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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. sally

    Everyone needs to let him decide and leave it alone. He don't want to wrestle and she isn't bawling so who really cares?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  2. davidmij

    DesMoiner, even though the boy is home schooled, his family still pay taxes that support the schools just like the families who's kids are in public schools.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  3. sally

    Everyone needs to let him decide what he wants and let it be. He respects her and she is not bawling about it. So what does it matter to anyone else?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  4. Pacoatemiami

    What's the big deal? There are plenty of female wrestlers on WWE.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  5. Chapstik Lez

    I trained in Wushu Kung Foo and due to the lack of female sparing partners I had to spare with teenage boys and grown men. I think it makes me a better fighter to able to handle power. On average women do not have the power behind the punches/kicks like trained/training male fighters do so when taking a hit from a female fighter its easier to recuperate from the hit faster (granted this is on average, there are some wicked strong women out there so I emphasize ON AVERAGE)

    February 18, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  6. shyguy

    Great decision! This is true chivalry something that is very lacking in todays society. We need more like Joel and family. When will we admit men and women are very different, it is ment to be that way, it's OK!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  7. Red Team

    What if this were boxing?

    February 18, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  8. Ernie

    This male wrestler made the "Right" decision his mother taught him to not put his hands on a girl in an inappropriate way.
    I back this gentleman 100%. He may have lost the match but he kept his HONOR.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Chapstik Lez

      As much as I agree that he may have done the right thing (in regards to his upbringing). This would not have been inappropriate. She was a fighter just like him and they would go onto the mat with an understanding this is not a real fight and the goal is to hurt NO ONE! Subdue, yes! hurt, no!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • John

      Ditto Ernie Its great to see someone stand up for their convictions, no matter the consequences.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • BoJax

      WRONG! If you ever wrestled, which I assume you never have, it hurts. Try this: Have someone dig their chin into your back right below your neck and tell me that doesn't hurt. This is a common move in wrestling that I was taught when I was 8 years old. Or try a crossface. I broke my nose twice while wrestling. Take a good look at a seasoned wrestler! Cauliflower ears, multiple broken noses. What happens if this boy, who would have won(he was heavily favored) broke this girl's nose? How would that have played?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  9. Wrecker

    I believe the flip side of this is what if a male student wished to compete in field hockey, but there was only a female team to compete on. Would the male student be allowed to compete? Who knows, but it can't be a one way street.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  10. Hollybush123

    The boy in this case may have had a religious conviction, but in cases like this it is definitely true that boys do not want to be beaten by a girl. That girl may have whipped his behind and then he would have to be known as the boy who was wrestled down by a girl. Boys need to put their egos aside. Times have changed. Grow up!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Johnson31

      Really?? He had a 35-4 record in one of the better wrestling states in the country and was one of the favorites to win the tournament. If you think he was worried about losing to her you are crazy.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  11. Jethro

    Wrestling is such a gay sport.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Chapstik Lez

      This coming from someone who's name is Jethro? I mean really do you play the banjo and use phrases like "you got a prutty mouth" or "I bet you can squeal like a pig. Weeeeeeee!"

      February 18, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Aisyah

      Ann, unfortunately we're not aware of any good pupsort message boards. There may be some great ones out there, but we're not familiar with them, and can't recommend anything. If your friend is interested in learning more about CT for depression or anxiety, though, we would suggest that she take a look at the . They have info about CT for various disorders, as well as recommended books and computer programs. Sorry we don't know anything about message boards! Good luck with it.

      April 3, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  12. SueB

    He seems like a decent young man who made it clear he respected his opponent. It's not an unreasonable choice from my perspective. It's unfortunate he is forced onto the public stage to deal with this issue because they don't have gender separation in wrestling. If they have this separation in basketball, hockey, softball, etc... then expecting separation in wrestling is not a shock. I understand the numbers are low but I don't think the situation was handled well from the organizers point of view.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  13. MissedTheBoat

    Wow, if I could have grappled with girls in high school, I would have been all over that.

    Now, 25 years later, I can honestly say that I applaud him for standing up for what is decent and morally right

    February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  14. CHA CHING

    this was the best wrestling move he has ever made on the mat. STR8 to the cover page of CNN....

    February 18, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  15. 1jimmyhoffa

    THAT WOULD BE SO HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  16. DesMoiner

    So why is a homeschool kid even permitted to wrestle on a team for a school he does not attend? He wants the benefits of the school without being a part of the community. Typical religious nut.

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

      Thank you Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Edward

      The homeschooled boy has as much right to participate as the other kids on the account that his parents most likely pay taxes to the school district in which they live. If you want to eliminate this right, then give the taxes back to his parents so that they can afford to either buy more education resoources for him, or to send him to a Christian school that can teach a kid with their limited better than public schools ever can.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Matthew

      You clearly have no understanding at all of what you're talking about. Home-schooled students have been allowed for years to participate in extracurricular activities (which include sports) at the local public schools. This is well-established legal precedent. Why? Because home-schooled children's parents pay the same taxes that fund the public schools as everybody else; therefore, their children get the same extracurricular privileges as everyone else. It has nothing to do at all with religion. Your children could participate too, if they were home schooled. However, I hope you don't have any children. Your lack of generosity and eagerness to characterize the boy, who clearly did a difficult but honorable thing, and his family as "religious nuts" does nothing but prove your own radicality and narrowmindedness.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Chris

      Public schools have to take in home-schooled students within their district. There were kids doing it when I was in high school. It's not a religious thing, but way to miss the issue completely and turn it into more senseless hate.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • tim620

      If he is wrestling for a school, him and his family likely live in the area and pay taxes. The school does not have to purchase books, meal plans, etc. for the boy, so I say let him wrestle. The school is getting a bargain.

      As far as his decision to not wrestle the girl, I applaud him for standing up for his convictions. As a parent, I would have a hard time letting my boy wrestle with a girl, as well.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • vbscript2

      Maybe because his family pays taxes, too? And I find it incredibly ironic that you accuse him of not being part of the community while asking why he is permitted to play on a sports team. Typical hypocritical and prejudiced liberal. Newsflash: you don't have to attent public school to be involved in your community.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • WhyNot

      Why shouldn't he be allowed to wrestle in the PUBLIC school. His parents pay taxes just like you
      but doesn't tax the system with another body in the classroom. In fact you should be paying him for not attending
      instead of making ignorant comment.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  17. Shecky

    He's probably afraid she'll beat him.

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

      Whether the young man wins or looses against her, it's his faith that made the final decision. It's time people stood up for their faith. I think our country would be much better off!

      February 18, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • CHA CHING

      I can faithfully say he was scared to loose to her.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • gbmg

      he made the decision, not his faith... faith is just a belief system to guide behaviors for those who believe in it... but Im pretty sure a belief system can't decide something, that was him

      February 18, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • sisNorth

      That's just a ridiculous statement.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • ReallyModComeON

      Yeah he was so afraid she will beat him? If you believe that I got some swamp land in desert I wanna sell you.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Jefe

      I doubt he was afraid of losing to her. He has a significantly better record than her. I was a baseball player, and I think that's about as much of a contact sport as females should reasonably be allowed to play with males. Still, if there was a female catcher and I'm coming in for a play at the plate, would I be willing to put everything I've got into steamrolling her as I'm coming into home? If I'm pitching, do I feel comfortable with bringing a little bit of chin music when she's up to bat?

      Even in a low-contact sport like baseball, you're going to play with limited intensity vs a female opponent. Most of us are raised to treat women differently than men, and in a way that probably 99% of women appreciate. To ask men to think about women just as another male opponent is asking for a total collapse of our culture.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Gerry

      What is so "Immoral" about participating in an athletic event? Why is it the only people that seem to make this an issue of perversion are the people who arrogantly declare themselves champions of decency? Who the hell gave you the authority to consider what is immoral or not?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  18. gbmg

    if a man ever loses to a women in wrestling, its because he felt to awkward to really wrestle, not because she's better, in fact, when i wrestled, there was a women wrestler in the state finals because no one wanted to wrestle her, not because she was good. she was pretty terrible, no technique, no endurance, but no one wanted to go all out against her... and why do women want to wrestle anyway?

    February 18, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • galfridus73

      Why did you want to? If you answer that, then you should be able to answer your own question.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • gbmg

      I wanted to lose weight.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  19. loaba

    As a parent, I would try to steer my athletic daughter towards already established girls teams (like Soccer and Basketball etc.) Conversely I might try and establish a girls league for wrestling.

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

      I would have to disagree with your first line of thinking. More it or less it falls under "Go to these girls teams honey, so you don't make the boys uncomfortable." If these girls want to wrestle, and there are no girl wrestling teams (a fact the schools might want to look into), then what...you tell them there are no options? I say to then "go girls!"

      February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  20. Sam

    Boys' and girls' sports should be separate. Girls have no business being on boys' wrestling teams. I don't care if there is no girls' wrestling team. They can either start one, or deal with the fact there isn't one. The same principle goes for boys. They should not be on girls' filed hockey teams. Either start a boys' team, or deal with it.

    I would not want my son wrestling a girl - and, quite frankly, I would not let my daughter attempt to be on a wrestling team.

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

      I agree, sadly many parents feel like their children should be denied nothing.

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

      I disagree wholeheartedly. We did not have a girls hockey team in my high school. I played on the boys team, was seen by a scout and went to college on a scholarship (women's team). Had i not played on that team i would not have gone to college. If girls are good enough to compete with boys why not? If they are not good enough then yes they have no business being on the team.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • John Watson

      Agree wholeheartedly with the boy's decision.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Jamaes

      Unfortunatley its Parents and individuals who feel like Sam that destroy the inner person on what they have a dream for in life. The young man who chose not to wrestler because of his beliefs is just that, his beliefs. Nothing wrong with that at all. Its sad that the segragation in this Country is still out there. If my daughter came to me and wanted to be a wrestler I would be behind her 100%. In anything she wanted to do I would be behind her, and that goes for my son. I would be behind him 100% in anything he chose to do or be. I wrestled in High School and I had to wrestler a female, was it wierd? of course, But she was just another apponent. I lost my season match with her by one point, and I met her in the states, I beet her by one point. We are still friends to this day, some 25 years later. As a country we need to find more togetherness and stop the segragations within sports and as a matter of fact everything in life. Congratulations to both young men and young woman for your courage and sportmanship.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Dave

      There are several sports in which there can be coed team. Soccer, baseball, golf, track and field. Wrestling is not one of those sports,

      February 18, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • fatherof3

      I do not understand a father that pushes his daughter into a situation where boys would be groping her!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • N@tTurn3r

      I doubt most people reading this story realize what it takes to make it to a state championship, especially for wrestling in states like Iowa where kids are taught how to wrestle as soon as they can walk. The fact that this girl made it there is proof she can compete with the best. I think girls are at disadvantage strength-wise when they compete against boys of equal size, but if they are willing to assume that risk, so be it. I see girls in wrestling tournaments all the time and I can tell you 99% of the wrestlers and spectators could care less. They just want to see a good match.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:23 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.