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. hs

    haha. he's just afraid he'll lose to a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  2. Tim

    He's chicken. Plain & simple.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  3. Mara Mandan

    So if someone in Afghanistan had said no physical interaction between boys and girls, we'd all be saying "oh what a backward Taliban mentality." But if someone in Iowa says the same thing, the clowns come out of the woodworks talking about how this boy was raised right and how it is all about values.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  4. rooster

    If for whatever reason she beats him,he must be a wuss for getting beat by a girl. If he kicks her butt, so what,he beat a girl, big whoopdy doo. If she gets injured ,OMG he's a monster. He can't win in any situation. You just gotta look at all the 'ifs' in a situation like this. He made the right choice. It's his decision ,and his alone. O.K. nuff said. I'm outta here.Bye.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Cason

      Then he should have been truly chivalrous and respected her decision to wrestle. Not pretend he was being chivalrous and embarrassing the girl.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  5. Cliff Clavin

    If Andy Kaufman were dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  6. tutuvabene

    Call me an old fogey but could anyone enlighten me as to when mixed gender wrestling emerged anywhere, let alone in high school. Up to now I never heard of such a thing. When I was in HS 40 years ago mixed gender wrestling didn't exist. One would think it would occur in football or basketball before wrestling.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Cason

      There are similar situations in football, and there is enough female interest in basketball to make another league.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  7. HotAirAce

    I understand how it might be ok for boys and girls separated into weight classes (which is not usually done in other sports such as volleyball) to compete regardless of gender, but given the "intimate" nature of wrestling, at some point hormones and s3xual reactions are bound to kick in and "cause problems," so I wonder about the wisdom of such events. That being said, at some point the rules are the rules and all compet!tors must get them changed *before* entering, or accept them. So in this case, the girl followed the rules and should not be disadvantaged, and the boy exercised his right to forfeit and should not gain any advantage because he disagrees with the rules for any reason.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • senseicg

      Nothing about a combative sport is intimate...I have been in the ring with female jujitsu opponents and there is nothing intimate about risking getting your @$$ kicked! The women I worked out with wouldn't hold back.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I put intimate in quotes for a reason. I suggest that the nature, frequency and duration of bodily contact in wrestling is, or could be, significantly different that in other contact sports.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -Ace...

      Just so you know, as a practi-tioner of Jiu-Jitsu, it is as much or more so than wresting, having done both, and continuing with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu today.

      Just an FYI...


      February 18, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  8. tutuvabene

    Excuse me. Call me a babe in the woods or an old fogey but could anyone enlighten me as to when mixed gender wrestling emerged anywhere, let alone in high school. I never heard of such a thing. When I was in HS 35 years ago mixed gender wrestling didn't exist. One would think it have occured in basketball or football before wrestling.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  9. ProudMom

    I haven't read all the comments, but I want to say I'm proud of this fine gentleman who is standing for his convictions even amidst the peer pressure and ridicule he is facing. This is HIS decision, not his family's. We need more young people like him who will stand for their beliefs and convictions. Homeschool or not, he is a fine example of gentlemanship. Keep up the excellent work!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Cason

      I personally disagree with his "gentleman-ship", he should respect the girls decision to be an opponent. But he is brave, I'll admit.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  10. Mike dallas texas

    hooray for this guy , i am sorry that the narrow minded authorities made him forfeit the contest , a guy has every right to refuse to grapple with a female . I think this young man showed maturity and self respect by not bowing down to political correctness to win a contest .

    February 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Cason

      "narrow minded authorities MADE" No one forced him to forfeit. He chose to wrestle, he chose to forfeit. Both are his choice and his choice only. What were the other options? Declare him the winner?

      February 17, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • senseicg

      What is he bowing down to now? Churchie teachings?

      February 17, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • commonsense77

      It doesn't necessarily have to be religious. Maybe he was just taught that you don't hit, wrestle, fight or hurt girls. Seems like a pretty good thing for everyone to teach their boys.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  11. Shane

    Pathetic, white versus black, boy versus girl. All based on what? Faith? Maybe the boy is just gay!!!!! How 1920 is that?

    February 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  12. Marija

    If you are all so smart, then why are posting crap about eachother? That's messed up. Clearly this guy has his head on wrong, and is discriminating girls, but you, as adults, shouldn't put down other people. For Christ's sake!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Dave

      Why are you so mad when the girl, and her family, clearly had no problem with the boy's conviction. In fact, the girl's family actually respected his decision not to fight her.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • everettereb

      "For Christ's sake"?
      Funny that you say that because I really doubt that Christ would wrestle because of the inappropriate touching that would have to be done.

      To bad we don't have more men like this kid in this world.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Minos

      Please tell me your parents took this stoner naming thing all the way and gave you the middle name of Juana.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Cason

      Don't speak for Christ. He did a lot of relatively scandalous things in his day. He may have seen her as strictly an opponent. After all, it isn't considered gay when the guys wrestle is it?

      February 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • senseicg

      I thought christ didn't discriminate...would he (if he actually were real) be afraid of touching a woman?? How quaint

      February 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  13. Ann

    If he were my son, I'd be proud of him. Just because she has the right to be on the team doesn't mean he HAS to wrestle her.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  14. dave

    I've been any many fights but the only time i got my ass beat was by a girl because i wouldnt fight, just took hits for about 15 minutes untill she wore herself out. I'm not saying she couldn't swing, just I was raised that way

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

      This as nothing to do with an actual anger fight. She is paired with people her size, and she is trained in the same way, and she knows what she is into. She shouldn't be looked at as a female, she should be respected as an opponent.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  15. Al B

    Congratulations, Mr. Northrup. You showed great character, moral conviction, and honesty. In spite of some of the stones being thrown in here, I think your decision was based on respect: for your religion, your upbringing, and for the girl–not out of a fear of either winning or losing, but the belief that certain co-ed activities are not appropriate.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  16. gmoney

    When I wrestled in high school, one of our teammates was matched up with a female wrestler. He was one of our best wrestlers, and he lost somewhat intentionally. It was just awkward to watch... he couldn't use many of the techniques he would normally use due to placing his hands or body in places that would otherwise be seen as pretty innapropriate. I'm all for women's rights to be a part of sports that are male dominated, but maybe it would be best to have women only wrestle women and men wrestle men. I sure hope any woman who wrestles is not offended/complains by incidental touching or anything.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  17. BUBU

    Bottom line...This kid is just scared he'll get his ass whuped by a girl!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Dave

      You need to grow some logic, the boy holds 35-4 record.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Cason

      Dave – he can still lose. He is wrestling girl that is near his size after all. Maybe he'd rather take no risk.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  18. american me

    He can use whatever excuses he wants. The obvious truth is he's afraid she'll beat him.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Steve

      He's 35-4.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Layne

      How do you know what motivates this kid? You've never met him and know nothing about him other than he's a high school wrestler in Iowa. Do you have some magic way of reading between the lines that the rest of us are too stupid to understand? Or are you projecting your own insecurities?

      February 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • commonsense77

      I doubt it. It is against his beliefs. Too bad we don't have more people in this country willing to sacrifice fame/fortune/glory re-election for what they believe. Heck of a kid.

      If he was Muslim the NAACP would be jumping all over them selves to take this to court. But separation of church and state only seems to matter when the controversy is Christian based. I have to hand it to him, he is handling this in a very classy manner.

      I don't mind that girls wrestle, but it should be separate. It is unfortunate that this young man was put in this position. Extreme double standard at work here.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Cason

      Commonsense77, that being your name you sure seem not to have any of it. This has nothing to do with church and state. This is a completely optional extracurricular activity. And what do Muslims have to do with it? There are no grounds to sue, he wasn't forced to wrestle, and he didn't.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  19. NAW

    I don't think he is saying a woman is weaker. He has just been raised in an stricter manner than most of us. He is thinking it is not right to strike a woman, no matter what. There is nothing wrong with that thinking, the same way with seeing it is ok to compete with a female in a sport like this.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Christine

      I agree. I think due to his upbringing he doesn't feel it's appropriate to touch a girl in the manner that wrestling would result in. If she's fine with the holds, positions, etc that's OK it's her choice, but I don't think a male opponent should be criticized if he doesn't feel the same way.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Athiest

      This is very correct. If this young man has the strength of conviction to take the forfeit it is certainly his right to do so.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • senseicg

      Among the many examples of the junk religion teaches people...See Richard Dawkins for a thorough discussion of that.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  20. fireybuddha

    oh please. what bs. the young ladies put themselves in harm's way – they accept it. and this guy is being "chivalrous" by refusing them? typical antiquated male thinking. there's nothing noble about it. and yeah, it is because she's a girl. if she weren't, he would have wrestled her.

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

      I agree......I kno a strict catholic family that allows their daughter to wrestle....that kid needed to grow a pair

      February 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Dot44

      Maybe the girl is too ugly to wrestle.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • abqtim

      The boy should have put her down as fast and as hard as he could. Just like he would another boy. Strength and pain is part of the intimidation factor in any physical sport and woman should get and feel the full brunt of it and not be pampered. Men are turning into wussies. Sound mean? No, it just being honest guys. Let the woman know you are stronger and don't be scared to show them because they are not scared to show you what they got.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Minos

      The hypocrisy here is just too much. This kid has every right to refuse to wrestle women just as much as women are free to bar men from competing in their softball, soccer, and volleyball team tournaments. The mistake made here is that the wrestling board should have created a men's, women's, and coed tournament so everybody could have what they want and stop their pathetic whining. Try to get a man on a woman's only softball team and see how open the ladies will be to the concept. Hell would freeze over first, as it should. How about men joining women on their "Ladies' Night Out" for PC purposes - sounds ridiculous even to write it! Take note sports organizations - be explicit about each league and gender associated with it, include options for all concerned, and avoid this PC BS nonsense in the future.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • RDo

      When I started martial arts I had to spar with women. Two woman in particular just flat kicked my butt. They were very well trained and enjoyed stepping it up by fighting men – even though they were 'womanly'. If this girl wants to get into the ring then she is prepared and let her go and if I were to be her opponent I would just get in there and do my best. She is still dangerous.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Cason

      Minos, that would work brilliantly – if there were the numbers. Not enough people are interested in it to justify a different league. I'm 90% sure if a guy wanted to play a "girls only" sport they could do it if they make enough knows, just the same as a girl on the wrestling team.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Cason

      ** Noise not knows. I have no idea how I made that typo.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • senseicg

      This idea that his "faith" prohibited him from wrestling with her is a bunch of BS. What...is he afraid he'll go to hell if he touches a girl...what a crock. I teach Jujitsu and many of my female students would laugh their @$$es off at the idea of a guy not wanting to compete with them. Antiquated bible belt thinking...

      February 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Minos

      Hey Cason - you're smart enough to pick up on exactly where I was going with this. There's not enough people interested in coed wrestling to make it a viable sport. So instead of picking on this boy and his convictions - why don't folks go off on the real source of the problem? Not enough attractive ladies in the sport to draw scores of men to the mat! Selfish women are the real problem here. Always thinking of themselves and not what's best for the fledging coed sports of wrestling, boxing, and rugby. They should be ashamed of themselves and leave this sheltered farm boy alone.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • commonsense77

      Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought that's why they had girl's volleyball – it goes on during the same time as wrestling, so there is a sport for both boys and girls during the season. Maybe someone should stack their volleyball time with a bunch of 6'3" boys. Or doesn't this go both ways? Double standard.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:28 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.