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. Hammer

    Look, this thread of comments is a mess. The kid has been raised with religious convictions about grappling with girls. He isn't a pansy, and he isn't any more brainwashed than Catholic kids or Baptist kids or Christian Reformed kids. Eventually, he'll establish his own beliefs. It certainly is his right to forfeit a match, and I think it says good things about his character that rather than complain, he accepted the rules and worked within them.

    Personally, having coached middle school and high school sports, and having been a teacher, there is nothing wrong with allowing girls to compete in wrestling, or in football, etc. The girls know up front that they get no special treatment for being girls, and the boys know not to give them any. Their ability to handle such situations is a direct reflection on those around them: parents, coaches, teachers, etc. have to make expectations clear. This is a teaching opportunity – a rare moment to help stretch the awareness of teens.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  2. Steve the real one

    I will state this. The difference between this kid and you who bash him is this:

    Joel had the courage to take a stand in PUBLIC. You bashers are doing it using fake names and from behind a computer screen! Saying that ..Exactly who is the courageous one?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Why can't girls be girls?

      Well said, my friend. Well said.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Why can't girls be girls?
      Well said, my friend. Well said.
      Thank you. I am just weary of folks who cannot appreciate somebody (especially a young person) who can stand on conviction! Miley Cyrus, Lindsey Lohan, and Paris Hilton get the attention and are famous. For what? In my eyes Joel is the hero and role model!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  3. Roanoke Brendan

    So his faith keeps him from rolling around on a mat with a girl but its ok for him to get all sweaty and roll around with other young muscular boys.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  4. jeff

    if he wins, " ha ha, beating up a girl,what a loser", if he loses " ha ha beat by a girl"....... you can't win either way, smart and only choice really........................

    February 18, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  5. Faber McMullen

    I think he was totally right to forfeit. I was raised and reared to never touch a woman in a violent manner. It would not be in my make up to do so. It seems absurd to have matched a man against a woman in wrestling. I've never seen it done in the olympics or any other setting. What's up Iowa?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  6. goodjob

    whoa whats up saved by the bell

    February 18, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  7. jpeay

    I applaud Joel if he truly made this decision based on his convictions. If that is the case he can hold his head up high and look back on this without regret. If he made this decision based on fear, fear of losing, fear of hurting a girl who agreed to compete, fear of the social consequences; then he should have stepped onto the mat. Fear should never dictate conscience.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  8. Yes, I'm a women (and a strong supporter of women's rights)

    Look, I totally understand where he's coming from. There are a lot of controversial factors going against both these athletes. Considering wrestling is an aggressive and violent sport it would look extremely bad if things turned to worst for either of these opponent. One of these athletes would appear the bad guy regardless of the outcome. Not because one of them was seriously hurt, but the gender roles and morals our society has. I'm sure the boy didn't want to fight her, because she was a girl. He didn't want to fight her, because he was taught to respect girls, and to not lay a hand on them (regardless of the situation). I'm sure the father of the daughter understand the boy's conflicting decision. That boy had to face moral judgment, genders roles, and bias (in the name of wrestling). That's a tough decision for a teenager to make. Hell, have a grown men make that decision. Let's see what the outcome would be. Besides, shouldn't we praise the boy for having strong morals and respect for women (considering most women/girls are harassed on a daily bases)?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  9. Steve

    Wrestling is a science. I've wrestled from 3rd grade through college. I know the sport. It's not WWF. It's true that the strength of an adolescent female is likeley to approach the strength of an adolescent male, more so than any oher stage of life. If both were 25 years old she would require more knowledge and technique to win. It's refreshing to see this. It's crazy to assume that women are so tender they shouldent be challenged.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  10. Jimmyjammer

    He's afraid she will feel is miniscule wiener

    February 18, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  11. jimiatlas

    OK. Our laws and culture say that it is wrong for a man to beat or fight a woman. Media stories abound about how heinous it is when a man assault a woman. And then we wonder why this young man, who was probably taught (and rightly so) by his parents to respect women, refuses to wrestle a young woman? This whole thing reveals a horrible contradiction in Western beliefs and the PC culture it has created. That is, women are different then men. Startling isn't it?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  12. YES

    F this! Pay attention to Wisconsin and the dismantling of worker rights!!! If you dont it WILL come to your state next.

    Repaste this if you give a dam.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Rosemary

      you must be a teacher

      February 18, 2011 at 8:30 am |

      Unions should be banned from the schools. Teachers going on strike can/will affect our children. Maybe the teachers unions are part of the reason we are ranked so low in education among other countries.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  13. canopy

    I respect his decision. If they wrestled and ended up breaking her arm or leg we'd then question whether a female should wrestle boys.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  14. Reality

    Welcome to "FeMa" Wrestling. In this corner, the "Corn Husker". In the far corner, the lean "Pink Oink". Ding, Dong!

    February 18, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  15. Ames Wolff

    Funny. I see nothing wrong with women in combat roles...wearing string bikinis on public beaches or having an abortion. But I do see something wrong with placing a teen aged boy and teen aged girl in the same physical sports arena. They're too young...they're too inexperienced in life and sports are elective...not compulsory so both should be able to participate with their own gender and without scrutiny. Kudos for the kid.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • Brian of Ohio

      I Couldn't agree more. Well said

      February 18, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  16. Wendella

    I don't think boys and girls should westle against each other, it is too phsyical! "War on Women" is what alot of people are talking about and then your going to put a boy and girl in the ring together and give him permission to beat up on her! On the other hand it also gives the girl permission to beat up on the boy, which is a growing issue also! I want to thank this young man for standing up for what he believes and just for the respect he has for others.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • Rosemary

      Well said

      February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Mary in Baltimore

      I totally agree with you. I took my son out of coed wrestling when he was in second grade because I did not agree with the way they wanted the boys to touch the girls. You can't on one had teach on one hand to manhandle women and then on the other that its okay. I believe it sent mixed messages and decided it would be better for him not to participate.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Mary in Baltimore

      Sorry for typos above***

      I totally agree with you. I took my son out of coed wrestling when he was in second grade because I did not agree with the way they wanted the boys to touch the girls. You can't on one hand teach manhandling women is wrong and then on the other that its okay. I believe it sent mixed messages and decided it would be better for him not to participate.

      BTW, I was in the military and believe women can do anything. If there are girls who'd like to do this fine for them. I personally did not believe it was ok to force girls/boys together in this way. My son went on to boxing and did very well.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Morgan

      There's a significant difference between competing in a contact sport with a girl who has proven her ability to defend herself and rank abuse of someone weaker than you. Comparing wrestling to abuse is just plain silly. That said, I do respect the young man for sticking to his convictions and taking the consequences for it. So many want to protest and still have their way. This boy simply stood his ground, accepted his forfeit gracefully and that was that.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  17. Internetstrollinisseriousbusiness

    Nothing some time at a re-education camp won't fix.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  18. Memyself

    He was more afraid of getting a stiffy in front of his family and friends I think.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • KDawn

      You are obnoxious.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  19. sunnyw

    For all you home school bashers...US is # 33 in the world in education- Mexico is higher than we are( http://www.geographic.org/country_ranks/educational_score_performance_country_ranks_2009_oecd.html)
    – so it can't really be a money issue- I believe we have more money than 3rd world countries. Maybe we could look at this kid and be astonished that a teenager made a decision about his convictions- and not judge him for them. I am a woman- I'm glad I live in a country where I have freedoms- but girls playing sports with boys at the highschool level is just dumb. I can understand in lower grades- where they are actually of equal strenght and ability- but girls stop growing and maturing just as boys are taking off in the high school years.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Kathy

      I guess you don't know that Iowa always ranks high in education in the country. Of course now the GOP govenor, Terry Brainsdead, wants to cut school funding and tear down the wonderful education system there. Those in that state choosing to home school are nothing short of Talibaptist. They complain that they do not want their children to socialize with non-christians but think it is fine for them to play in sports. They are the biggest hipocrits in the state.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • Len

      Wow, according to the rankings at the link provided, Americans really are the dumb @sses the rest or us think you are! Notice how much higher "your dumb cousins to the north" rank than you!

      February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • mashmore79

      According to Wikipedia:

      Critics point that low performance in the United States is closely related to American poverty. It's also shown that when adjusted for poverty, the US outperforms every other country, especially areas with less than 10% poverty (and even areas with 10% to 25% poverty outperform countries with similar rates). In essence, the criticism isn't so much directly against the Programme for International Student Assessment itself, but against people who use PISA data uncritically to justify measures such as Charter schools.

      So there's that.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • cnnh8er

      sunnyw, Look at it first according to % of GDP, then, look at how other nations educate, our system is completely different in many cases, creating an apples-to-oranges comparison.
      Home schooling has two HUGE advantages; first, discipline can be doled out however the 'teacher' feels it is necessary, and second, classroom size is not a problem. something about differentiated instruction plays a role here, look it up.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Let me guess... this came from the U.S. hating United Nations?

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

      I have lots of Canadian friends- they are extremely intelligent 🙂
      Let's just keep making excuses for our sucky education system- that will make things better-

      February 18, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  20. rev.spike

    no one would be mocking him if he couldnt wrestle her bc he was a Muslim

    February 18, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Stevegnostic

      This kid is just afraid to get beat by a girl.... what a panzy..

      February 18, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Maverick


      Sounds like YOU know all about it, sporto.....

      February 18, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • Rosemary

      to steve – why would you call him a pansy you idiot. Hopeful our young men are taught not to man handle women obviously this young man was taught correctly. You sir probalble smack women around and think its funny.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • John

      Wow...there sure are a lot of judgemental, freedom hating sissys on this blog. The young man made a choice and thats that. I though you libs. were all about choice...oh, thats right, only when you are the ones doing the choosing.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Matt

      I agree

      February 18, 2011 at 8:43 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.