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. Grumpster

    Hmm...wrestling then is about the only time you could grope all you wanted and not get charged for it? That and underaged groping? Hmmmmm and double hmmmmmm....now if someone were filming that, couldn't they also be set up for filming child p o r n?

    February 18, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  2. Neverquit

    Less about scripture, and more about a family that could not bear the shame of a son losing to a girl. That would forever haunt them, and possibly cause them to disown their son. A risk too great to bear.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  3. John

    Pound her into the mat....just like you would do to any other guy you'd wrestle. Why discriminate.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  4. Riddles

    Funny how he can't wrestle females because of his "faith" being against engaging females in that manner yet he has no problem at all doing it with guys.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:52 am |
    • Tim

      My son wrestles and yes he has went up against girls. In most of the lower weigh classes guys are normally stronger than their femal counterparts. If you have ever went to a highschool meet. watch the boys when they are up againsts the girls, they do wrestle them differently because they do not want to grab the wrong place on them. I did advise my son to treat them like a guy and not worry about it, but they all still do. also as an fyi if a boy gets an erection while wrestling a girl it is automatic forfeit anyway well in illinois. maybe iowa has te same rules and maybe he was affraid that might happen, who knows but dont give him a hard time no pun intended, about not wanting to wrestle a girl. looking at his record the kid is good and maybe is afraid of hurting them.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  5. LOW LYF


    February 18, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • God

      You my son, are going to heaven for your words of wisdom.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  6. xiaobao

    Wait, why are boys and girls in the same league anyway? Aren't most sports separated by gender?

    February 18, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  7. ricky

    I respect the young man and his beliefs/values and I wish him well.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  8. ewell smith

    He is probably simply afraid to lose to a girl...

    February 18, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  9. James

    In other words, "I don't want to lose to a GIRL!"

    February 18, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  10. ginger

    Kudos to this young man--standing up for ones conviction in the light of unpopularity is a rare thing these days--great parenting & character.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  11. Bernardo

    I wouldn't want my high-school aged son wrestling a girl, no more than I would want him slow dancing with one. It's not due to lack of respect or equality. It just some old-fashioned respect for the opposite gender. Where I grew up "rural America", touching a young woman in either fashion was out of the question.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:07 am |
  12. Jeff

    Ever think that the reason why this girl won as much as she did is because women and not because she has any special skills. In wrestling you are required to place your hands in some areas that most guys would not feel comfortable doing to a female. I have seen this happen at a high school wrestling meet where I live. The guys even said it was not appropriate to have a young lady wrestle against them because of this. Not that they were scared to wrestle her they just did not believe it was proper to touch a female in the ways your required to do to wrestle.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:01 am |
  13. Karloff

    C'mon–wrestle the girl. You might like it.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  14. Makuku

    Hi, Tony, It seems that you have wrestled with girls before. Were you proud when you beat them? Were you proud when you got beat? Did you really work as hard as you could or you were easy on them to show your gentlemanhood?

    February 18, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  15. Makuku

    I am sure that Mike Tyson will not hesitate to swing at his female opponents. You see, he is far more advanced than most of us in terms of treating female equally.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:16 am |
  16. Makuku

    I don't even know that boys and girls are allowed to wrestle against each other. Now I must tuned to this sport. It would be very entertaining, I think. I am also starting to wonder, when a girl will lift a boy in figure skating?

    February 18, 2011 at 5:10 am |
  17. Brian

    Two things strike me:

    1) This kid, and his family, are not protesting the fact that girls participate. They seem OK with the notion. But the kid, because of the way he grew up, felt it in appropriate. I am a fairly liberal guy – at least when it comes to gender issues – but I have to say that I don't think I would feel all that great grabbing a girl in some of the places required to be a successful wrestler.

    2) I am 100% for equality of opportunity. The fact of the matter, though, is that males and females are built differently. And I am not talking about genitals. Women have different hip sockets, shoulder sockets and musculature. Women have different synaptic responses to certain stimuli. In general, a male will have a physical advantage. There are always exceptions. I would not want to aggravate any of the MMA women. They would destroy me in a matter of seconds. But those are professionals.

    When it comes to high school sports, it seems to me that most things can be equilibrated. Even then, we do not ask female sprinters to run against males. We do not ask female cross country runner to run against males. Ditto for golf, tennis, swimming, fencing, and many more. If we separate the genders in Track & Field, why are the genders not separated in wrestling?

    February 18, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • Jeff

      Then if women have the same rights to participate in all sports why do they not have the same standards in the real world. In the military, police force and fire departments women have lower test standards than men when it comes to physical standard tests for employment. If women are equal why aren't they treated equal in the real world? Don't believe me? Check out any physical testing standards for any state when it comes to pre-employment requirements.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:08 am |
    • joe

      Although some points you made are valid, they're weak at best. It's very simple, when the kid saw that he had to wrestle a girl and possibly lose, he got scared. She's obviously there for a reason... it's because she's good at what she does. The kid was chicken and he and his parent cooked up this crazy scheme to throw religion into the mix to get him out of it. If it's not the race card, it's the religion card... frankly I say bullsh!t. I too was brought up to respect women and the whole nine yards. I wrestled in high school and if she wants to throw herself into the mix and is okay with it... let the match begin and the best wrestler win. This kid and his parents didn't want their family to lose face because he lost to a girl. Plain and simple. Some people are calling him a man and a gentleman, whatever... he's a chicken. Wrestle and see who wins, THEN take it like a man or gentleman whatever the outcome.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  18. Caliconor

    You guys are really reading too much into this. Why CNN would even cover this is beyond me, and to be quite frank; CNN shouldn't be making national headlines of children thus embarrassing them. And you people are really reading too much into this. They're kids. That's all. Stop knitpicking, and reading too deeply into their decisions. If anything, give him props for doing what he believes. It might be the wrong choice in your eyes, but for him; it was the right choice. And he stuck to his guns.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • Liz

      Hope the national media coverage doesn't turn this into something more than it is. Respect for both parties for doing what they believe is right.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  19. pathfiner

    In track and field they have a honest effort rule that would preclude Northrup from proceeding further.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:53 am |
  20. pathfiner

    In track and field they have a honest effort rule that would preclude Northrup from proceeding further. Is that not the case here?

    February 18, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Retired Educator

      Oh, get off the kid, pathfinder and others! He's following his own scrupples. The solution is obviously to have separate boys and girls divisions. This is commonly done in other sports, basketball and baseball/softball are two popular spectator sports where this is done. Also, equality in this context means equal educational opportunity, i.e. girls deserve an equal opportunity in physical as well as academic education. And that can provided by offering different sports or different divisions of the same sport.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • Cal

      Hey Educator....how do you form a seperate female division with only 2 girls participating? Did you think about that?

      February 18, 2011 at 7:01 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.