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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. john316

    Good grief.....just reading the comments here is scary....hopefully these two individuals won't ever read them....for their sake.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  2. T

    Some people here are pretty ignorant. I'm a girl, I don't wrestle but my boyfriend does so I go to the tournaments. I have seen some VERY good girls. There's been girls that have won at states. I understand this boy's decision but there's no reason, normally, that a girl shouldn't wrestle a boy.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  3. BOk

    My son is 6' 5" and athletic. Why can't he play on the girls volleyball team since there is no program for boys? How many dads and moms would want to get spiked in the face from a stong athletic boy just because he enjoys volleyball?

    February 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Charlie Nuckle

      Because boys are typically stronger than girls, a girl wanting to wrestle with boys is asking to face stronger opponents. Much like a junior high student asking to compete against high school kids. A male athlete wanting to play volleyball against girls is more like an adult wanting to compete against high school students. Not the same thing.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  4. Terry

    Bottom line: This young man is a hero. Well-done, Joel. I can only hope other young men follow your chivalrous example.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  5. H.W.E.

    All right, guys. Let's be real for a minute here. This has nothing to do with anybody's Christian faith, gender differences in strength, or anything else.

    The kid was just afraid he'd get a giant, embarrassing erection in his spandex unitard if he got all physical with this girl. And given that wrestling is popular in Iowa and that there seems to have been a giant crowd, I don't blame him either. It's just that he can't say that, so he made up something about Jesus or whatever.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Charlie Nuckle

      I agree, I think that's actually the most likely reason.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  6. FIREHEART

    Respect Joel Northrup. Respect.

    What little decency is left in your nation, resides within your family, Joel.
    Respect.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  7. Texas

    When I was in high school it was against the law and regulations for boys to compete with girls. Even in practice we were not supposed to interact with female wrestlers for all the obvious reasons. This might have been the first case of a girl wrestling in a boys tournament. Its not like football.. They do have girl wrestling teams.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  8. BUFFALO

    Okay...After much thought on the matter..I will volunteer to take that young man's place and wrestle a teen-aged girl. I know what you're thinking but it's not like that at all...(muffled giggling)...Someone has to do this and I shall...hee-hee...at great risk to myself, volunteer...hee-hee-hee!...to face down my fears and...and...RISE TO THE CHALLENGE!

    February 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  9. DJ Potter

    What an idiot. Big surprise that he attributes his refusal to wrestle a female to his "faith." A wrestler should be judged by the capability and talent they bring to the table, not by their gender. Anyone who applauds this knucklehead's decision ought to be ashamed.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • FIREHEART

      What about boxing Mr Potter? Do you think it is ok for men to beat up women in the ring,
      or do you believe that beating up women should be beneath a mans dignity?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Nathan

      What an intolerant statement. Just because you don't share the same convictions as another person, you should try to accept and appreciate that we are all different and see the world differently. Diversity makes this country great. Not just diversity of race or gender, but diversity of opinion and faith as well. Whether I agree with this kid or not, I applaud him for doing the right thing as he saw it, despite the sacrifice it took.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Tony

      Potter, I just think you are using this as an opportunity to "faith" bash. I'm agnostic and I'll be the first to say, what ever it might have been that fueled this young boys convictions, he was absolutely right to turn down the match.

      Putting all that aside, let me ask you. What if it were you, and you decided to go forward with the match and you seriously injured her? Would you just walk away with the thought in your mind that she asked for it? Or would you feel truly ashamed that you won by beating a girl, and seriously hurting her in the process? Then ask yourself in hindsight would you do it again if you had the chance.

      Now realize that this young kid you just bad mouthed had more foresight than you about the possible consequences of his actions.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Charlie Nuckle

      Tony, why would that be any different than hurting a male opponent?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Tony

      Charlie, while you might see this. To answer your question, we live in a society where its typically unacceptable for men to fight women for very obvious reasons.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Charlie Nuckle

      The reasons are not so obvious. We aren't talking about a bar fight.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  10. TruthandJustice

    I can understand concerns about girls wrestling guys, but there aren't enough girls interested to have wrestling teams so it's wrestling with the guys or don't wrestle at all. The girls who sign up for wrestling know what they getting into and if I was that girl I'd be insulted. If she didn't want to wrestle against guys then she wouldn't have gone out for wrestling.

    Wrestling is also no more "violent" than any other contact sport. It's a game, people compete, they're aggressive, and there's a small risk of injury, but it's not violent. The only people who consider sports violent, even sports like MMA, are just hippies and tree-huggers that are jealous of people having some fun. I can respect the guy's commitment to his beliefs, but the guy's still an idiot and accomplished nothing but a forfeited spot in the tournament, as there is no Biblical reason that women can't participate in sports with men.

    Are women at a disadvantage when wrestling against guys? Probably. But this is a recreational activity, not a duel to the death. Even women don't win matches very often, who cares? It's a game, let them have some fun if they enjoy it, and stop being such a downer.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  11. SPLAT!~

    Good for her! If she made it to the state tournament that means she had to place in the top three in both sectional and district tournaments, no small feat. She has more skill and determination than the majority of males in her weight class state wide. I have nothing but admiration for her efforts. WELL DONE!

    February 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • SPLAT!~

      And to achieve such success in Iowa, the wrestling capital of the nation, is even more impressive! Again, WELL DONE!

      February 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  12. FIREHEART

    Girls can mud-wrestle if they like.

    But do not expect a man to wrestle a woman.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  13. loco

    He should have just tied her up in a knot and pinned her!!! To spoil his great record is foolish.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Charlie Nuckle

      Maybe she could've beat him, who knows.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  14. Sterling

    While boy and girls should be free to play whatever sports pique their interests,in my opinion,some sports should not be played with one another.It is a no win situation!If she were to get hurt ,then the boy would accused of being too rough.But if she won,the acccuastion would be that she got pass even she won fair and square.But it is not fair to either side because a forfeiture is not truly a win.Any win or lose should be earned.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  15. wrestler girl

    While I respect this young man for sticking to his beliefs, I am bit confused by many of the comments on this board. There are many girls who wrestle in high school and are forced to do so on the boys' team because there are not resources for an all female team. As a former high school wrestler and a female, I can understand both sides of this issue. While there are certainly differences in strength between men and women, wrestling is a sport where weight is taken into account, and as a result, the differences in strength can be compensated by technique. Wrestling as a female and wrestling a female can be difficult positions, but overall, it can be a great learning experience. Just as I respect this young man's decision not to wrestle a young woman, I also respect that young woman for being out there, doing what she loves, and breaking barriers.

    Btw, arousal is not usually an issue- once you're on the mat, focus stays on the match.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Joe

      Wrestling is in weight classes, but pound per pound boys are just stronger than girls. It doesn't mean they're better, but they are different. And a girl might just be thinking about the match, but I can guarantee a guy is thinking " I'm fighting a girl".

      February 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  16. Volin

    While I do not agree with his decision, I do applaud and congratulate the young man for standing by his convictions.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  17. gadian

    Sorry boy, but if the girls have proven themselves strong enough and good enough to wrestle in the championship with the boys then you are outright insulting them by refusing to wrestle them. You will not hurt them. You will not embarrass them. Hell, you may not win at all. Last I checked, a real gentleman accepts the woman on her terms and does not directly insult her. Besides, all bets are off. These girls want to be considered as one of the boys and you NEED to treat them as one. I do understand if you're worried you'll get aroused. That happens.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Bob the builder

      I have no idea what you are talking about, he just does'nt think that it would be a good idea for a physically stronger boy to wrestle with a girl.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Berry

      Who said the girls "proved" themselves by making it that far in the match standings? Maybe their records are based on others who forfeited...
      Way to go, Joel! Stand up for what you believe in. It takes a big man to do what you're doing and follow those beliefs. Your parents raised you well.
      There are plenty of other sports for the girls. If they and their parents truly loved the sport they could work at getting an all-girl league going. Otherwise, get out and leave the sport to those it was meant to be for.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Tony

      Sorry, as much as I'm for womens equality this makes no sense. Its precisely why you have boys and girls basketball etc. Generally speaking men are physically stronger than women and what happens if he seriously harms her? If it were you, how would you feel about that? You win the match and in the process you broke her arm or something? Loosing to a girl doesn't seem like a concern for this kid. Seems like he just has a healthy respect for himself and a firm grasp on the consequences of his actions. Its sad that students in this case are more mature than the facilitators of the event.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Joe

      This has to do with touching a girl to put it bluntly. Not only is he stronger, the act of wrestling means a lot of grabbing of the body. It's not fair to even ask him to fight a girl. He'd be worried about where he could/should touch her, and he'd be worried about hurting her. Fighting her isn't a sign of respect for her. I'm sure she just wants to compete, but I'm shocked her mom wouldn't try to talk her out of it.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • yvonne

      I think he made the right decision...Why is there not a league just for girls? He made a good choice and I agree with him.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • imuststandup

      Gaidan, that's the way Northrup should think about this situation in the future. All females are not nearly as delicate as some males like to think we are. And Bob, how do you know the boy is physically stronger? We'll NEVER know who should've won, because the boy up and forfeited.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • imuststandup

      Sorry I messed up your name: Gadian. 🙂

      February 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  18. Dale Hedgecoth

    The Northrup family were my neighbors for a few years and I have known them to be consistant in their beliefs for more than 20 yrs before Joel Northrup was born. Personal glory is not their style.I'm sure they seek neither political statement or ill will toward anyone.I applaud Joel for his respect for women & his faith.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  19. everyone

    Bravo for that young man. Bravo.

    Men don't compete against women in any other sport, why would the highest contact sport of all be a good place to start. So creepy.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Mike5809

      Really? Men don't compete against women in any sport? It took me 5 seconds to come up with four; Figure Skating (couples), Racing, Fishing, Golf. While it isn't common, it happens.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Joe

      Mike, those aren't contact sports that you mentioned. And they aren't competing directly either. The thought of a girl competing against a guy in full contact sports like boxing, wrestling, football, hockey, judo etc is just creepy and very dangerous.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • A

      I guess you didn't see where he mentioned the word "contact" before sport.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • icrabidppl

      you don't speak for everyone...luckily. if she wants to do it, then do it. i've seen plenty of females kick a males @ss in martial arts and wrestling. contact sports. get over it and get used to it.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  20. Terry

    When I was a teen, if I would have gotten to wrestle a girl, I would have been taking every possible oppoortunity to grab her boobs. That may sound bad, but it's the truth. I would not have cared if I lost the match or even if I was disqualified. I would have jusr spent the whole match feeling-up her boobs and then, afterward, I would have bragged and laughed with my friends about how much I had felt the girl up. I'm not saying that is right but, as a hormone-crazy teen, oh yeah....I would have just used that wrestling match to get a full-palm grab on her boobs.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • jacob

      You would not have looked so good to your friends if she pinned you while you were concentrating on her boobs. Especially if it lost you a chance at a championship

      February 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Kelly

      This is true of most teenage boys, which adds all the more to the respect I have for this young man. I think he showed a lot of character, and this had to be a hard choice to make considering his record of wins.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Bob the builder

      The only wrestling girls should be involved in should be with strap-ons and oil

      February 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Joe

      When I was in high school girls weren't allowed in wrestling, and certainly not against boys. I went to house leagues once and there was a girl in wrestling. I never went back. It would have just been too weird. For one thing a boy is a lot stronger, and there is the issue of where you could touch her, on purpose or accidentally. It's lose-lose. And of course it could be embarrassing if the girl won. We have enough issues growing up without putting boys and girls against each other in contact sports. Sometimes the quest to be fair to everyone is just silly.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Mike

      I would have grabbed her boobs during the entire match and then told her to "take it like a MAN". Women love equality, right up until the point where they have to put their money where their mouth is. Then we see just how "equal" women really are. LOL

      February 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • elle

      @Mike, ummm, the article wasn't about a woman complaining about equality. Your comments make you seem rather disrespectful and lacking in many areas. You should consider where you stand in life, are you perhaps at the bottom of the heap?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Tim

      Joe,
      In combat sports strength actually means very little, while it's good to be fit it doesn't matter who can bench or squat more. Wrestling, boxing, etc are all about who has the best form, technique, endurance, and flexability. It may feel weird for a split second until you realize because you couldn't take it seriously the girl has you pinned and you can't get out of it.

      In football strength may matter but not in wrestling or boxing, if they're in the same weight class and both have good training it'd actually be a good fight.

      Kimbo slice was a lot stronger and bigger than Seth Petruzelli but he still knocked out kimbo in 14 seconds

      February 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • icrabidppl

      these kids sound more mature than most of the adults on here. he did what he felt he had to do, good for him, but the girls have every right to wrestle. by way of being female doesn't mean they are out-matched. they're wrestling in their weight brackets, for one. two, wrestling does have rules and specific maneuvers and takes some skill along with agility. finally, she would know the difference between being touched by way of an actual wrestling maneuver and being groped for the fun of it. and then she'd probably get back in there and kick his @ss. not whine about it as at least one person here implies. these girls are tough and they deserve to be respected. i think most of the guys wrestling them have way more maturity than the grown men on this message board seem to have. certainly more than you afford them

      February 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      This is what happens when society alters the natural state of humans (in this case by using birth control pills) and tries to take short cuts to selfish short-term pleasures. Gays, confused se-xuality, tomboy wrestlers, single parent children, working moms, po-rn and grat-ituous nu-dity are just the beginning. Watch christiandom descend further and further into weirdo stuff virtually unheard of 100 years ago. Just a matter of time before 'equal rights' conclude that women should be free to walk around to-pless and the powerful po-rn industry legally confronts and pours money into eliminating the remnants of "decency" based laws from society.

      Islam and its more assured and secure family-oriented laws and child rearing culture will only grow in strength as a result. Taking over emptying churches and taking in good christian converts caught between their po-rn pushing society and their own wishy washy insecure christian theology.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:01 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.