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. ArtInChicago

    Where is Andy Kaufman when you need him?

    February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • saganhill

      Is he crazy? He gave up a chance to wrestle a girl. Man if I were 17 and had a chance to do that I would be all over her. Where can you legally grope a person of the oposite ***.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • CCR

      He's dead.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Ahab

      I would not wrestle a girl or woman either. I would counsel my son not to wrestle a woman or girl. It's inappropriate behavior for a male.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • brian

      LMAO!!! HEREEEE I COME TO SAVE THE DAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  2. Stubbycat

    For obvious reasons, it is inappropriate for a male to wrestle a female in a public contest. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know this. The lack of good sense in many areas ofour society is absurd.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  3. 3monkies

    It's a lose-lose situation to boot… "Congratulations, big man you beat a girl" or "How pathetic, you got beat by a girl" I would've taken the forfeit also…

    February 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  4. Dave

    Ridiculous. I am an atheist too, and if a girl wants to step on the mat and wrestle, so be it. I would have no problem wrestling with her. Why should I? Certainly, men and women are different, but so what!

    February 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  5. hmm

    I would rather wrestle a girl then a guy in a tight outfit! 🙂

    February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  6. Paul

    I applaud the young man for standing for what he (or what his parents) believes in.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  7. TIm Utz

    Good for this young man, Someone with convictions and willing to live with the results. I applaude his principles. Now back off PC America and get a life, Liberty is for everyone to exercise convictions not just the PC approved label activities.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  8. Linda

    Speaking as a feminist this has nothing to do with gender discrimination. This young man made a decision based on his faith and we need to respect his choice and his convictions.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Seidan

      It has everything to do with gender discrimination. If she wasn't allowed to compete all the "feminists" would be screaming about how unfair it is.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  9. Rubik's

    I certainly respect his decision, however I believe it is a misguided one. If his decision is based on carnal principles, then the fact she is female wont matter once they are on the mat. I don't wrestle so much but do train in BJJ and when you are grappling with someone in close quarters and they're trying to put you on your back/rip your arm off/put you to sleep then all you're thinking about is trying to stop them and return the favour. Carnality doesn't enter my mind at all, even with female opponents. I don't think he does, if anyone thought it were unfair, she qualified fair and square. At least he objected in a classy way though.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  10. ELH

    Some years back when my son was playing high school football (235# middle linebacker), an opposing team announced that they were going to start a girl in their backfield as a halfback. I was concerned that my son might tend to 'back off" and as a consequence, expose himself to needless injury for not going 100%. I asked him what he would do if he was in a position to make a tackle. His response? "I'll knock her on her raggedy butt!" Game-time and the experiment ended with the gal playing one series in which she never touched the ball.

    As far as I remember, they never suited her up again.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Mara Mandan

      Congratulations on raising a male chauvinist.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  11. Schniggy VonFlugen

    It's nobody's business but his. It's not for him to tell you how to live your life...and not for you to tell him how to live his.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  12. slippedhalo

    I for one think that he is a fine young man. I understand his convictions AND respect them. His family and his friends should be very proud of him.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  13. Bill

    Can boys play on girls teams? Nope. But that isn't discrimination...right?

    February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Seidan

      Maybe we should just get rid of male and female sports and just have sports where the best athletes are picked. That would be true equality right?

      February 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • LOL

      It would also be a total sausage fest, except maybe in gymnastics.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  14. aubrie

    When I was in college, I was pretty good at fencing. I had several males refuse to fence with me. I just shrugged and went on. I was asked to be on the collge team to compete, but felt I would get the same reaction in tournaments, so I didn't join. There weren't enough girls to make a team, so I just let it go. I respected the opinions. I respect this boy's opinion. If he's uncomfortable with it, forcing him would be akin to harassment. Wrestlers can not only get violent, but some of their "holds" are in pretty personal places. As a woman, I wouldn't WANT a strange male athlete touching me in those places.... but that's just me.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Zhais

      I was about to comment something along the lines of "I'm glad my sport doesn't have these issues..."

      At least lately, there is no problems with gender mixing in fencing tournaments in the midwest. They're mixed all the time, and the women can do quite well. Hell, one of the 15-year old girls won the mixed event in Sioux City, IA not that long ago against seasoned males.

      Screw people's ideas of gender in-equality. That line of thinking is what holds society back.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  15. Tony Miller

    I'm glad to see the girl in there wrestling. All too often it seems women want equal rights but not in all venues.

    The guy made a decision based on his faith. While I disagree with it I'll defend his right as an American to make it.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  16. Jett

    Fools all, who mock a man for honoring a woman; who impugne his character when it towers over their own; who ridicule his actions and thus make the higher road harder for others to follow.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Pulpop

      I 100% percent agree, people can be so small minded. It's sometimes embarassing to be human.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  17. Jeff

    Ok for those that keep saying "he thinks he will get beat" look at his record and look at her record. I really would not be fearing that.
    I am a atheist so the fairy tail stuff really doesn't apply here. A previous poster said men and women are wired differently and that is 100% correct. Its not feminist or chauvinist, its just fact. Studies have shown over and over that combat produces two ENTIRELY different chemicals in male and females.
    If either of my sons choose to wrestle, I would hope they made the same decision. Its never alright for a man to attack a women, even in sport. Yes I am 100% sure that there are some women out there right now who could hand my @$$ to me but that still doesn't mean I am going to change my opinion.
    The real solution would be a seperate division but there is probably not enough interest or capital to make that happen. I am sure he knows that too and thats why he is not complaining. Hopefully he reads this and knows there are people out there like him and commend what he is doing. BRAVO!

    February 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Tante Waileka

      I agree with you. He's being a Gentleman. It was bad enough when we got the Pill 50 years or so back. Women are not the same as men. Men are not the same as women. Same Difference. We should be celebrating the differences, not treating women as though they were men, and vice versa. (P.S. when I was younger I held a black belt in Kempo Karate, and my father, a retired professional heavyweight boxer, taught me to box. I very well might have been able to kick your a... but I wouldn't have tried. I like men.)

      February 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • civiloutside

      I disagree entirely. It's only honorable for a man to refuse to fight a woman because it is generally true that males are stronger and faster. So it's wrong to take advantage. However, in this particular case, them girls in question have demonstrated through their winning records and qualification for the tournament that they a individuals are at no such disadvantage. There is no advantage to be taken for a male opponent to wrestle them and hence nothing dishonorable about it. These objections are based entirely on treating them as "mere girls" rather than as individuals who've demonstrated competence in their chosen endeavor.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  18. Seidan

    Can somebody please explain to me why females can wrestle in a male league but males can't play volleyball on the female team if there is no male team at the school?

    February 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Pulpop

      Because the boy would harass the girls in the girls volleyball team and the girl wouldn't harass the boys.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • DRock

      Because you would be considered gay.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Matt

      Because males are, on average, stronger, taller, and faster than females. Are you going to whine about not being invited to compete in the Special Olympics?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  19. Festus

    He's a faygala

    February 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • aubrie

      No. He's a gentleman. YOu should try it.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  20. Poopy Pants

    That tournament shouldn't allow girls to enter. Period. If girls want to wrestle, then they should have a girl wrestling tournament. They are ruining it. I can see it now, if one girl gets hurt doing it, then oh no!, a boy hurt a girl. Stupid. To the girls in the tournament, go do something else.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Tante Waileka

      I absolutely agree with you!!! What is this world coming to when males and females are treated the same? This is the stupidest thing I've heard in the past two hours, at least.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • LOL

      So then we should make all the track and field events be mixed, but then women wouldn't win much. We also need to allow guys on the girls volleyball team. Sorry girls, I guess most of you can only sit on the bench now, but we need to be fair right?

      February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Jared

      Agreed. Wrestling isn't like baseball, or other sports. It's a full contact sport where you grapple with your opponent. I wouldn't be comfortable wrestling a girl like that either. It's inappropriate to me, and I'm neither prudish nor religious. I wouldn't really feel comfortable groping on a girl like that. Especially in the highschool years. With the amount of hormones raging there's no way your mind isn't going to wander.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • brian

      Yep i say let the boys on girls volleyball teams and like you said oh sorry girls ur ridin the pine!!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:06 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.