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. N.S.

    How is this news? This isn't even groundbreaking. And is EXTREMELY far from the first time this has happened. And is NOT the first time a wrestler's been connected to religious reasons against wrestling a girl...or competing in tournaments because they are partly on a Sabbath. AND I LIKE CNN, but this feels really awkwardly covered.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  2. Ohyeah

    I wrestle girls all the time and I've got lots of good moves.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  3. SREAM

    Wrestling is gay

    February 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  4. George

    I do not blame him. I was taught that it was never appropriate for a boy to hurt a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dea

      If you actively seek to injure an opponent, male or female, you should be banned from any sport and brought up on charges. This isn't boxing, this is about leverage and control as much as strength.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  5. envfish

    This is IOWA wrestling. We do not descriminate, we do not judge, we do not back down at the state tournement. We wrestle to WIN, nothing else. This is not acceptable.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  6. LackoPennies

    I think it's pretty simple. If a boy and a girl want to wrestle, they should do it in the privacy of their own home and the rest of us alone. I agree that it is his choice, she obviously isn't what he is looking for in a woman. What I don’t understand is why society has to pit women against men.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  7. Jerry

    Home schooling is such an anti-social act. I'm not surprised he isn't ready for the realities of the world outside.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • dan

      Not sure which is greater, your ignorance or stupidity?

      February 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  8. Wrastler

    Comended? The kid is a quiter. Wrestling is now a male and female sport. Get used to it. Im pretty sure there has even been a girl state champion by now. The kid should have wrestled the girl and whiped the mat with her. Refusing to wrestle her because of a faith based reason is ridiculous. He should be comended for nothing and kicked off the team. Any boy who refused to wrestle another boy would be kicked off and laughed at

    February 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  9. Bruce

    he was probaly scared of getting an erection half way through the match

    February 17, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  10. mike

    thats a no win scenario, if he loses then he will go through hell for having lost to a chic, if he wins, its because he was supposed to beat a girl of course...i feel sorry for any of the guys who have to wrestle a woman

    February 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  11. Really?

    The amount of ignorance and misogyny on this board is ridiculous. It really saddens me to see that there are still pigheaded chauvinists out there who still can't accept the fact that a woman is every bit as good as a man in everything. The fact that this girl has a winning record as a FRESHMAN should be enough to show that she has worked her butt off and earned each and every victory, but you all can't get your own heads out of your ass in order to see that. Unbelievable.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • call me

      in some cases females can do same as males.. but in most cases not

      February 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Nah...


      February 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Daf

      I dsagree. I am a female who participated in sports at ALL levels, when I say all levels I mean pro too.. No matter how you slice and dice it, men are and will always be physically stronger than women. So this notion that women can do certain things as good as men is quite unreal. I tried playing rugby and soccer against guys, and regardless how excellent I was, I almost broke my legs and my neck. So please spare us the details when you say that. If, however, you talk about things such as brain power – then I would concur, but physique.. no way, no how..

      February 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  12. RD

    Seriously yall? The actual participants on both sides of this dispute are totally handling this better than some of you are. CONGRATS! you have just shown to the ENTIRE world online that a couple teenagers and the parents supporting their decisions are more mature than you.
    Now to the actual debate here, I totally agree with the kid, if he has convictions, beliefs, and morals, props to him for following them when it wasn't popular, convenient or easy. Thats more than can be said for alot of us in our lives. Whether his beliefs are right or wrong is (as it is preached to us every single day) none of our business.
    As a Christian, and a homeschooler, I wish I had the chances to go out and do what he has the opportunity to do, that is participate in a respected high school athletic department. If his personal beliefs and convictions say that he shouldn't do something, say drugs, everyone would be totally ok with this. If they say, "hey, i don't think u should wrestle this girl" everybody comments on it and its a huge deal.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  13. OnanismO

    Yeah, cuz it's a SIN to touch girls like that if you ain't married to em. But of course Jeebus doesn't mind if'n ya touch other boys all over, even tho that's totally g@y.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • skdfoweis

      you sir, are very intelligent.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  14. Tony

    I don't agree with the male wrestler. I wrestled in high school and wrestled against several females. When I wrestled females, I purposely didn't use any "rough" moves like the guilotine, pancake, or barbed wire. Yes, I beat them- but most successful wrestlers realize that it is all about technique, timing, and cardiovascular training. You don't need to be rough or violent to win.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  15. Abbie

    I was the only female in an all-male mixed martial arts class for several years. The guys had a problem with hitting or grappling with me at first, then they had to get used to it. I was well aware what I was signing up for – I got punched, kicked, thrown and I didn't mind it, because I was there to learn how to fight. It was my choice to be there and the guys had to learn to respect my choice and me personally by treating me as an equal, not as a "girl".
    Women ARE very good martial artists. What we lack in size and dumb force, we make up by being agile and limber and quick on our feet. I have personally thrown 300 lbs guys and I weigh only 115 lbs And yes, they were fighting me for real – some of them did have a problem with a girl in the class.
    Kudos to Cassy and Megan for choosing this sport.
    Good luck, girls.
    And BTW, the fact that a girl wrestles or does martial arts doesn't mean that she is ugly, hairy or masculine(I am none of the above – just the opposite, LOL). I wanted to be able to take care of myself. You guys, all need to grow a pair.

    February 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • BigDog

      you seem quite humble. i bet you look like a dude

      February 17, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • jjtem

      "I have personally thrown 300 lbs guys and I weigh only 115 lbs And yes, they were fighting me for real"......and then you woke up.

      Seriously though.....no matter what you delude yourself into thinking, most men greatly turn down their power and viciousness when knowingly going up physically against a female. It probably has something to do subconciously or conciously with the unwritten law that males cannot strike a female.

      Hat to burst your bubble but if you went up against a male going all out your day would be over very quickly

      February 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Dea

      @jjtem - and then they changed your diaper papaw and put you back in bed. YOU might hold back fighting a woman, but then your @ss kicking would be your own fault yes? We don't wear corsets anymore and we don't own fainting couches.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  16. Stephen

    Honestly.....This young man should have beat her into submission. The feminists agenda teaches women silly behavior that they can step on a mat with a man and have any chance of winning.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • stlrntn

      She made it to state just like he did, no reason to think he would have beaten her into submission (!!!!!!GO TEAM, that’s the spirit, yea!!!!!). If anything, state sponsored tournaments should be reserved for those who actually go to schools, by default making it more appropriate for her to be there then him........what irony!

      February 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ian

      some of them CAN win... I know girls that would clean your clock.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Dea

      @stlrtrn: I didn't look at it that way but its clearly a problem. Why are schools making accomodations for homeschoolers? They don't want to participate but then again they do? hmmmmmmmmm

      February 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • commonsense77

      They pay taxes that fund the schools just like anyone else. They choose to do the schooling at home, but have access to the extracurriculars just like the regular students do. Takes a lot of dedication, I couldn't do it.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  17. Gjarr

    I agree with AL B. You are to be commended, young man. You are a fine example of what fine qualities of a respectable gentleman have been lost throughout the years (as exemplified by the bozos in the earlier posts on this blog). To not to cave to pressure and forfeit for the sake of doing the right thing shows remarkable character.You obviously are a guy with a strong morals and values, who appears to come from a family circle who taught you right. I'd be proud to call you my son. Someday, I hope my three daughters each end up with a guy just like you. God Bless.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Raine

      100% Agree!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • 12idk345

      I agree!!

      February 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • RoRo

      Well spoken Gjarr! As a 40y/o woman I am all for equality HOWEVER there are some sports that should remain "male" only and Wrestling is one of them. Kudos to him for standing his ground!

      February 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  18. demasta

    I want to formally shake this young mans hand. Wrestling is a mans sport. You can't refute that and its insane that women are becoming freedom fighters for the sake of feminism. They should step back before one of them gets seriously hurt/dies from a wrestling nut.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Regis990

      Pssst, the 21st century called, it said your welcomed to join the party.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Tara

      Wow, you're still alive? Shouldn't you be an ancient relic by now? I mean, being that the 1930's and that way of thinking were 70+ years ago.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Petey

      Yeah, well Regis, common sense called and told you to STFU.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  19. Brooklyn

    the boy is in a lose-lose situation. if he wins..big deal he beat a girl. if he loses it's even more embarrassing. the girl is in a win-win. it's not expected that she beat a male. and if she does even better for her.

    makes me wonder if she made it to the state finals by other boys simply refusing to fight her.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Dea

      Your reading skills are a bit lacking. She's beaten 20 boys and been beaten by 13. The homeschooler made his choice. That's freedom of religion in action.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • commonsense77

      So Dea, would you say that he made his choice and that's that if he was Muslim?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  20. LBFG

    Good job.
    Soon women will want only one washroom. Jealous of our urinals?

    February 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Bugsy

      I'd wrestle her, all day 'er day.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      You guys are safe there until your aim improves and you stalls have doors. LOL

      February 17, 2011 at 9:29 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.