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. EqualOpportunityOffender

    She signed up for this, so there is no reason for him to forfeit. He needs to just step up to the mat and bring it full force. She wants it, so give it to her. I would be interested to know what religion does not allow women in sports. I would be willing to bet it just somehow refers to mixed sports when you might need an excuse to not come out looking like a chump when she takes you out?

    February 18, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Peace2All


      Except that he has every right, and total free-will to 'forfeit' for (any) reason he chooses. I could be wrong here, but I don't think it's your business to tell him he 'has' to wrestle her.


      February 18, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  2. Peace2All

    Being in the martial arts world, in karate, and especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have encountered situations where I have had to spar either in stand-up (punching/kicking, etc..) and/or jiu-jitsu, which is extreme grappling on the ground.

    My instructors had often warned us guys, that 'be careful of the girls, do not let your guard down and underestimate them, or you may get hurt.' They didn't say ..'be careful of hurting the girls, etc..' They were warning us.

    It seems if a female is willing to step into an arena, especially like martial arts or wrestling, etc..., then 'they' are well aware of the risks, and in one sense will not and should not get treated any differently, in general, from the males.

    I have seen several times, when a male and female opponent were paired up, and the guy 'felt bad' or underestimated her, as he didn't want to hurt her, and in several of these situations, the male got his a-s-s kicked by the female, and in a couple of situations, the male got hurt, 😯 because he didn't want to hurt the female.

    My belief and experience is if, the women has chosen and earned the right to compete with the men, then they have earned that equal respect.

    In relationship to this article, the girls have obviously earned the right to be there to compete at the state competi-tion.

    And... if this young man 'chooses' for his own reasons to not wrestle the girls, that is his choice, whether one agrees with his world-view and choices or not.


    February 18, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  3. Nicole

    Honestly, I think he should have wrestled her...I applaud what his decision, however if a female chooses to engage in male activities...well then she should not expect to be treated like a lady.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  4. anne

    Totally agree with this young guy! Stand up for your rights man! As for this girl – get on a girls' wrestling team and leave the boys' alone! As the mother of two sons I find this completely unacceptable. This kid has balls! Take no notice of the feminists who will be jumping all over this (pardon the pun)! Who cares what they have to say anyway. It's time for this male discrimination to stop! Males have rights and they are going to assert them and women (especially mothers with sons) will be rooting them on!

    February 18, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  5. Uh...HighSchool Boy

    I think everyone is missing the obvious. He's a high school boy. Touching a girl. And he's in spandex. The boy is petrified of everyone seeing him pitching a tent in center-stage. I mean, he probably has moral objections to it too, but it's the public erection he's most scared of.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  6. brent

    he just didnt want to lose

    February 18, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  7. norcal DM

    His faith says a lot of stupid things, i dont see him implementing all of them. I guarantee the mom is forced ot stay at home and be the good house wife. If he was raised with the right values, he wouldn't care who he was pitted against, male or female. You wrestle against your opponent regardless of gender. If both individuals want to wrestle each other, they each accept the consequences of injury that may take place due to participation in said activity.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • knez011

      Well, it would just take too much time to explain the higher moral values of his "stupid religion" to you. You must be a pure bred, corn-fed patriot who would charge your momma if you had to. Can't you just accept and respect that someone is different than you?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  8. Scott A

    This is why Puritans should not wrestle. The "As a matter of my faith" line should have just been "I am not comfortable".

    February 18, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  9. Michael

    "However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times."

    I just do not understand how someone who proclaims to be religious can participate in such an activity at all. Why is violence towards a male more acceptable than violence towards a woman?

    February 18, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  10. Ed

    Good on you young man. You'll achieve great things. The girl's dad has a big heart too which I'm sure goes the same with his kids.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  11. RC

    So why aren't the men in separate tournaments and the women in separate tournaments? Schools and universities have separate men and women basketball, swimming, baseball and tennis. Seems like this could all be avoided with separate teams.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • TheReaperD

      Because if they school does not have a girls wresting team (and I do not personally know of any that do) than, by law, they have to allow girls play on the boys team. It's the same with any sport or other activity in a school. Since there are few, if any, girls wresting teams that means, by default, that the girls have to be allowed into the same wresting tournament as the boys.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • jake

      But, what kind of parent or girl would actually want to be a wrestler on a boys team of wrestlers ?? That just seems very very odd.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  12. bergus

    the young man has a set of values and will not be swayed from them. he made his choice on his own actions, and i applaud him despite my own opinions, he is an honorable young man.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  13. Philip Tortora

    The Iowa high school wrestler who forfeited match against female opponent illustrates a serious dilemma. Did he make the right choice? I don't think you can blame him for not wanting to wrestle a girl.


    February 18, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  14. gorky

    if girls and boys are allowed to wrestle each other then after the match they should be allowed to use the same changing room and shower too.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  15. dkcarr

    He was just afraid of what people would think when he got slamed to the mat by a girl.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Ikhan

      That is just mean and low, shame on you!

      February 18, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • jeremiah sherrill

      that my friend is the truth

      February 18, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  16. BodyShots

    Can I as a guy go into a woman's restroom when it's clearly specifies women on the door?
    Can I as a guy decide I want to join the military but insist on going to the women basic training?
    Could I join a womans basketball or soccer team as a guy?
    Could I insist on getting a consistent office job instead of a seasonal construction one?
    Could I opt out of paying child support, but instead easily get custody of my child and not have dhs hunt me down?

    February 18, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • anne

      as the mother of sons I applaud your comment! Right on!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • curious

      Good Evening Sir,

      I am a 31 year old woman who is in the military. I have been in for 12 years and plan on retiring. I went thru basic training and i had males and females in my flight. I also don't know of any females on men basketball or soccer teams. I also know plenty of women who have seasonal construction jobs and men who have consistent office jobs. Also I know men who have custody of their children(my brother) and a women who is in the military who has to pay spousal pay to her husband and give him some of her retirement. So what are you trying to say? I would love to read your thoughts. However please don't expect a response back. I'm not the type to argue back and forth.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Texan21

      In the Army, men and women train at both Basic and AIT together. Yes there are a few Basic training sites that are male only but that is because they are combat arms specific sites and as we all know women are barred from holding a Combat arms MOS. I personally applaud these 2 young women and their acomplishments. You may now resume claiming double standards, that do exist, but lets man up and get over it, ok?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  17. SD

    Congrats to Joel for winning his next match in the consolation bracket!

    February 18, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  18. Atomic Mom

    Good for him. He was brought up right. So young in age, but has the well thought out convictions of a smart, mature adult.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • scorpioman

      Yes, also it could be that he is smart enough to know that wresting a girl would be a "no win" situation because,
      a. When he pins her, people say no big deal he's a boy and is expected to beat her or b. If by some chance he should lose to the girl, he would never hear the end of it until he graduates. :- )

      February 18, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • mirc

      Smart mature adult is one word for it, but i'd say immature overly religious nutcase.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  19. Jim

    So we really want to see an adolescent boy grappling an adolescent girl – probably one on top of the other... This is political correctness gone mad!

    February 18, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • josh

      he's a hero for how he handled it and she has no business competing in wrestling with boys... chivalry vs. PC

      February 18, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • susiepuke

      I I am a 340 lb , beautiful attractive woman, with hairy armpits and a pitbull face....I will beat down any man here on this site...I take serious offense to what you guys have to say. You are all cowards I will eat your face off !!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  20. american4545

    good for him, i aplaud him; bravo.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • knez011


      Let it go, already. If your girlfriend left you for a wrestler or if you were abused as a child, we don't need to know about it, OK?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Mama

      I am in the unique position to see this from both sides. I had a daughter who wrestled, and a son who wrestled. I don't believe boys should wrestle girls. My daughter could be said to be "good" at wrestling, but she did it in the hopes of gaining her father's approval and love...she lost on that score, sadly. My son was very good, he may have earned a scholarship; but he was concerned about the verbal abuse the coach heaped on the kids and quit. My son is not gay (nor is my daughter), but my son would never wrestle a girl if that situation came up. There are too many moves that are too intimate, and uncomfortable in a gal vs. guy match. I'm proud of Joel. There were guys who forfeited to my daughter saying they'd had beat her senseless. In reality they were uncomfortable about it. Joel stood up for his beliefs, and he is the type of kid we all should be proud of.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • Josh

      haha, a female wrestler could make it to the top in a crazy religious town without even entering the ring.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • James Savik

      I agree. Women should know their place: in the kitchen and the bedroom. How dare they aspire to anything more.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • govwatch

      ....Just waitin' for the first lawsuit from the parents of a female wrestler claiming that a male opponent touched her "inappropriately" during a match. Yet another opportunity to rake in cash in the name of "equality".

      February 18, 2011 at 2:09 am |
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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.