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. FormerWrestler

    I'm wondering why this made it on to the front page of CNN. This is nothing new. I remember the first time I was paired up with a girl wrestler was 17 years ago when I was in 7th grade. I remember even back then there were occasionally times when male wrestlers would forfeit a match because they didn't want to wrestle a girl. Whether you are 13 or 18, no boy ever wants to wrestle a girl. It's an awkward situation when you are an adolescent with raging hormones. I remember struggling with the decision on whether or not to forfeit prior to the match, and eventually just decided to go out there and pin her as quickly as possible.
    Unfortunately there simply isn't enough interest from girls who want to wrestle, for high schools to fund a seperate wrestling team for girls. So unless we see more girls wanting to get out on the mat, they'll just have to wrestle the boys for now, and boys will have to make the choice on whether or not to wrestle a girl, or take a forfeit on their record.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  2. dude

    sorry to seem insensitive, but I wrestled in high school, (1989-1992) and there was no such thing as a 'girl wrestler'. I don't know what kind of a sissy sport that it has turned in to, but I can tell you this: If I had wrestled a girl, I probably would have seriously (accidentally) hurt her very badly. Either that, or I would have gone easy on her because she was a girl, negating the whole purpose of the sport. Women have no business wrestling with boys. forget the religious nonsense, it is simply stupid and dangerous for them. I don't care how 'tough' they think they are. I was once play wresting with a female body builder. she looked like she could rip me apart, but once I got a hold of her, she was like melted butter. The fact is, women are physically weaker than men. I will be the one to say it, sorry girls. There are some things you are not built for.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • Ruth

      I agree 100%. Testosterone is powerful stuff.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  3. Ruth

    Females are not less, we are different, without us, no males would be born.
    Our benefits are as important as any male.
    But wrestling a male when you are a female is , well, STUPID

    February 18, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  4. Ruth

    Females are females and have babies and periods.
    Males are males and generally are stronger with more muscle.
    that is natural.

    A female wrestling a male is NOT a natural sport.
    its ridicilous.
    A female wrestling another female is fine.
    If these girls want to wrestle open the sport up for "HS GIRLS WRESTLING" cool

    February 18, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • Hijinx

      Only misguided men have a problem competing against women on even ground. Also, "Ruth"...I'm going to guess you are not really female from your postings...

      February 18, 2011 at 3:22 am |
    • Ruth

      @hijaxx, well, you are wrong and no one can help you, you might try a little testosterone to get you back on the even note.
      I like men that are men, and women that are women. wrestling men when you are a female tells me you are messsed up in the head .

      February 18, 2011 at 3:38 am |
  5. God

    Dear American woMen,

    We know you want to be like the superior being, men, but that is not possible. You were born lesser for a reason, so your hands and bodily parts could better scrub the hard to reach places throughout the kitchen and house. Please don't burn the toast anymore or forget to separate the lights from the darks when washing your mans clothes.


    February 18, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • God

      Dear American Women:

      We love you just the way you are. At no time did we intend for you to be subjugated and placed into a position of mediocrity. Please continue to be equal to your counterparts, regardless of their gender. You rock.


      February 18, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • God

      Please disregard my last comment and all other after this one. My original comment is my absolute feelings regarding this matter.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • God

      I concur with disregarding my previous comment. I'm obviously schizophrenic and a figment of my own imagination. Take anything derogatory that I say with a grain of salt.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:45 am |
  6. Dale

    Good for him! It's very refreshing that this young man has been raised with and is living by decent values despite the pressure put upon him by his school, peers, parents and others to do something that is wrong. Males and females should not be involved in combat against each other – rather they should show respect, kindness and and proper decorum towards each other at all times. The degradation of society has led to this point, where so many people don't even know right from wrong anymore. This is not baseball, bowling or tennis. Shame on the school.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  7. pat

    A new low in front page fluff news. Cheap story to cover maybe, but where's the real news? Plenty going on in the world. I'd expect to see this in the small town newspaper right next to the prize goat.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:05 am |
  8. Baronton

    @Ruth, I think you need counselling

    February 18, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • Ruth

      Baronton, are you a girl that wants to wrestle a guy with a little too much testosterone in your blood steam?
      I really don't care for masculine girls, so wrestle on your way>

      February 18, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  9. EchoBetaDelta

    They forgot to mention she knows the most illegal wrestling move ever THE Egyptian hypnosis mind trick

    hes scared

    February 18, 2011 at 3:04 am |
  10. Fred

    Honestly, why is this on the front of CNN. Is this really that big of a deal? So the kid didn't want to – and he has his reasons. Who cares? Let him be.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:02 am |
  11. Ruth

    I think her daddy gets a kick out of her beating the boys up.
    Truth is, boys give in to her.
    They lose no matter what and she wins no matter what.
    And daddy thinks thats cool, I think its horrible.
    absolutley deplorible.

    and STUPID

    February 18, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  12. ned

    Fear of getting a chub in a unitard.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:00 am |
  13. Emilio Dumphuque

    He was just scared 'cause she was wearing a strap on.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:00 am |
  14. Ruth

    I'm 110% for that young man refusing to wrestle her.
    This has gotten way out of hand.
    The young man had class and has made his stand and i more than 110% stand behind him.
    I don't want to be disrespectful to the girl, but WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
    Does she really get a kick out of herself beating males wrestling?
    I don't understand her at all and I personally think she needs some counseling, seriously.

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

      I believe that you need counseling on math.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • Ruth

      Awi, let me guess, you are a woman that thinks she can beat up males and are so tough .
      I have never read more stupid comments than yours, education might be nice, stay off the meth though.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:34 am |
  15. anon

    How is this really the story with the biggest picture. There is not a bigger story out there. And for the athlete... who cares, its his decision to forfeit.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  16. larry

    So what's next boxing? She and her parents headed 2 the view or how about the jerry springer show..just another example of our failing american society......

    February 18, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Big M Dude

      How is this an example of American society failing? You said it, now back it up with a solid argument.

      February 18, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  17. Big M Dude

    I've attended wrestling matches where I have seen girls both win and lose. They wrestle hard and both the girl and her boy opponent wrestle to win. It is really no big deal unless you want to live in a pretend throw back to Little House On The Prairie world. Girls rock, boys will need to work hard to beat them.

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

      No you are right, totally appropriate. I say guys get to play girls basketball and girls golf. Please dont respond with the same lame answer.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  18. A

    The most morally appropriate thing a teenage guy could ever do. Cheers to him.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:56 am |
    • Big M Dude

      Why is it morally appropriate?

      February 18, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • Nick

      I want more equality in my anarchy

      February 18, 2011 at 3:06 am |
    • Jeremiah

      @NickL I want more anarchy in my equality.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  19. Ruth

    I can never express enough how wrong this it.
    Its not good for the girl either.
    But its totally out of wack for a guy.
    The guy looses NO MATTER WHAT.
    The girl wins NO MATTER WHAT.
    this is so wrong it's disgusting.
    It needs to stop, NOW.
    IF girls want to wrestle they should wrestle with other girls.
    the boys always hold back because they loose no matter what anyway.

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

      The girl did not "win no matter what" and the boy did not "lose no matter what". The girl must have been good enough to qualify or she would not have, so she won on her own merit. The boy could have wrestled her and won or loss. Its hard to know because he didnt try. This should be a non-story. If the boy doesnt want to participate, that's his choice. Girls who can compete directly with boys in sports, they should be allowed to do so. Why does anyone even care? I think the boy is insecure and afraid to lose to a girl. I don't think there is anything in the bible that says girls shouldnt be allowed to compete in sports if they have enough talent to beat a boy. I hate it when insecure naive people act self-righteous and try to justify small minded thinking with religion! The boy should have just wrestled her and moved on, or maybe she would have won.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:15 am |
    • Jeremiah

      Sure, why not? You seriously think god, or whatever creator (or evolution for that matter) gave you something he didn't give to everyone else? We've all seen it all, so why worry?

      Oh that's right because it's "shameful". Who gives a rats hind-quarters, I'd run around naked in the street all day if I had a choice. Heck I'd have to if gravity reversed itself (how else would the change stay in my pockets?).

      What I'm getting at (as if it wasn't obvious) is that there's no reason to be ashamed of being human, its a condition we all suffer from so why make it a bigger pain in the ass than it already is?

      February 18, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • AWi

      Your comment is absurd. No one is proposing that males and females shower together in high school sports.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:20 am |
    • Ruth

      @Rachel i CANT help it you are ignorant. God loves you too, so believe as you do.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • Ruth

      they are not taking showers together yet
      "yet being the key word"
      just a decade ago girls were not wrestling boys either.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:27 am |
    • Ruth

      I will add this
      I told my sons they were never to push, shove, nor put to the ground a woman.
      If my sons were wrestling this strange girl, I would tell them the same thing.
      Its not right.
      In fact, its kind of the most stupid thing I have ever heard of.
      sorry girls, for the most part, you really are NOT stronger than a male, though you do offer very wonderful other things.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • Jeremiah


      Oh I get it you're upset over the feminization of men, and the masculinising of women as reality advances into parity with itself. Yeah I'm not going to bother feeling sorry for the illusion that you're under. Women have to be just as strong as men, and vice versa when the roles call for it. In the mean time I wouldn't freak out about it, neither side would exist without the other (though give us 10 years and we'll fix that).

      February 18, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  20. Jman

    As a former high school wrestler who watched this very event occur at several tournaments, I completely understand and applaud his decision. It's a personal choice, and as stated above, a gentlemanly one at that. It was done out of respect, not disrespect. Give the kid some credit. After all, these guys (and girls) work their tails off at practice every day, many year round. After investing blood, sweat, and tears in preparation it's not easy to just forfeit a shot at crown when you know you have what it takes. I respect him for that.

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

      Respect? Probably more like fear of the possibility of losing to a girl.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:09 am |
    • LP

      Absolutely. THis has been going on for years and years- I remember reading about a girl wrestler about 20 years ago who was advancing like crazy because the boys wouldn't wrestle her. I didn't understand it as a teenager, but I certainly do now.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:11 am |
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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.