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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. David

    If he would have lost to her he would have had the opertunity of teaching his school mates how to react to that. Wounder how his faith would lead him in that.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  2. Zan_Man

    Grow up! This male athlete is home schooled and isn't wrestling because it's 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." What way? Most 16-year old males would jump at the chance to roll around with female.

    Okay, seriously, obviously, this young man is a decent athlete and has a chance to go far in the world of Iowa high school wrestling (I have no clue about Iowa h.s. wrestling). However, to step down and take 'default' based on gender and then talk about his faith, show a lack of character by hiding beyond his 'faith'. I believe everyone has the right to their 'faith'/religion but don't hide behind it. I do believe he is in a no-win situation – if he wrestles and defeats her, will people say it was unfair? If he loses, people will question his ability and whether he 'went all out'? Now that he doesn't wrestle, people on both sides line up criticizing him or support him. Either way, he cannot win.

    I've coached both male and female sports teams, and can tell you that it might be the same sport/game, however it's played different by males and females. Look at mens hockey vs. womens hockey – same sport/game, but played differently for various reasons.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  3. shyam

    Simple question:

    Has a girl ever beaten a boy at wrestling? (not the big mama Vs chris rock kind)

    February 18, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • Brian

      In fact, the young lady in question won 12 matches, this year, mostly against boys.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:50 am |
  4. Ruth

    I'm going to leave it at this:
    I saw her dad, he is thinking she is all kinds of cool and incouraging her for this silly.
    Its wrong.
    Girls are girls and Guys are guys and stop crossing the line.

    Dad, go for getting girls wrestling in HS
    Quit strutting around loving the attention your daughter gets for being ridiculous.
    Good wrestler I'm sure she is, I bet there are 50 girls that could clean her clock, open the doors for that.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  5. Cal

    Someone posted that females are not allowed to play football. Have you been living under a rock? Females are allowed to play football, as long as they make the team.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:11 am |
  6. Gary

    stop judging the young man because of his decision not to wrestle the young lady. it's not you and what or how you feel about it doesn't change what he did. you can talk all day about his being scared a gentleman and even how you all are trashing one another for something that did not happen to you! it doesn't change what he did. i hope when you choose to do something that is meaningful and worthwhile in your life that no one is there with a camera for the world to tell you that you are femanist, loser or an abuser of mankind but can enjoy the choice you made good or bad. enjoy life for we are only here for a short time. if your married enjoy it. if you have a family enjoy them. if you are single man or woman enjoy your life. if you do it right i will see you on the other side. GOD BLESS

    February 18, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  7. Priyath

    I would gladly accept the opportunity to kick some female ass

    February 18, 2011 at 4:02 am |
  8. Ramon F Herrera

    Can't get a date?

    Join the TSA!

    February 18, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  9. steve

    I could see issues if these kids got aroused. It would be tough to wrestle if you're sporting a pup tent!

    February 18, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  10. steve

    I would kill to wrestle girls. The kids is a wimp!!! You can grope all you want and don't have to sweat it.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:58 am |
  11. Patches

    I'm not religious but I agree with his decision. His record stands for itself. Women can have equality and that's great. But when it comes to a highly personal contact sport personal convictions come into play. I wouldn't feel comfortable slamming a girl down with crotch holds and close contacts with breasts. Our bodies are different. I wouldn't want to be able to turn that feeling off and brutalize a girl on command. To do so would be inhumane. And he'd probably never be able to get it up in the bedroom again in all honesty 😉 She's there on her on volition true. Essentially every female that posted here expressed outrage with his decision. But I still consider him a gentleman. This is the one sport where I would agree separate gendered teams are better.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:53 am |
  12. Cal

    Guess what. If that kid ever decides to join the Marines, he's going to have some serious issues. We often do hand to hand combat that includes ground fighting. And yes, female Marines are often included in the training. If he was to refuse training with a female, we would kick his ass out the Marines for gender discrimination. We treat all Marines as equals.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:49 am |
    • Jimmy

      Not the case in the Marine Corps I know. In training we always avoided having males fight females, and nobody would EVER get in trouble for refusing to fight a girl. I've known females who could haul a pack and shoot as straight as the typical guy, but I still treat them with respect and wouldn't want to body-slam them.

      Your job is most likely different, but we don't even have those issues in the infantry – its male only for several reasons. There's plenty of places in the Corps where women are just as competent, but there's no good reason to make combat co-ed. And if you treat wrestling as mild combat, you shouldn't be forced to fight a woman either.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  13. Ruth

    NEVER humilate some young High School boy by making him wrestle some female.
    that would be theee worst of all.
    it needs to end.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:48 am |
  14. Ruth

    Lets just go to our mother nature for an answer.
    Lets put up a bull against a cow
    who wins?
    Its nature, males are stronger physcially, females are stronger mentally.
    Females are strong in their field, males are strong in theirs;.
    No cow is ever going to whoop down a bull.
    and no bull will ever take care of a calf the way the cow can, unless a bull grows teats

    February 18, 2011 at 3:46 am |
    • fred bazzeeda

      ruth, go back to ur research about nature, u have so many instances where the female is the dominant one. Can you say lions? Spiders? yep, keep going. many.
      this is not about a gender dominance. this is about respect and equality.
      if both placed in this event legitimately, then what is the problem? this girl has definitely worked hard to get this far, let the show go on. give her some respect!

      February 18, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Ruth

      SOME THINGS HAVE BALLS
      does that answer your question there?
      Women do not have baLLS.
      we got other things.
      I take it you don't have any or you would understand

      February 18, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • Ruth

      @Fred
      by the way fred, I have not posted anything once about a female being dominant, I am the one that stated a bull is boss over a cow, are you confused?

      February 18, 2011 at 4:05 am |
  15. koinu

    "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"

    So you're gay right?

    February 18, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  16. Dave

    Way to embarrass him even more cnn. Ya jerks.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • fred bazzeeda

      sure, that's the point!
      she placed in this sport legitimately and this lil weasel has no respect for that.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:55 am |
    • shyam

      hey Fred, the only real weasel is you who get his kicks from watching stuff like this. tw@t

      February 18, 2011 at 4:25 am |
  17. pilgrimsusan

    The young man has my complete admiration. In my opinion what he did to stand by his convictions and forfeit the match took great courage. I applaud him and his decision.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:24 am |
  18. Stevo

    Though there is some gender integration in sports, it's different in wrestling due to its violent nature. Baseball, basketball, and volleyball are all acceptable sports for gender integration. But tell me this: should a professional woman's boxer and a professional men's boxer compete in the same ring, simply because of some misguided sense of equality? There's a point where common sense must override the need for gender integration in absolutely everything. Also, boys are (or should be) taught from an early age that it is wrong to physically harm girls. So now, on the wrestling mat, they should neglect that idea?

    February 18, 2011 at 3:14 am |
    • David

      If they match up physically and the woman has a legit shot at winning, why not? Who cares if it's a physical sport?

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

      youre the man. well said.

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

      As Stevo says, in our culture men are taught from a young age that its wrong to use violence against a female. No one ever bothers teaching young girls not to use violence against boys. He's been raised for 16 years, being told he should never hurt, or even touch a girl, it's impossible for him to just switch that off when he walks onto the mat.
      In fact for any guy forced to wrestle a girl, its a lose, lose, lose situation.
      If he loses, he'll be humiliated by his peers for being beaten up by a girl.
      If he refuses to fight, he'll be criticised by females for not respecting her as an opponent.
      If he fights and wins too thoroughly he'll be berated for being a brutal thug that beats up girls.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:47 am |
    • Ruth

      @womble
      agree all the way with you. This sport is not for co-ed. IT IS TOTAlLY NOT!

      February 18, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  19. Cliff

    Imagine what it would do for his reputation to get his ass kicked by a girl!

    February 18, 2011 at 3:13 am |
  20. Beth Boyle

    I just don't think teenage girls and guys should be wrestling its just too close contact its just not right in a public setting. How can a boy wrestle a girl and not feel very ungentlemanly?

    February 18, 2011 at 3:11 am |
    • VegasRage

      If he thinks it's inappropriate to grapple with a girl because of gender, I don't see how it's any more appropriate to grapple with a guy.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:49 am |
    • fred bazzeeda

      you comment has no substance nor merit.
      this is about 2 atheletes facing off to determine a finalist. nothing more.
      equality, right?
      this boy is down right afraid of being beat by a girl. simple.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:52 am |
    • jo, h

      this guy's record is 35-4, why would he be afraid of losing?

      February 18, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • Ruth

      @ Fred
      no the boy is afraid of being danged if he does, or danged if he doesn't

      get it?

      February 18, 2011 at 3:56 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.