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. Dr.Tong

    The feminization of men, in this case a boys, continues. And all you clods can think of is: "Duh, he don't want to touch da girl"! God help us.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  2. becket1

    While his religious convictions restrict his play, I hope that those same convictions speak loudly for her right to be part of the team and support her through the next period. Wrestling is over before most people can spell it but iintegrity is a soul based word.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Tman

      Wow. Nicely stated.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  3. Jake and the Fat Man

    He made the right religious decision, but because of this, is punished in the sport. I don't agree with mixed gender sports. It will be a shame if he has to make the same decision twice. To all the comments about "not hitting a lady", that's a double standard. If a girl is wanting to play a contact sport with men, she and everyone that knows and sees her doing so need to understand that any injury or violence thrown at her as if she were a man is totally legal. No lawsuit for groping or hurting a girl. It's not fair to have that rule in her favor before the match starts.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  4. Ruth

    I am from Iowa, This is important. I TOTALLY support the young man that forfeited to this young lady.
    It's wrong. No matter what happens in the match, the guy looses.
    No matter what happens in the match, the girl wins.

    If girls want to wrestle, then get busy starting up girls wrestling.
    No way should any male be forced to "wrestle" a girl.
    I taught my sons they were never to push, shove, nor put down to the ground a female.
    The girl goes home a winner, no matter what happens, the boy goes home a loser.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • Tman

      I take it you don't have a daughter? If you did, would you support her passions?

      If you think there should be wrestling for girls in your state, then why don't you do something about it?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Stevo

      Tman, what do you want Ruth to do about it if they don't have a daughter. Suddenly join a cause that they have no reason to be a part of? I think Ruth is supporting their passion. The answer's simple: a girls' wrestling club should be started up.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:04 am |
  5. Homeschoolmama

    Seeing this on the front page I said WOW someone else is also raising their son with morals and dignity and respect for women! What do you know he is homeschooled! BRAVO kid you are awesome and 100% right here hope other boys will take notice. He is showing more respect for another girl than most girls out there today are showing themselves.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • Tman

      ...and she is showing more respect for herself by doing what she believes in than most. What is WRONG with the women on this forum? I mean, REALLY. Yes, he is admirable, and I do not disagree with him at all, but this gal deserves support, and respect on these stupid forums.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • Homeschoolmama

      Tman- My statement of this young man showing more respect for another girl than most girls out there was a general statement of girls. Many girls are not showing respect for themselves these days in a variety of ways, the way the dress and act etc. Either they are simply not being raised and taught to or they simply make the decisions not to.
      It is a respectful thing this kid is doing. What do we owe the girl ? She made no stance except to join a boy team. The main character in the article is the young man not the young woman....well on second thought, without her the artile would not be possible would it. Can't give that kudos.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  6. TypicalManlyAmericanWomen

    Typical American WoMan. Soon they'll be injecting male hormones and steroids to be like men...oh wait, they already do.

    "America, where the men are women and the women are men."

    February 18, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  7. Joe

    the boy was right.. I would not have either..

    February 18, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  8. robert

    home schooling is so bad for kids...it should be outlawed...dumb parents trying to teach kids and the kids not being ready for the world.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  9. Y man


    February 18, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  10. jolly


    February 18, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  11. Y man

    She doesn't have a weiner. There's the problem right there. C'mon guys.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • Tman

      You like those weiners, huh, Yman?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  12. Brian

    How did it get to this point? This situation should not have come up.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  13. andybud

    Why is this news?

    More importantly, why is it deserving of center stage on the CNN.com website?

    We have revolution sweeping the Middle East, our US government debating fiscal strategies, and yet some kid in some town with some faith making a decision that most likely won't amount to a hill of beans is what you focus on?

    I, for one, can't imagine why the rest of the world thinks we know nothing about them with such fine reporting as this.

    Good grief, stop being idiots, CNN.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:39 am |
    • Tman

      Our education system is being cut to death, our kids are falling behind third world countries in math and science, and our children are FAT. I'd say articles about the involvement of our youth (our future) are pretty important.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • Derek

      Tman, we need you on the nextt flight to Wahington, DC ASAP.

      Religious 17 year olds who refuse to choke hold girls and stick their thumbs up their....... are what is holding America back. Help!

      It's Egypt all over again. Revolution!

      February 18, 2011 at 3:04 am |
  14. Bob

    This wrestler is unconsciously participating in one of the longest running frauds of human history. This is the myth that women are always weaker than men. What this wrestler is terrified of is that he would have been beaten... by a woman! Her winning, were that the outcome, would be just another chip in the eroding patriarchy Christianity has been so helpful to persist far too long, and on which it's structure so strongly depends. Our true salvation will result from many things... especially the understanding of the real equality of men and women.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:38 am |
    • Bill

      He may also have been concerned about inappropriately touching her body by accident, which is a concern to some religious people. Or he could have been making a statement regarding violence against women. Or he could have issues in his life about violence against women. Or any of a hundred other things that we will never know.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Mandy

      Right On Bob O! Haha!

      February 18, 2011 at 2:52 am |
    • Derek

      Are you kidding? Males are physically stronger than females. That is a fact and there is no research to prove otherwise.

      You are fighting the wrong fight. This thread has way too many posts and it mere existence is laughable, but don't post falsehoods.

      Was your girlfriend helping you with the ludicrous post and it pushed her over "the edge". If so, wear protection, she is too easy.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • phh

      True study of the ancient text of the Bible is opposite of what you are saying here Bob. Men and Women in the Holy text are elevated to the same status by God. At the core of life, we are both made in the image of God. Look at how many women in the text are elevated to great status. It is culture within the text that says differently. Study the text. You clearly are also prejudging that this young man did not wrestle her because of a belief that he is superior. It may very well be a modesty issue. Look where the lack of modesty is getting our culture and see where it could be a wise decision. I love someone that goes against the flow of culture and decides to do the hard thing in spite of prejudice from the general culture we live in.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Jezabelle

      He probably just respects what women have been up to this point. Now they just want to be like men, which is a terrible idea.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • Tman

      But Derek, there are numerous qualities in people, and physical strength is only one. A woman can beat a man by being less arrogant and more intelligent or determined. I'm not saying that women are more intelligent than men, just that there are qualities and strengths other than muscle mass and size. Practice makes perfect.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:04 am |
  15. YuckyGirls

    His faith dictates that it's preferable to press his flesh against other boys rather than girls?

    February 18, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • phh

      Seems you may have judged him without knowing his motives for this decision unless you know him personally or have spoken to him somehow. I can only assume you have not. Is this not what people of faith in God are accused of doing...judging others? He did not say his faith prefers something over another but rather that it would not be "appropriate". Valuing what God would dictate him to do and not do is what a follower of Jesus would want to do, isn't it? I applaud this decision in the face of all that the popular vote within his culture would tell him to do.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  16. metmo

    This kid made a personal decision at great detriment to himself. He had a strong chance to win the whole tournament. His statement with forfeiture was not bitter, he didn't blame the girl or state anywhere they he felt she shouldn't be able to compete. Whether you agree with his decision or not, it's pretty clear that he is a decent kid with good motives. It's unfair to take him to task for following his conscience when he hurt no one. I'm a woman who definitely believes in equal rights but I'm also rational and can easily see how it would be awkward for a young teenage man to wrestle a girl in a "combat" sport when he was raised with a certain set of moral beliefs.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  17. Ard On

    That would be bad and good for me. Bad that my tingling manhood may show beneath my tights, good for me that I can get rough foreplay from a girl up close, and sweaty... ohh my... mmMMmmm.... Ohhhh, lordy.... better not. She'd win everytime.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:35 am |
  18. Fran

    So his religious beliefs keep him from wrestling a woman but not from groping a man? That's hilarious!

    February 18, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • jargan

      You are a moron, Fran.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  19. barbara

    i hope he only sees the positive comments on here. if i was his mother or father i would be proud. he made the right decision. imagine, if he had won, it wouldn't feel like a win and people would be like "oh wow you beat a girl" or he would be weaker out of guilt and if he lost, "you got beat by a girl" there is no "win" in this situation other than what he did. it was stupid for the school to do it. just like some schools have girl football, make a girls wrestling team. what if someone even said they touched inappropriately as well. it would be awkward for him to pin between her legs and such. this really should never have happened to put this young man in this situation anyways. teenage years are hard enough without this stress added too it. God bless you young man. im proud of you!

    February 18, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • Fran

      but his religious beliefs think it's okay for him to touch a man inappropriately? that's why his reason makes no sense.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Ard On

      Got a point there... thats just totally gay

      February 18, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Tman

      The only problem I have with your statement is that you left out how much determination, courage and committment it took for that girl to wrestle. Put your money where your mouth is, and do something to start a wrestling team for girls. You should know that sports are good or BOTH girls and boys.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • hmbdude

      Your post would make a lot of sense in a fundamentalist Islamic country.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • Nick

      First off wrestling is not groping a man. This statement is neither humorous or called for. Maybe you should take a look at your maturity level because of that statement. This kid probably has more morals then you will ever have. I don't know about you but I do not get my jollies making fun of a 15 year old kid on web pages.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:47 am |
    • Jake and the Fat Man

      No, Barb, it wasn't a good decision. These situations should never be allowed. The next guy, if not Northrup, that faces this girl could possibly set out the make a point with her causing injury. What if every guy that she faces forfeits and she wins state due to protest? Think that will make her self esteem go up? In collegiate sports, there have to be an even number of male and female team sports. That's why some universities have only a female soccer team and not a male's. High schools don't do this. It's just a shame that not enough girls in some areas want to wrestle

      February 18, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Chris

      Barbara, I agree with you. This is unfortunate and there is "no win" for either the young man and woman. I realized that we live in a world that have come to realize that men and women have similar rights and opportunities. But men and women are not the same. If a man walks into a women's restroom, he would be arrested and vice versa. Equal opportunities and rights do not equal the same playing field. If there is a sustaining interest in girl's wresting, then a girl's league should be created. Girls don't compete with boys in high school basketball, track, gymnastics, swimming... so why in wrestling There are many sports(boxing, cycling, ultimate frisbee...) that small groups of people enjoy but are not represented in high school sports. In this case, it would be girl's wrestling.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  20. Nicholas


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

      Grow up

      February 18, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • jackson

      Wow way to make news out of nothing once again. all you idiots who think this is a big deal should be ashamed of yourselves people have the right to make a little decision like this without the media blowing up on them.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:56 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.