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. Mark H.

    It's amaing how many posters think that someone raised with the conviction that a man protects and cherishes a woman would think that the young man is a coward for not wrestling this girl! I respect compentent and strong women, but that doesn't conflict my beliefs on how > I < treat those women either! As other posters have mentioned, there are specific leagues for women's basketball, soccer, etc., and if reasons exist for THOSE to be seperate, then they exist across the board.... The issue has many sides and arguments, but I CAN promise you this – If chivalry dies from ridicule and lack of respect, then there WILL be less heros in this world, and we need heros more than ever!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • KTD

      I'm WITH you 100% MARK H. Good for both of these kids on how far they have come. He believes in what he was taught. As does she. It is NOT the kids fault. But shame on the administration. My Son Wrestles and has wrestled girls, lost some and won some. Does a girl get as upset when she loses to a boy? I think not but it is THE sport and they are in it. I can PROMISE you this, he will always open up doors and say yes Ma'am. More power to you both.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  2. KTD

    I understand where 'lil Jimmy is coming from, his dad is a preacher so the kid has deeply rooted values. Me on the other hand, if I am qualified to wrestle in a State qualification match and for me to advance I have to wrestle "Betty brigth britchess" I'm ALL in.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  3. Leroy

    News is thin today isn't it...

    February 18, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • crabman

      oooooooooooh yaaaaaaaaa

      February 18, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  4. denise

    I can see his point and they are his thoughts and HIS beliefs NOT ours. It takes alot of guts to stand up for what you believ in and for his age I admire that. Good for him!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  5. robjones3

    Aside from everything else wrong about this, it would be pretty bad for a boy to lose to a girl in HS wrestling in any weight class.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  6. loaba

    If girls want to wrestle, than they need their own league.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  7. HumanistinNY

    The fragile MALE EGO ("What if my 112pound self gets beat by a girl?!") and a TEENAGE AILMENT ("What if I get a stiffy rolling around with a girl on the mat, in front of everyone?!") at play here, though the "I'm a person of FAITH" is a good cover-up. Shows just how absolutely asinine and arbitrary "faith" is.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • SncrDerelict

      You can take your smug declaration of what "faith" is and shove it. Just because this kid doesn't believe as you do and DOES stand up for what he believes it doesn't make his views any less valid than yours. He has shown a maturity in his decision that you've fell way short of in your response...

      February 18, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  8. CarteBlanche

    We do not allow boys and girls in high school to share dressing rooms. In many ways wrestling is more personal than than the locker room.

    There is no other high school athletic sport where boys and girls compete against each other individually. Every other sports has different leagues and divisions for the genders. Wrestling is absolutely the wrong place to integrate genders.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  9. hayfield

    He made a good decision because win or lose he would have lost.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  10. Tyreal

    i wouldve had a problem with it because grappling is alot of contanct, and her breasts, rear and crotch were going to be manahandled lol. when i did ground fighting i hated going against the girls in my class. especialy a specific blonde. i realy didnt care if i tapped to a girl. just alittl weird. and we were adults not highschoolers

    February 18, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  11. Pete the Ninja

    The young man took a stand on beliefs. He isn't questioning her abilities, nor is is he asking for a free pass. He followed what he believed what was right, and in this case, he got a forfeit, which he accepted. He isn't blaming anybody else for it. I think we have a good example of both wrestlers following there beliefs and expressing their differences in a meaningful way. Novel idea these days, accepting the negative consequences that may happen when you take a stand on your beliefs. Conviction, what america is losing.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Susan

      thank you for your comment – couldn't have said it any better.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • crabman

      hope we never get a woman prez wouldn't want the kid to do himself in

      February 18, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  12. Katie

    To anyone who thinks that it's being "respectful" or "chivalrous" not to fight this girl, if you care so much about women getting hurt then go volunteer at a battered woman's shelter. Don't treat your peers as unequal though.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  13. robjones3

    The idea of girls competing against boys in wrestling is just absurd on many different levels. I wouldn't let my kid participate–I wouldn't allow my son to westle a girl and I wouldn't allow my daughter to compete on a boys HS wresting team.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • crabman

      wow really you need to get out more

      February 18, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  14. rusty

    Something like this happens at nearly ever large wrestling event. This is not news worthy. In my day I saw several girl wrestlers, and it is true no one wanted to wrestle them for various reasons. Not a new or isolated incident at all.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  15. Sheesh

    I love the level of discourse in CNN comments. When did discussing a topic become an excuse to call someone stupid, moronic, idiotic and pathetic? What seems ironic is that these verbal assaults appear to be coming from folks who think of themselves as moral. So much for the Golden Rule.

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

      You are a stinky face.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Mitsurugi-w

      That's why I like to read the comments here. You get to see the elitist liberal views dished out by the out of touch internet trolls that roam these cnn internet hallways.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  16. golfnugget

    This might be this kids best chance to get to second base with a girl, he should definitely have taken that into consideration before forfeiting.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  17. JMiles

    Has Andy Kauffman taught us nothing?? As the once reigning world inter-gender wrestling champion, he showed the world how superior men are at everything. This kid was simply doing this girl a favor. 20-13?? How many of her wins you think came by forfeit (the over/under is 20).

    February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'This kid was simply doing this girl a favor. 20-13?? How many of her wins you think came by forfeit (the over/under is 20).'
      Well if they were forfeit then we do not know how they would have gone do we?

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

      @Cedar Rapids....If you're going to attempt to make witty observations, please ensure that you are making a cohesive statement. I know, I know...you don't get "good schoolin" in Iowa. Too busy "bailin hay and ropin' cattle" I get it. But when you respond to my comments, I'd like to understand what the hell you are saying.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • JLM

      @JMiles. Cedar Rapids made a perfectly valid point. Let's say five of her wins were forfeits...you implied they would have been losses if her opponents had chosen to wrestle. Cedar Rapids was pointing out that we have no way of knowing, because her opponents chose not to wrestle her. I don't feel bad for a wrestler who withdraws rather than wrestling a girl. I typically feel it's fear of losing (ego can't take it) or its chauvinism. If this guy is doing it on religious grounds, that's fine and good for him, but he's losing his chance at taking state due to moral reasons and the onus is on HIM. The two female wrestlers owe him nothing. They're not taking away his dream.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  18. Tina

    Wow. He did the RIGHT THING. Good for him.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • crabman

      really you think so –like to see how he makes it in the working

      February 18, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  19. Joe

    I wish I could link you guys a few wrestling videos. Then you could picture your daughter getting slammed on her face by some other guy. And while she's laying there unconscious in a pool of her own blood, The Big Show comes out and tosses her into the crowd from the top rope. Then, Hulk Hogan is like, "Oh hell naw!" and snorts a line of coke swings from the rafters out into the crowd in a neon speedo tries to rescue your daughter put she's hit in the face with a fan's beer bottle.


    February 18, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Katie

      She and her parents know what they're getting into when she chose to wrestle in the first place. And if you say wrestling's so violent, then why is it ok for boys to do it? They're in the same sport, worked to get to the same level, the only difference is what's between their legs.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Joe

      WOOOOSH! Thanks for playing.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Joe

      Remember ladies:


      February 18, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Josh in FL

      This is the life you want for your son?

      February 18, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • crabman

      way different

      February 18, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • John

      My sister was a Karate black belt and fought in several tournaments where she came home bloody or with broken bones. She went on to NYU and Stanford and is a senior executive at a financial company and a mom. In business she runs people over (and shes quite pretty too)

      So what do you want your daughter to be – a cheerleader?

      February 18, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Joe

      First, you're lying, John. You're failing to tell us that she only competed with women. Second, she's not really all that attractive.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Katie

      @Joe, so a woman's worth is only based on her level of attractiveness (which you're not even sure if since you don't know her)?? Wow, someone's shallow. And let me guess, it's ok for an ugly guy to be successful? And most karate schools are coed, so you do fight everyone. Even so, you original point was about being beaten and bloodied, not about who fights who.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  20. GeneHug

    Are boys allowed to try out for girls volleyball? I'll answer that for you "NO"... it's a double standard in our school.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Katie

      In my school they were. And field hockey.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Are boys allowed to try out for girls volleyball? I'll answer that for you "NO"...'
      Yeah slight issue with your argument......this is not 'boy's wrestling', its simply 'wrestling'.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Postal

      Participation in a sport, and the availability of a gender specific sport, is greatly determined by the number of individuals of that gender that are interested in participating and justifying a budget for the program. Not just in that school, but in an entire district where other schools would be able to field a team as well.

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

      Thats the way it works. If there are more overall athletic opportunities for boys than girls then girls have the right to join boys teams. Its not practical to create the same number of opportunities for everyone – as it is our budgets need to be cut. This is at heart a cost saving measure. This has gone through the courts 20 years ago so its not even conterversial. Thats why there are now so many female football players in high school. As contact sports usually are dependent on muscle and size; generally high school is the last chance that girls compete with boys – and its very few at that. After that its very rare to have women who can compete with men (in certain sports). But not unheard of.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • tensor

      Read the article: It isn't 'the boys' wrestling team.
      She has a right to compete for her high school, just as he has a right to forfeit (not compete) for a high school that is allowing him to audit sports, as a homeschooler. Growing up is about making choices as one makes their way in the larger world. Once again, CNN is making a big deal out of nothing but a desire to inflame blog posters to generate an enormous amount of free content to woo advertisers into paying more to place ads on the site.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Soterik

      May have been mentioned before, ... but .... how she got through on a 20-13 record means she probably had a tough start and then got better at the end of the season, I've seen it in other freshman wrestlers. AND/OR, she may have come through in a weak "regional" tourney where there wasn't many in the weight class. If that was the case, she may have not needed to finish very high at all to make the cut to take the "top" of the weight class that goes to state. I saw it just last week at a regional locally. Gotta run! My son's wrestling at state today!!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:49 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.