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. Calm Dog

    Uh... Let me get this straight. It's wrong to wrestle a girl because of the possibility of intimate touching. But it's okay to touch another guy that way? Eesch.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • commonsense77

      He he he! That's funny. Those guys are in great shape, great athletes. I respect that, but it is a little unsettling to watch at times.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  2. pineapple

    he just didnt wanna get showed up by a girl! she could of taken him

    February 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  3. Skeptik

    This kid was just afraid to lose to a girl. The girl is the real hero here. I wrestled in high school and had a girl for a team mate and she was 100 times more brave than the boys she wrestled against. This kid is part of a brainwashed religious family who disguises their fear under the guise of religion. It makes me sick.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Mike

      Bull. Look at the records. Guys with 34-5 records don't lose to many boys, let alone girls. In high school I wrestled this girl (I wrestled 170 pounds – what do you think she looked like). Pinned her in 24 seconds. Would have been 4 seconds except I didn't want to embarass her.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  4. Jesus

    A no win situation. Beat a girl and you look like a jerk, lose and you look like a big p*ssy. Right decision.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  5. Josh

    I think the whole girls wrestling with boys is absurd. Aside from the physical aspect in which gives men a distinct advantage, it also makes for an extremely award situation. It you grab another guys chest trying a move its no big deal. What happens when all of a sudden this girl decides she's been violated???? How are the boys supposed to be safe. Its ridiculous. Also, what about the social consequences of losing to a girl? Teens are so emotional as it is, so why add more to their plate?? Why do women and men have to do everything the other does? Last time I checked we look and think quite differently from each other.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  6. Peace2All

    Being in the martial arts world, in karate, and especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have encountered situations where I have had to spar either in stand-up (punching/kicking, etc..) and/or jiu-jitsu, which is extreme grappling on the ground.

    My instructors had often warned us guys, that 'be careful of the girls, do not let your guard down and underestimate them, or you may get hurt.' They didn't say ..'be careful of hurting the girls, etc..' They were warning us.

    It seems if a female is willing to step into an arena, especially like martial arts or wrestling, etc..., then 'they' are well aware of the risks, and in one sense will not and should not get treated any differently, in general, from the males.

    I have seen several times, when a male and female opponent were paired up, and the guy 'felt bad' or underestimated her, as he didn't want to hurt her, and in several of these situations, the male got his a-s-s kicked by the female, and in a couple of situations, the male got hurt, 😯 because he didn't want to hurt the female.

    My belief and experience is if, the women has chosen and earned the right to compete with the men, then they have earned that equal respect.

    In relationship to this article, the girls have obviously earned the right to be there to compete at the state competi-tion.

    And... if this young man 'chooses' for his own reasons to not wrestle the girls, that is his choice, whether one agrees with his world-view and choices or not.


    February 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Mike

      Wrestling is different. I have done both. Wrestling is different.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • former female wrestler

      @Peace2All- Thanks. I also do hapkido (Korean martial art) and ice hockey, and you put it best. I claim the risk when I decide to play a sport. If someone is worried about "touching a girl", then they should wrap themselves in a bubble and not do sports at all.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Peace2All


      And, i have done both as well, however when it comes to 'grappling' whether it is Jiu-Jitsu or wrestling, what exactly is the 'difference/s' you speak of, and how do these potential differences have any merit, or change the reality or my assertions in relationship to this article...?


      February 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • eeeeh?

      I respect the girls' accomplishments and their tenacity as well as their willingness to play a sport where they're seen as aliens.
      I also respect the boy for his choice in not wrestling the girl because he was not disrespectful towards the girls. He did not create a big stink over some belief that he should never have been put in the situation. And he definitely didn't criticize the school for allowing girls to be on the wrestling team. He simply said it was against his upbringing and I can respect that.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  7. Jon!

    Wow, this guy doesn't want to get trampled by a girl. In small rural place like that, he may never live it down. I am actually surprised. If his father is a minister and they think so conservatively, I am sure a woman's role in marriage is to be submissive and let the male be the head of the household. If his son won, it may have been a nice applied learning experience on the submissive female – he could have even tied it into the Sunday sermon. A true win-win!

    February 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Bill

      Kid would have dominated them. Look at records

      February 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  8. brad

    I commend the girl for being a great wrestler that deserves to be in the tourney (a wrestling tourny not a boys wrestling event). The boy seems misguided by his elders, can't fault him for that. Every year it is the same stories about girls in "boys" sports and they go nowhere/change nothing. I guess people just really love the wrestling stories because they want to interpret it as something seedy. In the US we strive to have men and women competing on a level playing field. The girls win/loss records prove most other wrestlers have no problem losing or winning against a girl (that is really the story – another successful year of girls competing in wrestling and other sports that traditionally were limited to just boys).

    February 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  9. Craig

    Men and women are not equal....physically they aren't even in the same ball park. It would serve her right if she got hurt. We are all equal as people....but not physically.....It's as retarded as a rabbit wrestling a grizzly bear. The rabbit deserves to be hurt because Darwin demands it.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • eeeeh?

      You obviously know NOTHING about Darwinism so please, stop using terms you don't understand like a complete moron.

      But hey, if you want to talk about stuff you know nothing about, you DESERVE the humiliation you get!

      February 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  10. nijode

    Maybe he should buy her dinner before the match?

    February 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  11. Drill SGt

    Joel is smarter and wiser than any of you home school bigots out there. Wrestling is combat with rules and I respect him for standing down. Way to go Joel!

    February 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  12. Marlye

    "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.
    Yeah sure Joel, afraid of having something else "rise to attention" is more likely. What a woosss. Dork. Go wrestle with yourself.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Miklan

      haha yes my thoughts exactly. There's usually a deeper truth behind someone's claims of "high morals," and in this case it seems very likely the real reason is that he's just embarrassed of arousal.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Mike

      Even if that is the case, why be be so negative about him? If that were the case, and he were embarrassed that it might happen, I don't blame him.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Bill

      This kid is a state lvl wrestler. These girls have .600 records. That he accepted the forfeit was def classy

      February 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  13. Former HS wrestler

    I agree with this kid.... he did the right thing.. going through HS wrestlin and watching the 2 girls on our wrestling team be orced to fight other guys on their teams and watching hem be humiliated because guys can't keep their hands to themselves or keep their mind on the match.... HS sport need to really evolve into co-ed teams in every sport out of fairness to the other genders... a 150 teen boy vs 150 teen girl will and most likely end up causing a serious injury to the girl.. no offense ladies.. but when u guy gets in a match u just. Think bou the points not much about pain n safety

    February 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • pokesalad

      Guess Women, wrestlin' and broom stick ends just don't mix well in Iowa....

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

      He stayed in the house with the dead bodys and made no atptmet to call emergency services. there is no evidence of a 4th person. His Dna was all over the victims bodiesThe guy had brain damage that was causing mood swings. he had a straid relationship with his wife and his wrestling carrer was on the downside was known for past violence. he was on illegal drugs that could of contriduted to mood. mid life crisis. etc there is so many reasons to say he did it. and seems no alternative to him no

      April 3, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  14. MT

    A couple girls came out for our wrestling team. As captain of the team I made sure we made them quit within the first week. Wrestling was huge at our school and one of our school's best sports. As brutal as it sounds we gave them bloody noses, lips to make sure they didn't want to last. It's a lose – lose situation for the guy. If he wins he only beat a girl, if he loses he is the laughing stock of the school. In wrestling a guy will not purposely feel a girl up. Just doesn't happen. For those of you who think that you have zero knowledge of the sport. Both of my younger brothers had to compete against a girl and they both won their matches. Afterwards they told me they have never wrestled anyone harder because of what would happen if they lost. I'm not saying women shouldn't wrestle but they should not wrestle guys. I have also seen people make comments saying a guy is physically stronger and that is right once they are in high school. There are a lot of girls who wrestle in youth programs. When kids are young, women often hit puberty first and are stronger then boys.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Lisa

      You sound like a REAL jerk.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Bill

      Agree with you, again, the only way to win the match is in the quickest and most humiliating manner possible, like a 30 sec bannana split

      February 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Mara Mandan

      So you're proudly boasting that you beat up some girls in high school and gave them bloody noses? And somehow this was because of your values and heightened sense of chivalry?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • pokesalad

      but let me guess... you save the broom handles for your boyfriends?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  15. Azhar Khan

    Good decision Joel!

    February 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  16. Mitch

    Good for those girls, I hope they kick butt.

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

      What's wrong with wrestling girls? There's a referee, rules, and if these girls didn't want to fight, or chance the fact that they'd be bruised, they'd be doing ballet with all the other fairytale idiots.

      Kick the boys' asses. If the girls lose, that's fine, but that's what they're CHOOSING to sign up for and compete in.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  17. Terry

    Joel is a fine young man who has a quality may people in this country no longer have: Decency. He knows that would extremmely wrong for him to man-handle a female in any way. Hopefully, he will inspire other male atheletes to take this same principled stance.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  18. Dave

    Wait, since when is wrestling co-ed, anyway? Granted I don't follow the world of high school wrestling, but from past experience, and my current knowledge, I've never heard of this. Seems a bit odd they would have such a matchup. Heck, in this day and age, one wrong accidental move and the guy would be sued for harrassment. 😛

    February 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Bill

      Its rare but def happens more then you think, esp at lower weight classes. The guys on my team usually beat girls with a saturday night ride (think pinning in a missionary position with your back arched)

      February 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Derek

      If this is how it "should" be with high school boys being inspired by this story then girls shouldn't be able to wrestle. That in itself is not right, because young boys will begin to refuse to wrestle any girl, in turn devaluing them. Is this something we should support? Is inequality the solution?

      February 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Jake

      It's coed because there is no specific "Women's wrestling" division so the girls have to be allowed to compete alongside the guys. It's the same in football.

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

      I've seen maybe 30-40 matches with girls in them. I saw a girl win once, against an 8th grade boy who was maybe 90 pounds (she was a 112 senior). That kid clearly was done with the sport. Every other one, the girl got absolutely crushed. I admire their spirit. That said, my daughter will never wrestle!

      February 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Diane Schmidt

      It's not rare, by grandsons wrestle and they have wrestled against girls. The oldest boy is a junior in high school. I think it's strange, but it is common.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • tutuvabene

      Call me an old fogey but when did mixed gender wrestling emerge on the scene anywhere, let alone high school? When I was in HS 40 years ago sports was strictly separated by gender. I believe Federal law required an equivalent sports experience for boys and girls but not mixing genders on the same team.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  19. Kashif

    I definitely respect his young boy's views and solute him for this. This young man was raised by very good parents, who taught him good values.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • GHale

      "Values" that views women as lesser beings are not values which should be respected. This boy was not stuck in some untenable situation; he was using his "religious beliefs" to devalue another human being.

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

      GHale.... You must be joking... Seriously? This boy acted respectfully. He did not treat her like less of a person, he simply showed her respect! Get a clue.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Smmy Sosa

      To respect is not to devalue. He refused to engage with a girl in what he has called a combat sport that becomes violent at times. I respect his decision. He has the right upbringing.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Beckster

      And....whose to decide what "good values" are? You're just happy because he's an evangelical Christian – you probably are too.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Daniel

      Since when is refusing to accept someones challenge on the grounds you think they're too weak for you RESPECTFUL??

      February 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Jesus of Nazareth

      This young woman has chosen to compete in a combat sport. There's nothing wrong with a boy wrestling with her and trying his hardest to win. To do any less is to disrespect her interest in competing in the sport in the first place. He's basically saying he doesn't think she should be wrestling.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Dixiechick

      Absolutely agree. A gentlemanly and decent decision. And the young woman seems to have a fine father as well, as he spoke of respecting the young mans decision and having no ill will towards him. If everyone who is actually involved can have this much class what the rest of us think does not really matter. Best wishes to all as the tournament progresses.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • SPQR

      I have to see what the girl looks like. If she looks like she could toss him like a salad then I don't know what to think.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • LMC951

      Ghale you have no clue as to what respectable values are compared to degradation. If this kid wanted to degrade this girl, he would have pinned her in seconds with his crotch stuck in her face like that viral picture of the two wrestlers that circulates the internet.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Lance

      I agree with you Kashif. It's not about devaluing anyone. Wrestling can take some violent turns and how would he feel if he ended up making a move that hurt this girl? The person who claims the issue is based on the old male dominance over female thing is out of touch with reality in my opinion with all due respect. There is a scientifically confirmed physiological difference between human males and females specifically related to strength. For laypersons, the world of sports confirms this. Men are faster runners, can lift more weight etc. Just watch any Olympic or world championship event involving these attributes to see for yourself. Having said that, men are not as capable as women in many other areas and this may include the strategy employed in wrestling, although I'm not sure. In any case, considering myself to be respectful of a woman's dignity, I can understand the young man's dilemma since I can imagine, having done some wrestling myself, that I would just naturally be taking that extra split second to think about where my hands may end up on this opponents body. Being that wrestling is a very quick reaction type sport, it could result in a loss at best and a regrettable situation at worst for the young man. The woman, on the other hand, since she is a willing combatant, risks nothing. Kudos to young Mr Northrup and to those who claim he is suggesting ms Herkelman is a "lesser being", go pound sand!

      February 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • rabidmob

      I support this boys decision. The military will not normally pair a male soldier with a female soldier for close combat training either.

      Also as the male is early in his years, he will have less control over his natural body reaction and that could be really embarrassing.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  20. palin

    Chuck Norris would wrestle that girl, break her like a twig

    February 17, 2011 at 7:17 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.