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. S. Huang

    I wrestled in HS too and I've had to wrestle girls before. It comes down to this, wrestling is a "combat sport" but it also has established rules and guidelines (unlike true combat). If you are an honorable wrestler, you shouldn't have to be afraid of the idea of hurting a female who chooses to participate in the sport.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  2. brock lesnar

    when I wrestled in high school, i would have slammed her to the ground just as hard as anyone else. I mean, if the tourney officials dont give a crap, and obviously SHE has no problem with it, then hey, neither do I.

    They have a womens division for that... well, at least at my school they did. where the hell is the pic of the girl?? if she looks anything like venus williams, id take that match very seriously... no mercy.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  3. Elise Muhammad

    Good for him! How refreshing and inspiring. Thank you, young man, for demonstrating some understanding of the delicate nature of male and female relationships and interactions

    February 18, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Randy

      yep...well said my friend.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  4. anthony t

    where is the real news?! There has to be something a little more important that happened than stories or morale and character. sheesh. What's going on with Iran and North Korea?!

    February 18, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Patcee

      Everyone is complaining about this not being news, yadda yadda, but they all selected it to read. Couldn't you tell from the headline what it was about? There are plenty of hard news stories all over the place – why did you come to this one if you are not interested? As for the wrestling, I think it would be impossible to wrestle a girl and not touch the wrong places. I don't blame the kid.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:42 am |
  5. Sitnalta

    Why is this news? Who cares about high school wrestling? Why all the wishy-washy legalese? If a kid doesn't want to participate in a no-win scenario like this then that's his prerogative. It's freaking HIGH SCHOOL.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Clarity

      Apparently YOU care enough to read the article and comments...then post a comment yourself.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  6. mm

    I don't know much if anything about this sport but don't when they tackle, don't they have to hold each other between the legs. This guy probably don't want a strange girl accidentally coming in contact with him "down there". And he probably doesn't want to come in contact with her "down there". I wouldn't.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  7. Derek

    If a girl wants to wrestle, that is her choice to make. However, if a boy chooses not to wrestle against her, that is also his choice. Both must be respected.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • Clarity


      February 18, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  8. do it

    kick her in the balls.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  9. sleepytime

    "Northrup is home-schooled..." hahaha, say no more.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  10. AllAgainstPoliticalCorrectness

    Being that it is such a contact sport... I would do it however, I would make her first sign a consent form that would not allow her to sue in case of contact of some off limits area... It seems every grab in wrestling would be an inappropriate area. This is just WRONG however... the girls should be wrestling with other girls. This is going to cause nothing but problems. Once again, political correctness run amonk

    February 18, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  11. 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. It really doesn't matter.


    February 18, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  12. leap7in

    what ever lol if i was this kid i would have wrestled her i mean what an oportunity for him to totaly feel this chick up rite lmao.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  13. BibleBelt

    My hats off to those who know in their heart that what he did was right.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • OLD MAN


      February 18, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Thomas

      Humm if you take your hat of you will have far less clothing than his opponent was forced to wear.... you 'religious' people will just stop at NOTHING to bring inequality to the world !

      February 18, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Randy

      Thomas...you have no idea what conscience and conviction are all about...how sad for you.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  14. cchswrestler

    i say to the women bring it on. if they have the skills and many of them do. let them do the best they can. no shame
    in that. i understand the religous conflict and that's a problem. when you have a faith conviction sometimes you must
    sacrifice to meet your faith. but i would like to know if he would wrestle on a sunday or default as this is generally
    the sabbath day in christian faith, sometimes saturday for catholics. why exlude one and not the other. generally i
    think girls should have the ability to compete. gina carano kicked ass in the mma and she's hot too.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  15. DB

    I wrestled girls several times in high school without incident. I did beat them handily, but I had no problem wrestling against them.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • mh


      February 18, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  16. miss sar

    wow, a man respecting a woman, yes it's a sport and women have equal right but his shows true character. Good for him!

    February 18, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Thomas

      YES! excellent for him - he lost ... he is dismissed.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Clarity

      I agree....well played young man.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Randy

      I agree, well done young man. You took the loss as you must, but you did what you felt was right.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  17. what if?

    i would have to say that if she wants to play the game and can stand on her own 2 feet then go get her.
    In this day and age where everything is all about PC... what happens when he touches her breasts? or grabs between her crotch? being a former wrestler myself I can tell you that you get up close and personal with your opponent. Does he need to be worried about getting sued or worse after the match?

    February 18, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  18. gartoonz

    hmmm ..... sceered of bein' beaten by a
    girl ? =;-]

    February 18, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • Jeffrey

      That's what I was thinking..

      February 18, 2011 at 2:23 am |
    • Rheinheart

      Or maybe like me, he was raised not to hit a girl..Ever think of that?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • jaysunstar

      "hmmm ..... sceered of bein' beaten by a
      girl ? =;-]" -I was waiting for the childish remarks to start. Thanks for such a predictable comment.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:31 am |
  19. Another thought

    i would have to say that if she wants to play the game and can stand on her own 2 feet then go get her.
    iIn this day and age where everything is all about PC... what happens when he touches her breasts? or grabs between her crotch? being a former wrestler myself I can tell you that you get up close and personal with your opponent. Does he need to be worried about getting sued or worse after the match?

    February 18, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  20. billclinton3

    as a former high school wrestler myself, i can say that i would never treat a female to the sheer brutality with which i treated my opponents. he made the right choice

    February 18, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Thomas

      Great and as a matter of consequence he got EXACTLY what he deserved, the lost. If you have a mental 'block' try another sport. Obviously, the worthy opponent had no such issues.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • HotDogInBuns

      You should see him in bed: "No I WONT GET NAKED! wrestling a girl in this manner is wrong, bring on the dudes!" And that is when the whole realization of macho man sports is G4Y! and most followers are aggro in the closet h0m0s.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Randy

      ...and he lost as a consequence. I wouldn't do it either and it's nice to see a young guy standing up for his convictions.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:41 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.