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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. Mike

    I think everyone is missing the true reason why this young man didn't wrestle the girl. Imagine if
    he had lost, do you honestly think he would be able to show face at school again without being ridiculed?

    February 18, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • LeeCMH

      The boy is using Christianity to justify his motives, not fear of losing to a girrrrrl.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Good Job

      Mike, you are an idiot. His record alone tells you that he would have won. Is it that hard to believe that a young man could actually have some values AND be bold enough to stand up for them? let me ask you, would you let your teenage daughter wrestle a hormone crazed teenaged boy? Groping and touching and laying on one another? If your answer is "Yes", not only are you an idiot, but a perv as well.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • cruster

      Don't project your feelings of inadequacy onto him. He made it very clear why he refused to wrestle her. You should work on your reading comprehension.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Guy

      You must have missed the part where it said he was home schooled.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Austin

      he's home schooled, who would ridicule him at school? His mom?

      February 18, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Um..

      One of the first things mentioned in the article is that he is home schooled

      February 18, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • LeeCMH

      Are folks resorting to name calling and insult. Idiot, perv, "feelings of inadequacy", "work on your reading comprehension" There are many folks who are aware of the boy's expressed reasons and who simply do not believe them.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Rob

      Read closer, he's home-schooled. Of course, home schooled kids do always tend to be eccentric in some way.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Chad

      I grew up in the sport in Iowa and had to wrestle several girls. In fact my sister of the same grade was on my team. Guys did take it hard when they lost. The best I knew was Tina Bibbs from Davenport North class of “94”. He brother is a state record holder and father long time coach. She was very tough and amazing. She made many of young men shed a tear. But we were very proud of her. It’s all part of life. Is it a double standard? Yes.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  2. Tom

    Lame. I wrestled when I was a kid, and I would have had no issue wrestling with a girl. When they are on the other side, they are an opponent, nothing else. It was her choice to join. But then again, Christians believe women are beneith men anyway, we just don't show it as much until they want to do something that could make them seem equal. Coward.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Postal

      "Christians believe women are beneith men anyway, we just don't show it as much until they want to do something that could make them seem equal. Coward."

      Well, Christians are SUPPOSED to believe that women deserve respect and should be treated with respect, and that grabbing a girl's crotch or breasts, even in the sport of wrestling, may be inappropriate and against the values that they have been taught.

      Assuming one is a coward because they show respect for someone of the opposite gender is very bigoted and short sighted, and assuming and assigning other motives for that behavior simply because you don't agree with it is judgmental and a sign of simply trying to justify your own values and beliefs and set them above the values and beliefs of another.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  3. Jeff

    I agree with this kid's decision. It is unseemly for a man to grapple with a woman in the manner required of wrestlers.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  4. Bilbo

    A teenage girl and boy on a mat wrestling where he could be grabbing at her t!ts...yeah...nothing wrong with that. It's inappropriate. What other sport is there where two athletes might be grabbing each other anywhere or have their heads jammed into each others crotches? Who cares if the girls are better wrestlers ...irrelevant...what idiot parent would want to see his daughter on her hands and knees in a skintight uniform with a teenage boy wrapped around her from behind.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  5. Sam

    As the parent of two daughters and one son. I have no doubt that girls can compete with boys, expecially when the class or division is designated by weight as wrestling is. However, I believe that just like a 6A school would not compete at a state level in sporting events with a 2A school, there should be different divisions for boys and girls. It just makes good sense. I would not allow my daughters to compete against boys or with boys in school sports unless the sports are designated coed.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  6. jimmy the freak

    Religious convictions and respect for women aside, this was a lose-lose situation for ANY boy. If he loses to her, he'll be the laughing stock of the whole town, and if he beats her, everyone will say he beat up on a girl. Girls should have their own wrestling team.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Sam

      Jimmy I absolutely agree.....nothing wrong with girls wrestling, just have a division for them.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • LeeCMH

      So why is the boy lying that this is due to his Christian beliefs rather than telling the truth that the whole prospect is terrifying.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  7. Haakonas

    In light of the fact that Woman are now the controlling majority of making the latest films, TV, Running our major companies and we are now voting for females to be President except of course for Sarah Palin she is as dumb as a goat with a brain tumor. and should be TV blocked. We need to man up and face the reality that man's rule is resoundingly OVER. It is a females turn to run the show. They will get into anything that we consider to be a man only position and rule that as well. Sorry for the truth of the matter.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  8. Scott

    If you don't want to wrestle girls, maybe weigh more than 113 pounds.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Sam

      HaHa...I hadn't thought about that, you have a point.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  9. Tony D.

    No win situation....

    You win. "Dude... you beat a girl. Cmon"
    You lose. "Holy sh** Dude! You lost to a girl...."

    This has been an issue in higschool wrestling for years, nothing new. There were female wrestlers when I wrestled in highschool in 95...

    February 18, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Brian

      Exactly – it's a lose-lose situation for the guy.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • LeeCMH

      So if it is a lose-lose for the guy, they why does he hide behind Christianity and lie about his true feelings.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  10. dutchswan

    I believe this boy should be honoured for his convictions. While I was not home schooled, I have many friends that are/were. They are some of the most well-rounded and informed individuals I know.

    I am a sport fencer (foil) and enjoy the sport very much. There are no weight classes, age classes (except for youth under 14), and most tournaments are mixed with men and women. I have never felt awkward fencing a femail, but then again there is no person to person contact. I would not wrestle a woman.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  11. Ortega

    I want to wrestle Sarah Palin

    February 18, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  12. NOJOWRESTLER

    I respect his decision because i myself am a wrestler and have seen this judgment call been made. But seriously everyone worried about him beating her up out on the mat is getting on my nerves. Apparently if she is participating in the toughest sport on earth then she is just as tough as him, maybe even tougher. In north Carolina we had a girl wrestler qualify for states and she was tougher than most of the guys. this is just one of many of examples of people overlooking mainstream society and thinking girls cant do what guys can do.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  13. LeeCMH

    Even the thought of being beaten by a giiirlllll. Eueue. The horror. The horror.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  14. Jeff

    Wow, a teenager making a stand based on his convictions. And it looks like he he could possibly forfeit a state championship to stand by them. What a great story.
    All this talk about politics and the education system really have NOTHING to do with this article. Yes he is home schooled. You don't know what lead them to make that decision. The fact that this was even mentioned in the article is just an attempt to "stir the pot". What's really sad is that a great story like this has no chance of being heard on this level unless it can be slanted to stir up controversy.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Johnny

      Those aren't his convictions. They're his parents'.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Wow a teenager earning the right to compete in a state tournament only to have her opponents show her disrespect by refusing to wrestle a girl.
      What a story.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  15. P. Schrammel

    This happened in Florida last school year also, to my knowledge. A boy from a Christian school took a forfeit on moral grounds for refusing to wrestle a girl. His coach totally agreed with him; both deserve respect for standing up for their convictions.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • chef dugan

      They are not convictions and I bet they are either home-schooled to make sure they don't lern anything "evil" or go to some christian "academy" where tunnel vision is worshipped.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Oh Yeah....

      You're a stand-up guy Joel, way to go!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  16. warren

    What's the big deal wrestling a girl? i have wrestled for three years now and see no problem with it.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  17. Scott

    If you don't want to wrestle a girl, how about weigh more than 113 pounds?

    February 18, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • sylvias mother

      Oh, that is really smart – just go and gain weight! What do you suggest, steroids???
      I think this boy is rather gallant. I know, I know – you don't know what that word means. Go look it up.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Tim from Toledo

      Your advice is brilliant!
      The kid should weigh more! Eat more twinkies and cheesy poofs so you don't have to wrestle a girl! Get fatter and softer, go sit in front of the TV more often and play more video games! Choose your genetics more wisely next time so you have a bigger body!

      I think that is the stupidest thing I've ever read......

      February 18, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • god bless carbon dioxiide

      You are correct. In America, the kids should be at least 50 pounds overweight. This wrestler does not seem to take his patriotic duties seriously. Ban him until he gets the weight on.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  18. dutchswan

    It comes down to a simple question of nature vs nurture. I have three children; ages 5, 3, and 1. I recall when my daughter was 2 and my son was 4. They have never watched violent television, and are equally well disciplined. We buy our daughter typical "girl toys" and our son typical "boy toys", and they share a toybox in their shared bedroom. One day I was just watching them play and observed the both playing with my daughter's dolls. My daughter was combing their hair and my son was putting them in combat with each other. It was their nature.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Mike in NYC

      Ahhh but don't you see ... the argument against you would be that you bought your daughter "girl" toys and your son "boy" toys. By doing that you already began to teach them gender stereotypes. Not that I agree with that ..... but that WOULD be the argument.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  19. Alan

    My congrats to Joel ! ! I totally agree with him. There are just some things you do with women and some you don't. Combative wrestling is one of the things you don't do. I would not feel comfortable using full force on a woman either. It would put him at a distince disadvantage in the match.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Imsaying

      If you know your opponent may be a girl – don't join. I think he was afraid of the unthinkable!!! He may be beat by a girl... lol

      February 18, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  20. Mark

    This thread is worse than reading comments on YouTube. I could feel my IQ dropping with each contorted attempt at coming up with two facts to rub together. This country is doomed. Oh, and Maverick: Sounds like YOU know all about it, sporto.....

    February 18, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • leverneus

      not sure where in the bible it says u can't engage in sport w/ a female. he is hiding behind/skewing his religion 2 avoid an uncomfortable situ

      February 18, 2011 at 9:38 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.