motivation was brought up in an environment which offers no positive contribution to society.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • jabo j

      There's always one in the crowd who is so prejudiced they refuse to see the good in anyone. Many thanks to this young man's parents who raised him to think for himself and do what's right, even if it brings out the worse in people like you.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  10. FIREHEART

    Congratulations Joel Northrup.
    You are a man of honor, and a true champion.

    Thank you Sir, for standing up for what is right.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  11. Iheartyou

    This young man's parents should receive a medal! This is what good parenting results in. A strong and self-confident child. I totally respect this kids character. What impressed me most is that he did not make a big deal of it. Just respectfully declined and moved on. No tweets, calls to TMZ, Facebook posts, etc., just a polite "no, thank you".
    I'm of the mind that girls should never be denied entry into any sport simply because they're girls – it's discriminatory and wrong. The same for boys. But they also should not be forced to do anything that they feel is against their grain, or condemned if they stand their ground. This young man had the courage of his convictions and I wish more young kids had his strength. He has gumption, as my grandma used to say. :o)

    February 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Frank M

      Well said!

      February 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  12. Tom R

    He is probably just affraid he will get aroused.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • jabo j

      You've got that right. And, it would be impossibe to hide in those wrestling outfits.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  13. katie

    So let me get this right.. he has no problem touching all areas of a male opponet, but a problem with wrestleing a female? That doesn't seem odd to anyone else?

    February 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • jabo j

      Only a certain segment of societty would think like that Katie.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Jacob

      No, I don't see it as odd. Wrestling between men inevitably leads to touching a lot of areas. However, this kid does not believe it is honorable or appropriate for him to touch a girl in that way. Have you ever considered the fact that maybe he sees touching women that way as dishonorable and disrespectful? What ever happened to honor...

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

      As a long-time-ago former wrestler, yeah, it's sort of gay sometimes, but it's fun sport. Some of the girls that we used to have were just incredible athletes with great technique. I'm not sure what honor and respect have to do with forfeiting a match. As my grandfather used to tell me as a child, honor and pride are the signs of a weak mind.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  14. TEDDY

    Hear Hear Kudos for the young man, What in the heck are girls lumped in with the boys for? If there are two girls let them wrestle for the championship of the world then, they DO NOT belong in combat with males! Why are pro women tennis players not put in with men, pro golfers,baseball,hockey and on and on. They shouldnt be because they are not as Physically strong, nothing wrong with that, its just the way it is. Why should this young man have to be put in the position of possibly hurting a little girl. This is a no win situation for the lad, the girls should have their own catagory, if not possible then too bad. The girls parents seem to have no problem with a default win, so let her win cause there are no other girls and she can be the champion of the world Mom and Dad.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Eleiana

      "Why should this young man have to be put in the position of possibly hurting a little girl. "
      -------------------------------------

      So, he's a "young man" (a term implying respect and nearing adulthood) and she's a "little girl" (a term implying childhood, dependency, and nowhere near adulthood) even though there's the same age? Your prejudice is showing here, I'm afraid; if you're going to use the term "young man" for a boy of a certain age, then the term "young woman" or "young lady", etc., should be used for a girl of that same age, NOT the term "little girl"; which is an insult when applied to a female of that age while a male of that age is addressed in more mature terms.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  15. Reads

    Considering the starting position you are almost ramming her down, I can relate to his fear of getting a woody in front of the whole audience and teammates. What a horrible thing to do to a teen aged male.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  16. amerikomikey

    why is this even a story, this kid is a wuss for lack of a better word I can use.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  17. Sweet666

    He was just afraid to get beat by a girl 🙂

    February 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  18. johnrj08

    This is RIDICULOUS! Why are girls wrestling boys? Boys in high school are loaded with testosterone and much stronger than girls. A girl with reasonable strength and great technique MIGHT be able to wrestle a boy, but what boy would want to open himself up to that kind of ridicule if he lost? This creates a lose-lose situation for both kids. If the girl wins, she gets heckled and, if the boy wins, he gets heckled. There may be girls out there who are freakishly strong and well-trained, but they're one in millions. This whole issue is preposterous.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Wrestler

      I don't see what the big deal is. We had female wrestlers in high school when I was a kid. They were tough as nails and very strong for their size. A few guys forfeited wrestling them because they were afraid and pansies, but that's what separates the men from the boys.

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

      So if the girl is talented and skilled and a phenomenal wrestler, she should not be allowed to wrestle because a boy might have his feelings hurt? If she goes bowling with friends should she lose to the boys as well so they will like her? Move out of the dark ages!

      February 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • NJoos

      Both girls were successful going up against boys already, as they were both in the state tournament. The girls were wrestling because they loved wrestling, and because Iowa doesn't have a female league, like other, larger states may.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • training issues

      mitworld.mit.edu/video/729 Learning to See in the Dark. I would highly recommend the books In A Different Voice, The Birth of Pleasure, The Deepening Darkness. Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future by Carol Gilligan also. They can only say so much in a lecture. The books are much more thorough.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • training issues

      mitworld(dot)mit(dot)edu/video/729 [Replace the (dot) with.] Learning to See in the Dark. I would highly recommend the books In A Different Voice, The Birth of Pleasure, The Deepening Darkness. Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future by Carol Gilligan also. They can only say so much in a lecture. The books are much more thorough.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  19. Jason in MN

    While his forfeiture is a principled move, I think he's learning the wrong lesson. If the officials of the sport have determined that it is a gender-neutral situation (as are many situations in life), then he is doing himself more harm than good by quitting. What he's showing is an ingrained belief that he feels women and men should be different in this situation. Whether that's right or wrong in high school wrestling or not is another issue. But when he gets out into the real world, he will find more women 'competing' in a 'man's world' and he needs to learn to accept that and the equality of women unless he wants to be viewed as close-minded person.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • TEDDY

      Ya jason but the officials are wrong, any kind of a self respecting guy is going to lay off so he doesnt hurt the girl. Some of us were just brought up that way.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • don

      I think you are turning it into something it is not. He said it was due to the fact that wresting can and is a violent thing and he doesn't believe ok to do it because of THAT reason. Your point is not a reflection of this situation.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • ajk68

      His "ingrained" belief is correct. Men and women are different.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Patrick

      OK... so let's put men vs. women in all the other sports, such as track, basketball, swimming, etc, and see how well they do. They probably wouldn't even make the team. Which is why there are 'records' for men's sports, and then 'records' for woment's sports, and the women's records are always(?) less (ie slower) than the men's.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • training issues

      ajk: different, but equal. isn't this why we put more money into athletic departments? so women would have sports also?

      February 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • jabo j

      When he finishes his education and goes out into the real world, I doubt he will have to wrestle a woman for a job.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • ajk68

      Equal in dignity, not in ability. The equality of the genders does not come in pretending men and women are the same (or should be) – this is the mistake of radical feminism.

      Clearly the fact that we earmark money for the different programs is a source of inequality and discrimination – one which may be completely warranted.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  20. J. Thomas

    Religion makes people weak and stupid.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • JcReliver

      You prove your own words.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Rosebud

      and racist, ignorant and blind.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • DAN B

      MOST OF THE TIME I would agree but i gotta give it to the young man for standing up for his convictions.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • training issues

      mitworld.mit.edu/video/729 Learning to See In the Dark

      February 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Sweetpea

      Everybody worships something.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • FIREHEART

      So, you Atheists like to beat up women then, Mr Thomas.

      Thank you for clearing that up for us.

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

      It's wrestling, not cage fighting; no one gets beat up. One athlete wins, one athlete loses, then both move on. These girls are tough as nails, not delicate flowers. We had female wrestlers when i was a kid in high school and no one had a problem with it. This kid can call it respect if he wants to, but it's that is the excuse loser losers often use (no matter what his record says). As my grandfather always told me, honor and pride are the signs of a weak mind.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:55 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.