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. Hmm

    Whether or not we agree with this young man's decision to not wrestle a female opponent isn't really material. What is important is that the rules were followed. Women are allowed to compete and in his decision to forfeit, he gives up the win. Make a choice: pay a price. In this case, though, he is not breaking a law or exercising civil disobedience, just acting according to his conscience and not being hateful. While I would not support such a decision, I applaud him for not publicly complaining about the consequences of his own decisions.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  2. knightforx

    Look, if a girl wants to play in the NBA or MLB I'm fine with it. Combat sports, or those that are close to it (like football), are a completely different ballgame (no pun intended). Unless you're one of these knucklehead domestic abusers, you don't want to hurt a girl. And if you don't want to hurt a girl, how are you supposed to effectively engage in *combat* sports with them?? Even if they are "asking for it", it's just difficult for a right-minded guy to perform at the level he's accustomed to. The women's lib people will say "that's his problem", but really, you should be concerned if the majority of guys are happy to go out there and inflict physical punishment on women. There are far too many of those types out there anyway, without adding to their ranks.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  3. CaptainAmerica

    It used to be called being a "Gentleman". Look at their records. These girls have no shot at winning and this boy is put into a no win position. If he wins -well no big deal he should have. If he loses, hes a clown who got beat by a girl. Pretty devastating to the develpoment of a young man. Interesting that schools that would otherwise kick him out for so much as oggling a female are going to allow him to grope them just to satisify some feminist concept of equality. This is just sick. The girls parents should know better. They should compete against other girls.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  4. Elijah

    Joel Northrup, stand firm on your beliefs throughout life!

    February 17, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  5. kenny

    wow, i cant believe the hatred that has spawned from this decision. this medium where you can lash out with anonimity(sp?) is beyond comprehension. isnt there something else to solve???? worry about your own children all you perfect people..kz

    February 17, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  6. Katie 1844

    Very proud of this kid... we all need to make our own choices and he stood by his convictions in a VERY respectful way. I'm all for feminism, but I personally don't think young women should be wrestling with young men.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  7. realty

    She should be body slam so hard that her brain slams against her skull, perhaps that may teach some women who think they can challenge a man in the arena. Their is a reason why man has more muscles in his body. I'd break her down so bad and would show any remorse.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  8. jenn

    I guess that is one way to get out of getting your butt handed to you by a girl, claim religious BS. In case you or you daddy bubba haven't noticed this is 2011 and girls are not your inferiors so man up and wrestle whoever the heck wants to wrestle you, you little crybaby!

    February 17, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  9. Molly

    I had a female friend in high school that got on the wrestling team. I think every guy she was up against forfieted, except for one which beat her of course. I never understood why she wanted to be on the team. I don't think any of the guys respected her as a fellow team mate.

    I don't see anything wrong with the boy not wanting to wrestle the girl. As a man, would any of you feel comfortable tackling a girl during a game of football? There's just some sports where women and men should not be competing in together.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  10. gracet

    There is nothing wrong with this young man choosing not wrestle this girl. I am an extremely athletic female and have a brother who wrestled in high school, and the basic facts are this......we teach our boys to protect women, and it's understandable why wrestling a female would feel "wrong." Also, it is a matter of comfort.....wrestling is an extremely aggressive and physical (in regards to contact) sport. Myself, being a female would feel uncomfortable groping a male in many of the moves involved in wrestling, and I don't think it is okay to assume that bc this physical contact is "okay" bc it is part of a sport is fair to either female or male wrestlers. Integrating female and male wrestlers in one arena is not okay because it is so physically intimate and not all wrestlers are comfortable with that.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • ArtfulSkeptic

      Discriminating against a girl by refusing to wrestle against her on the grounds that it if a man's job to protect her is one of the most insidious forms of discrimination out there. It implies and (in practice) enforces the idea that women cannot protect themselves and therefore must rely upon men for protection. This begs the question of the woman's ability by assuming its absence. Similar arguments have been used since the dawn of time to keep women in their place on the pretext of "it's noble for me to discriminate against you because it's for your own good."

      February 18, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  11. chillyindy

    Love this kid. It's about time our country got some morals back. Vote for Palin, even if it turns your stomach. You'll be grateful for it in the long run.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  12. Chicago Jim

    This is a story about sophmores in highschool. So those of you calling the girl ugly and those critizing the guy for not wrestling her by saying he's gay or against womens rights, do you realize you are ripping on two 15 year old kids?

    Hopefully most of you are just dumb kids too.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  13. Jeremy

    In life, not everything is either black or white...like this topic, many things fall into the gray area. Everybody is trying so hard to be right, and prove others wrong. When, in actuallity, nobody is right and nobody is wrong here. The very reason this is such a hot topic is because both sides can, and do, make great points. I will choose to remain open minded, and enjoy this interesting debate.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  14. Jake

    Has anyone stopped to think how the girl must've felt? I'd feel pretty bad if someone wouldn't wrestle me because of something about me I couldn't change. I mean, really, it's just a sport. I'm sure that's really sweet and thoughtful, but the girl SIGNED UP to wrestle. It's never mandatory. She's there to compete, not have guys fall to their knees while she takes the medal without wrestling. Pardon me for sounding feminist, but if she's decided to do it, let her do it. And what if she wins? She'll always wonder if she was really the number one wrestler, or if she should've been number two. Wrestling's about earnin your wins.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Bob

      Has anyone stopped to think how she felt about her parents that lied to her when they told her she could compete with males in this sport? She had to find out she can't and never will be able to at a professional level.. sure it's fun when your 6 but that is where it ends, they should have informed her of the differences between male and female. this is obviously parents that want to be thier childs friend and not her early guide and mentor.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  15. Odin48

    Any females in the NFL or NHL?

    February 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Qodex

      Any 122 lb boys in the NFL or NHL?

      February 17, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  16. Prometheus

    He made a personal decision. Who are we to question it? We all have free will and he exercised his. Move along folks, nothing to see here but a young man who is well on his way to becoming a "mature" adult.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  17. Reality

    Hmmmm? Get your tickets for the "FeMa" Wrestling Match. In this corner the "Corn Husker". In the other, the "Pink Oink". Ding Dong

    February 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  18. Kevin

    I think this kid seems weird and I hate religion, but so what? I'm not sure I'd want to wrestle a girl either, although on reflection I probably would in order to avoid the embarassment to her.

    Or maybe he prefers boys.. you know, like in general. Seems like the "in" thing to do for religious hypocrites.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • heartalm

      Very classy reply. 🙁

      It's a shame most people don't realize that every person in this world is a hypocrite at some point or another. I'm only sorry it soured you on faith. That's not how it should be.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Tchr89

      How unkind (and judgmental) of you to suggest that this young man maybe prefers boys like "religious hypocrites" do.
      Do you know him? Have you talked with him? What right do you have to compare him to "religious hypocrites"?
      Do you realize that your own post makes you look hateful toward people ?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  19. George

    I kind of know what this guy is going through. I hate to play against girls, even if its just a pick up game of 5 v 5 Basketball. The thing is is that if you do anything to the girl (in this case throw her to the ground/wrestle) and she ends up getting hurt, you look like the bad guy. If you end up losing to the girl, its not a big deal, but then people (at least in my experience) will think that maybe you held back since its a girl.

    Its a lose-lose situation whether he wrestled or didn't.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  20. msaprilr

    I do Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, which goes way beyond wrestling. I have heard a zillion excuses why a guy doesn't want to face me. All of them are total bs. If she steps on the mat, she's not a girl, and you're not a boy. You're opponents, plain and simple. Every opponent has different physical advantages and disadvantages. Get over yourself and fight. If you're so concerned about what other people will think of your match, then you've missed the most important point of wrestling.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • James

      Clearly you're a female and do not understand why a MALE wouldnt want to compete against you or her or any female.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Mark

      I respect your opinion, but I disagree.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • dalis

      msaprilr I'll draw you a map. He's a good kid whose entire life is about growing up to be an honorable man, the kind of man someone would be lucky to marry. It is anathema to him to physically overpower a female and just as much so to be s3xually aroused by someone who is not his wife.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • rusty

      you should try telling Cael Sanderson you go way beyond him

      February 17, 2011 at 11:55 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.