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. Kevin Starkey

    She wrestles because of her beliefs. He doesn't wrestle because of his beliefs. Beliefs, beliefs, beliefs. Good for them. They got beliefs...just like the 6 billion of the rest of us. But who's the best wrestler?

    February 18, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  2. Tony

    And - I almost forgot - of course the boy has the right to decline to compete and forfeit, silly.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  3. Carey

    Why should she be allowed to wrestle? Is a boy allowed to join the girls' volleyball team?

    February 18, 2011 at 12:23 am |

      I am not sure what the rules are today, but in 1987, Iowa City West had a young man on the volleyball team. It was such an ordeal, that volleyball practices had to have chains with locks on the door..... The Today Show and ESPN were quick to report.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  4. StangoTango

    Wow, Thats amazing! Bravo! This young man is a true gentleman! Good for him!


    February 18, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  5. SoufMouf

    Sounds to me like he's afraid he might get his butt whupped by a girl in front of an audience! XD

    women can and should be allowed to do whatever men can, but that doesn't necessarily mean a woman can do it as well as a man.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  6. Jason

    This guy has a lot of conviction and integrity. I hope more teens are like that rather than following peer pressure. I watched wrestling match between a boy and a girl at school at a rare occasion and it was quite awkward. The boy clearly had feelings by the way he touched the girl, while the girl just wanted to win. Boys with similar weight as girls usually are skinny so they are more sensitive to touch compared to other boys due to the density of their nerves in the body, while girls who wrestle usually have more muscle that tends to reduce the sensitivity of their nerves compared to other females. Guess who has more focus of winning without distraction.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  7. nate bostwick

    Get some balls, boys, and face up to the fact that this little wrestler is a big time chicken, afraid of losing to a girl. His manhood is at risk-and yours must be too, judging by your reaction. Feminazi, er, femmy-nazi is precisely what you are.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  8. DeTx

    I don't see anything wrong with this, if he didn't want to fight so be it. Lame story what's next.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  9. wrestler123

    1) who cares? if that kid is willing to forfiet a state championship because he doesn't want to wrestle a girl then obviously he has other priorities, whatever. I wrestled a girl in high school no big deal. Maybe he was more afraid of how his dad would react if he had actually got pinned by that girl. Plus its not like he going to punch her in the face. 2) whoever said christians have higher morals and wont beat up a women, there are more than a billion "christians in this world and if priests can molest boys than christian men are capable of beating up a women. morals are a personal thing not gaureented because of a label. and its not really beating up a girl if she beatss him up now is it.
    3) why do people get so verbally violent when they right these posts, you have time to collect yourself and state rational positions. does it really matter what people who we most likly will never know think of my position on religious fanaticism and/or turkey soup recipes. i mean if you were actually talking to some of the people tha are present in these communities I would probably just walk away and go stare at gum or something just as productive. (I include myself because I have made some off the collar comments before).

    February 18, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Nimrod

      Point taken, but seriously, get a dictionary.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  10. KellyinCA

    If the girls are involved in the tournament, then they have been sanctioned to be there and to participate. While I can appreciate the young man's beliefs, there are consequences for his choices that go beyond his own participation. If the tournament awards team medals, then the school for whom he wrestles is being docked, perhaps unfairly, as a result of his choice to forfeit. This is even more problematic because he is home-schooled and not part of that high school in any other significant way.

    If he cannot wrestle a girl – fine, but the school team for whom he wrestles does. The true right thing would be for him either to wrestle independently from the school in such tournaments (if that is permitted,) or to quit the wrestling team. Athletics is not simply about developing one's skills and performance as an individual, but also developing a sense of responsibility to others, such as your team, your coach and, yes, your opponents. In making his choice, he appears to have abdicated those responsibilities.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Nimrod

      One must stand up for what one believes. Personally I still think it is probably a bad idea to teach boys it is ok to physically assault girls.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  11. chaharmahal

    More likely he was going to lose.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  12. 6 Minutes of Pain

    Having been a wrestler, I can tell you that these boys are aggresive. Wrestling is personal. It's you against someone else. Primal. You have to physically subdue another person. It's your strength and stamina against someone else. Am I getting my point across? If that person is a girl and you have been conditioned since you were a child not to touch a hair on a girls head....which I can almost certainly tell you this boy has....every fiber in his body is telling him that touching her is very, very wrong. His emotions are scrambled.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Chris

      Maybe he should just realize that people are people no matter what body parts they have and just get over himself. then.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  13. oldguy

    Poor kid will never get a job with the TSA.

    Millions of Americans objected to the enhanced pat-down techniques initiated by TSA last summer, yet some posters on this forum rip the kid for taking the same stance. He made a decision that only (negatively) impacted him, and he can still win his way through the losers bracket. He's willing to accept the consequences of his decision...too bad all kids (and adults) don't have the same character.

    btw...after reading this story would you be comfortable with Joel taking your daughter on a date?

    February 18, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Nimrod

      Bravo!! Well said!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  14. Justina

    Joel is a hero like Eric Liddell. God bless him.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  15. Michael

    Because of his faith? Conscience? Ridiculous. Poor misguided kid. Ah, the evils of "organized" religion.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • udummi

      as opposed to "unorganized" religion? aka athiesm?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Saint Subversive

      No, atheism isnt religion at all, organized or otherwise. Udummy indeed.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  16. Peggy

    God Bless Joel Northrup and his family.... oh... I think He did already 😉 Way to go on speaking your own mind and sticking with it! Your parents have done a wonderful job raising you;)

    February 18, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Saint Subversive

      Yea verily, for a man shalt not wrestle with a woman, thus saith the Lord, and thou shalt be blessed when thou refuseth, even as thou loseth thy glorious crown, for thou shalt be exalted by others in thy faith who are equally pathetic and self righteous in their empty headed judgementalism, hallelujah amen, etc. Did I sound convincing enough, sister? 😉

      February 18, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Nimrod

      Well, St. Subversive, you did sound pretty judgmental.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  17. Bob

    I love this, they keep pulling my posts after they have read them and I keep posting. I guess they don't like people that tell the unbiased, un- politically correct, not softened, but not vulgar truth. I speak what most everyone else thinks.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  18. William

    The only wrestling women should be doing is mud wrestling. Sorry. Women try to inject themeselves in every aspect of our lives. Can we men just have some things for ourselves for crying out loud. Back off women. Sheesh

    February 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • kenny

      yea... im in wit dat dawg... allllll dayyyy!!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • Chris

      Sure, you can have wrestling to yourself. Go start a league and keep out whomever you'd like. In public schools funded with public dollars, girls have just as much right to compete in any sport as boys do.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  19. kenny

    sounds like all you posters ought to meet somewhere and beat the crap out of each other!!!!! and get rid of each other. or better yet, take care of your own family and learn to love and respect others wishes. what if we put your stupid life on line and let everybody trash your perfect ideals.....morons..go to bed and think of what you can do tomorrow to make life better in some way,, quit stressing on one human being... you are probably ugly and he probably wouldnt want to wrestle you because of that.......kz

    February 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  20. jenn

    It is not okay for boys to decide they do not want to play against girls. It is the girls right to wrestle and it is up to her if she wants to compete it is not up to him whether or not she does. For the sad guys talking trash about this girl I would like to point out your horrible spelling and grammar. Woman are fast out numbering men in higher education, maybe you should worry more about that and less about a girl wanting to wrestle a boy...

    February 17, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • kenny

      its women not woman smart ass

      February 18, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • William

      You are not welcome everywhere. I suppose it's not fair. Just as women don't care that they force their way into places that they are bye and large NOT WANTED, why should I care a witt about what you think? I don't. God Bless that kid.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Job

      You sound like a typical class A feminazi.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Bob

      I think maybe, you should look closer at the obvious physical differences between men and woman and then maybe critique others spelling and gramme????? Just a thought.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • William

      Correcting others grammar on a forum such as this, to me, just means you have no other point to make. Furthermore, " yo mamma wears army boots."

      February 18, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Aeroman

      Ummmm, he has every right to forfeit if he doesn't feel comfortable with it. Who the hell are you to say that he has no right to decide?? Obviously he does because he did and it's done so get over it! You wanna talk about equality?? Then he has EQUALLY as much right to decide against playing as SHE does!! Get the concept??

      February 18, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Nimrod

      Of course it is that young man's right to refuse to wrestle a girl. He didn't demand that girls not compete, he simply chose to take a forfeit rather than go against his beliefs. Sorry, but some would even consider it chivalrous or perhaps noble. I also have to say, how unfortunate for you that after castigating others for their spelling and grammar, you chose to use woman where women was clearly correct.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • kenny

      why are men stereotyped about copping a feel???? they didnt get into wrestling to do that, SHE DID!!!!!!!!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Mel

      The problem is their fear that they truly are inferior. Those who want to keep power over another, rather than power with another are the real villains in this. Obviously those who cannot see the bigger picture are those who will be left behind in society. If the can't do it with brute force, they will try with legislation. The good news is that are getting outnumbered by those who can and do think equality is important for all citizens.

      The dinosaurs are dying out. Equality for all.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Tony

      You are missing an apostrophy in "girls" - i.e., should be "girl's right" in the second sentence. There should be a semicolon after "compete" in the second sentence (since it is a compound sentence and the clauses need to be separated). "Woman" in your last sentence should actually be "Women" and the comma is not appropriate; use either a semicolon or a period to separate the clauses. The ellipsis at the end of the sentence should have four dots. Finally, you should take the stick out of your a** and get a life....

      February 18, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • kenny

      its not ok for you to decide either.... you think?? are you the almighty decider??? are you married? if so ... poor,unhappy guy. you like my english?? let me know.. i can out english you all day

      February 18, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Rob

      Another psychotic religious family destroying their children again. I think he was afraid he'd loose, take that to you friends and smoke it.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • douglas

      Jenn, don't listen or read what all the peanut section writes on this forum. Respect this kid who chose not to wrestle the girl as much as you respect the girl who wants to. I've wrestled...there can be blood. I wouldn't be able to do that either...slam this girl to the ground will all your might. Some people still believe in the respect of this boundary. And don't you think that we have enough idiot men out there hitting women? Do you think we need to gray that area up any more? Let her choose to wrestle, but respect his choice to bow out.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Tman

      William, you are one lame mo-fo.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:31 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
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.