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. Jsaltz

    I wrestled in high school and there was always a fear that I would have to face a girl. Everyone on the team feared it. If you beat her, then fine, congratulations, you beat a chick. Nothing amazing. BUT IF YOU LOST, you would be forever scorned by your high school peers for losing to her. I completely understand why this kid made the decision he did. And i highly doubt it had to do with his faith. Girls shouldnt be allowed to wrestle guys.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • ty

      I wrestled in high school as well, and I 100% agree. There is no winning scenario when it comes to wrestling female wrestlers. The boy from this story did the right thing IMO.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • kauppily

      girls shouldn't be allowed to wrestle boys to protect the delicate sensibilities of the boys, in other words?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • TJH

      He has no peers. He is home schooled. I doubt his mom is going to make fun of him for the loss.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Ex 148#'er

      Having wrestled in both high-school and college (Univ. of Oregon), it's definitely a no-win.

      Why? Because I not only wanted to beat my opponent...but make him hurt. And hurting a girl...deliberately...given a male's superior muscularity, isn't going to fly. I bloodied many a nose in "rude" cross-faces, broke others ribs, and if you were already hurt....as evidenced by a wrap, brace/support....guess what body part I'm really going to key on?

      Sorry....just another sport that should not be co-ed.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Tim

      So.. if you're going to force boys to wrestle girls... force girls to play boys in basketball. Fair is fair.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Chris R

      Girls shouldn't be allowed to wrestle boys because it would bruise your fragile ego?? Is your self worth so low and so tenuous that something like this could shatter it?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  2. Denise

    This young man is being raised right. His parents have taught him respect for women and morals. Kudos to him and lets hope there are many many other young men out there like him

    I understand there are girls out there who might want to wrestle, but they should have a girls team. My question would be for her. What is she trying to prove - she can beat a boy!? Why would she want too?

    Again Kudos to the young man and his parents.
    God Bless your family.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Anonymous Coward

      Why would she want to?

      To be the best. In other words, exactly the same reason the boys are competing.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • LEB

      If he really respected her, he would view her as a worthy opponent and then try to beat her. He wouldn't be thinking about her gender, he'd be thinking about trying to win. And whether he won or lost, he'd shake her hand afterward because that's good sportsmanship.

      Also, there are only two girls on that team. If there were more girls then there would be a girls' team, but there aren't. These girls just want to compete, and they've beaten male opponents. If a girl thinks she can be a match for a boy (I might point out that this boy weighs 112 lbs), then why stop her? The guys shouldn't hold back just because they're wrestling a girl. Hesitation would probably get them pinned anyway.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  3. DCB

    I don't agree with the young man's decision to forfeit, but it was his to make and I respect his right to do so. I also respect the values upon which the decision was based, even though I don't share them. That's what it means to live in a free country, don't you think?

    The young man was classy, and so was the girl's father. End of story. I don't think there is any good reason to dig further for agendas, ulterior motives, or hidden fears.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  4. Tim

    This young man is to be commended. Too bad he has more sense then the adults that put him in this sitution.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • dogs rule

      Truth: He is afraid the girl would beat him!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  5. billy

    I have grappled girls in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. I had no problem and I did not think anything of it. He just doesn't want to lose to a girl, either that or he is brainwashed about women being weak and frail. Wait till he gets married to see how violent a woman can become.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  6. Scott

    As a former wrestler the main problem I have with this is that the meet allowed this. You should not be able to pick and choose who you wrestle. If you are injuried I can understand this. BUT not what he did. He should have been sent home. There are plenty of wrestlers who did not qualify that would have been happy to take his place. I hope the Iowa High School Athletic Association takes the time to fix this this year.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Deejay

      No, you misunderstood the format. He forfeited his match against the girl, so he takes the loss, and she advances in the bracket. He has give up his chance of winning the whole tournament. He is now in the consolation bracket and can compete for as high as third place only.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • PLM

      He should be sisqualified. (pun intended). Noone should be allowed to choose who they wrestle. What is to stop other male wrestlers from not wanting to wrestle another male wrestler. They both qualifed to get this far. If his turn to wrestle came up against a particularly good male wrestler, would he be able to forfit?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • brian

      I agree they need to fix it but here's the fix....GIRLS DONT WRESTLE with the boys!!! Sorry but go play softball or volleyball. Buy ur own island and try to make utopia......it doesnt exist!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  7. chocbunny

    Congrats to this young man for standing up for his principals and his faith. I wish more young men & women would do this. They should have a girl's wrestling team for her if she wants to compete.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  8. joe

    maybe hes worried about popping a you know what hahaha

    February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • DJ

      probably more scared of getting his oil checked...

      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  9. steve houston

    I don't get the faith angle in his statement. There's some kind of Biblical passage on this? Does he think touching a female before marriage is sinful? But touching a another boy is not? Not sure. I guess another religious person making a statement that doesn't make any sense.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Chris

      C'mon, get real. Whether in a wrestling ring or in the backyard, guys wrestle and fight each other. That's normal. But for a guy to wrestle and fight a girl... that has been commonly rejected by decent people for a long time. Didn't your mom teach you that its not right for a guy to hit a girl? Besides, how would you feel about another man groping on your wife? Maybe this young man realizes that it would be impossible for him to wrestle her and keep his hands off of inappropriate places.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Stopthefear

      Chris, there has been plenty of female warriors in history, and cultures where men and women fight side by side. What you are mentioning as a cause to oppose to it is the chauvinistic era we are living in, not genetics or nature.

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

      Stop the fear maybe you offer your wife or sister to wrestle. You watch and see if you think it is about equal rights.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  10. James

    Congrats to him for his conviction & sticking to it. My thoughts are that both individuals in a wrestling match should have the chance to win & feel great about it, or lose & learn from it (& do better next time). But when a guy is forced to wrestle a girl, neither of those options exist for him: It's (for him) an embarrassing spectacle, and if he wins, it's a hollow victory (he wrestled a girl, after all); and more importantly, if he loses, it will be unbearably humiliating & he'll be made to feel terrible about it. None of this is his fault – it's deeply rooted in our shared cultural values . In short, it's completely unfair to guys/men to allow women to compete against guys in wrestling, setting up an extremely stressful situation for the guy where he feels he must complete & total humiliation, & that there's no real option for meaningful "win".

    February 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Scott

      That is a cop out. Its the state wrestling tournament. She and he wrestled to get there.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Scott

      Oh and James here is another little tidbit. One of the gilrs was 25-13 and the other girl is 20-13, so I guess there are a whole group of embarrassed guys out there !

      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  11. SSG Jughead

    Apparently, the Northrups are the only ones with any sense in Iowa. Wow, a whole state virtually full of idiots! That could be a world record right there!

    February 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • notaniowaidiot

      Obviously, by your post your ignorance is coming through loud and clear. And you base your opinion that all people in Iowa are idiots based on what you read in this article? That in itself speaks volumns about your level of intelligence !!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Cal

      I'm not surprised by your ignorance. I do see the SSG in front of your name, which probably means you are a Staff Sergeant in the military. I'm surprise that you made it to that rank. I guess which ever branch you're in preaches gender discrimination against women.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:05 am |
  12. JP

    What a LOSER this kid must be. Obviously, he is scared of losing to the woman. His preacher father needs to tell him to grow a pair and stop being so pathetic.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • brian

      Sounds like someone with morals which Im sure you are lacking

      February 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Stopthefear

      Nothing moral here. Extremists religious people normally are against any signs of equality at all, women should be in the kitchen and have kids, that is. This kid is as primitive as his father.
      Preventing these girls from the opportunity to compete is not moral, is unmoral.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • RakeBackWolf.com

      I'd beat her ulgy A55 ~!~~~

      February 18, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  13. John

    Chivalry is not dead, Well done sir.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Deejay


      February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Katie

      How is it chivalrous to not treat someone as an equal?

      February 18, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • RakeBackWolf.com

      Chivalry is dead – and women killed it !!!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Yeah

      Katie unless you can read minds do not assume his intentions.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  14. Steve

    I wrestled in highschool and also had to wrestle a girl. Thank god I won. If more of the people in this county would be like this young man, we would be in a lot better shape. I commend this young man for standing up in what he believes in. Hopefully if they have to meet again she will do the right thing and step down. I am sure it was very tough for him to forfit with the impressive record he has.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • guest

      the part of your answer that says "Thank God i won" says it all. it's not chivalry, it's fear of being beaten by a girl. no one says that the guys who beat her in the past were "bullies" or mean, and anyone who would call a guy who lost to the girl a Wienee" is just an idiot who can't acknowledge that there are girls and women who can compete with them and win. he was wrong to forfeit the match.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Robert

      Why should she step down? She signed up to compete, is good enough to compete, and has competed. She doesn't seem to be complaining about anything inappropriate. She is an athlete and should never be asked to forfeit just because someone does not believe they should compete with her.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  15. willy

    It doesn't seem he has anything against girls. Just the opposite. It seems he has a respect for females. How is that bad?

    February 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Anonymous Coward

      Refusing to compete with someone is 'respect'? It looks more like contempt to me.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • willy

      I understand It "looks like contempt" but looking at it from religious views he was probably taught not to hit or harm females. He would probably compete in some other way (if he had a chance of winning) that did not involve possible hurting his female oponent. I would feel the same way. I think females should be respected. If you go the other way we would have a lot of men hitting woman in everyday life.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • brian

      actually it is contempt! Just like the rest of us have to accept having girls in boys sports. so you have girls in boysleagues and we have our contempt in your ears!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Stopthefear

      Would he refuse to compete with a guy that looks weaker than him? Never. He would just win fast and easy. If he thinks they are not in his league, win them, no need to beat them to death, just win them. If they are on his league compete fairly and win or loose. Not to compete is discrimination.

      February 18, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • Katie

      It's not respect when you're not treating the other person as your equal. And, as a matter of fact, we DO have a lot of men hitting and beating women on a daily basis. If you REALLY care about being chivalrous and making sure women are safe, volunteer at a battered woman's shelter.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  16. carl

    the poor kid is in a lose/lose situation. beat the hell out of her and he is a bully, lose to her and he turns into a wienie in front of his teammates. if a girl is good enough to compete, fine. eventually more thngs will be co-ed as generally men's sports set the standard with the excellent female athlete breaking in.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  17. linda

    In Ohio the rules state that if the school offers an option for girls then they have to take that option..For example, a girl can not play baseball for the school because they offer a softball team, if they did not have a softball team then she could play baseball. Same with wrestling, girls are allowed to participate only because there is not a female only option for them. That said, I do not believe wrestling should be a co-ed sport. Not because girls are weaker, but because it increases the chances of innappropriate touching and opens the door for harassment complaints. I applaud this young man for standing up for his beliefs and say Good Job to his parents.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • PLM

      Are you afraid that she might inappropriately touch him? Good luck Cassy.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • brian

      Yeah and these rules are stupid made by who???? LAWYERS!!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Chris R

      How about inappropriate touching of other boys? Unless you are arguing that every wrestler is straight. I got it, if you are gay then you have to wrestle girls. That would be great, then we could have even more discrimination and keep god fearing people in their own little utopian bubble.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  18. thamios

    Aeromechanic, what is it you propose? a Female wrestling league for high schools? There would be 2 people in it... at max. My school district in Minnesota had one female wrestler. EVER. Isn't is discrimination to not allow someone to try out for the sport of their choice and not offer an alternative? If a girl wants to wrestle men, she should be able to. It's her choice.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Seidan

      Why can't guys play on the girls volleyball team if there isn't one for them?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • yboywonder

      So then boys should be allowed to play HS Volleyball along side the girls or Softball?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • brian

      Picture this.....state volleyball championship. One team all girls and the tallest girl is 6'1"....other team has mostly girls two guys both over 6'5"...........get it???????? oh but thats not fair....well ya cant have both ok. Sorree!! Utopia does not exist.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Sara

    I think deep down he is worried that she might beat him.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • toby

      Really Sara, really? So, to avoid losing the match to a girl, he decided to – voluntary lose the match? Brilliant plan...

      February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • PLM

      He is absolutely afraid of losing.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Seidan

      Go back and look at their records. I really wish I could find out how many of her wins were actual wins and not other forfeits. Wrestling is a violent sport, he's probably afraid he will hurt her. I've seen broken collarbones from high school wrestling.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Jujubeans

      He was afraid he'd get a woody.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  20. A Mat Mom

    ...I am from a town very close to all of these kids and when my son had to wrestle a girl it really was no BIG DEAL...By the way I have seen this girl wrestle and trust me she can hold her own and most boys dont want to have to face her because she really is that good and can truely hold her own Go Cassy

    February 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Sara

      Good for her!

      February 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Molly

      You go girl! Nice message by the parents of this young man, what are you teaching your son? Seriously...

      February 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
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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.