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. LeeCMH

    He's a little boy. I am sure he can't stand even the possibility that he'd be beaten by a girl. Oh the shame. It is not religion, but the terror that he'd have to associate with bullies after being beaten by a girl.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  2. Dot44

    The kid is right.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  3. Frank Sausage

    They shouldn't wrestle because they could start kissing and making out during the match, and that would not be appropriate. The girl would get all excited and stuff and could risk an early pregnant from such close contract. They can't help it. It's because of that minstrel thing and hormones and stuff.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  4. fheal

    What an absurdity, this young man is simply embracing what he believes, and as such should be commended for his actions. Feminism has overstepped it's bounds in this particular sport. Hopefully some less morally upstanding young man will slam this young lady so hard... she wakes up and wonders why she choose to fight men anyway. For she is playing the game with an unfair advantage, for the deck is stacked in her favor due to social conditioning, norms, and the morality of the nation. This is not some 3rd world nation, here in America 'men" are taught to not hit women from an early age... shame on her.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  5. JDonaldson

    religion is a good thing.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  6. james

    Im with him...what if his spandex starts stretching if you know what i mean. Years of being ridiculed for getting uh.uh .uh..you know.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • wrestling mom

      Oh My Gosh, How many years of school matches or duals, sectionals, districts, state matches did you endure? Yes, spandex stretches even if you don't wrestle a girl.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  7. Chris

    Everytime I hear the word "faith" an American rube standing near a trailer comes to mind.
    You people make me laugh.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  8. Ellen

    A teenage boy should not made to wrestle girls. It's not a question of who is stronger than who. It's just inappropriate. Too bad there aren't more young people with the guts to decide to do what's right over what's 'politically correct.'

    February 18, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Debi

      Why? Do you teach your daughters that?

      February 20, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  9. Tom

    Since where does the Bible say, "Thou shalt not wrestle girls?"

    February 18, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  10. EdR

    My son does karate and jujitsu. Competes against girls all the time. They beat on each other and love it. This guy is just afraid of getting his ass kicked by a girl. What a wuss.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • DS

      This kid was ranked number 1 in bracket, he would have whooped her. If your son loses to a girl in karate you should pull that wuss from the class and get him cooking lessons.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Joe

      Yes, because karate and jujitsu are exactly like wrestling. MORON!!! In karate and jujitsu the opponents are grabbing clothing, in wrestling they are grabbing and holding the body, all parts of the body; chest and crotch to name the most obvious parts that should be of concern here. And the kid is a leading contender to be a National Champ, do you REALLY think he's forfeiting for fear of losing? That makes no sense at all.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • wrestling mom

      Whether people see it as right or wrong, wuss or not, I applaud his decision. All of these athletes have proven themselves with their personal records. Hmmm, i'd like to see what kind of adult he will become. Geez, who was your role model?

      February 18, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  11. EdR

    My son does karate and jujitsu. Competes against girls all the time. They beat the crap out of each other and love it. This guy is just afraid of getting his ass kicked by a girl. What a wuss.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • JC

      Afraid of losing? I think not. Check the wins and losses for them.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • m

      Highly unlikely that he was afraid of losing to a girl. Get a clue

      February 18, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • Ranbo

      Let him wrestle your daughter and have his hands all over her and see how you feel.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Woody Brown

      At 35-4, he's certainly no wuss.
      The kid is home-schooled. He hasn't hardly a mind of his own yet. He's simply doing what his parents have indoctrinated him to do. Poor kid probably also believes that Jeebus created the Earth a few thousand years ago in six day, then went to church.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Debi

      @ EdR sorry I hit report instead of reply. Hope they dont delete your post. So sorry!
      @ Joe, so it is better for 2 boys to be grabbing each other like that? Ummm ok gay rights are fine if thats your thing.

      February 20, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  12. Woody Brown

    Olympic Co-Ed Greco-Roman matches...The ghost of Andy Kaufman has the last laugh.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  13. horf

    Wrestling is a game, like any other sport. An opponent is an opponent, no matter the gender. If can't handle it, then he can loose the match. Seems kind of silly. Was he afraid of loosing?

    February 18, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • JoJo

      maybe he is afraid of loosing some clothing. Then he could loosing some of her clothing then it is win win rather than lose lose. spelling for the win

      February 18, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  14. WrestlingMom

    Both of my boys are wrestlers and I do not agree with girls in the sport. It is my own personal oppinion that girls should not be touched in that manner. I have a lot of respect for this kid for standing up for his beliefs. Everyone is different...stand up for what you believe in.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Jack Daws

      Men don't swim against women or play tennis against women. I just don't understand how wrestling, of all sports, is the place to start.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  15. Sword of Damoclese

    If he beats her, he's a brutish clod. If he loses, he's a wimp. Lose/lose siuuation. Don't blame him for walking away.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Jack Daws


      February 18, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  16. FeministWoman

    I wish I had a penor, so I hate men!

    February 18, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Durzo Blint

      um what? a perno? that doesn't even sound like a real word, besides you can't base all the men you see off of ridiculous shows like jersey shore, or some random crap like that then that's your problem. Besides sounds like someone's got some anger issues towards men if you use the word "hate."

      February 18, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Durzo Blint

      penor* pardon my spelling

      February 18, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  17. Mike

    He's right. She shouldn't be wrestling him at the meet rather making him dinner for after the meet.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • pumpernickel1988

      Or wash his singlet and other clothes!

      February 18, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  18. Justin Observation

    I spent my high school years trying to wrestle as many girls as possible. To each his own.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • pumpernickel1988

      heck yea!

      February 18, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • 2true

      Amen to that one!

      February 18, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • m


      February 18, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  19. Mark

    My son wrestles and I have noticed some boys do go all out and wrestle these girls only to be admonished by their peers for beating a girl. The flip side is when a young man doesn't go all out and loses and is again admonished by his peers. Most of these young men feel they loose regardless of the outcome just by drawing a match with a girl. And secretly many of these wrestlers are told by parents and coaches to put thier hands in places uncomfortable for these girls. We are putting both our young men and women into a difficult situation because as adults we are afraid to adress the issue.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • Jack Daws

      People who demand accommodation for women in traditionally-male sports blithely ignore millennia of cultural norms for males that discourage them from harming women. What is offensive is that the young man's discomfort in an undeniably awkward situation is treated as if it has no merit or at least no merit worthy of consideration. The school officials or organizers of this event are spineless. The female wrestlers shouldn't advance because men won't engage in combative sports with them. They should have to wrestle someone to advance. Another weird situation is the practice of allowing women reporters in men's changing rooms when the inverse is unimaginable. Everything is arranged to unfairly tip the scale for women.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  20. Thenextstep

    Back in 1986 when I played highschool football there was a girl on one of the other highschool teams. We just didn't pay attention and kept on going........ She was on the kick-off and kick-return special teams. Let everyone go about they're business as they see fit......... If the biy doesn't wrestle her, then its simply a forfiet. LEAVE IT ALONE...........

    February 18, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • RoseMcB

      I agree. I can see both sides of this and understand where the difficulties might lie, particularly for a teenage boy. If he's not making a big deal about his opponent being a girl, per se, and willing to forfeit those matches, everyone should just move on. I'm sure his team and coach aren't thrilled, but it doesn't sound like it happens frequently.

      February 18, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • Frank Sausage

      This must not happen in Chtistina life with boy and girl. They shouldn't wrestle because they could start kissing and making out during the match, and that would not be appropriate. The girl would get all excited and stuff and could risk an early pregnant from such close contract. They can't help it. It's because of that minstrel thing and hormones and stuff. I kiss with my wife and we make baby. Boy and girl should not make baby during resting match.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:00 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.