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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. wdmia

    There shouldn't be any disrespect toward this girl. She is woman enough to compete against male opponents, looking at her record which I saw last was 25-15 she's obviously got skill. She's earned her spot at state she has worked just as hard as every other wrestler to get there. She put in just as much work and sweat to get to those mats.

    I was a manager for my high school wrestling team for 4 years and I saw other female wrestlers compete. They get out on those mats and face their opponent as a opponent not a guy. They walk of those mats win or lose as any other wrestler would. I'm sure if IA would have more girls who wanted to compete at the same level there would be a female wrestling division, until then let them compete with the guys.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • LOL

      11 of that 25 wins were forfeits

      February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  2. Moe

    This would not be possible under Sharia law. I am happy to see so many agreeing with Sharia law!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  3. Chris

    I applaud this kids decision. I personally would not wrestle a girl – I would not want to validate the delusion that she belongs on the mat. I wish all of her opponents would forfeit all the way to the state championship so that its a matter of record that she's a paper champion and nothing more. If girls want to wrestle, fine, form a girls wrestling team, but dont exploit a loophole that allows you to tarnish a boys sport and places an immoral burden on your oppnent.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  4. Snapscan

    if people want to integrate boys and girls together, why not do it across the board. No separate bath rooms, no separate showers, no separate Olympics or Wimbledon tennis or wrestling teams.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  5. Wow

    Chivalry can get you killed in combat. Wrestling, as the boy stated is combat. He needs to disregard her lady parts and treat her like any other opponent. Period. THAT is honorable.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  6. aniket

    I am a big proponent of female equality, but this is absolutely ridiculous. Keep women wrestling separate! Wrestlers grapple each others nuts at times. If you are a girl's parent, how the heck can you ever be comfortable with this? The boy took the high road, and a big thumbs up to him. And I am a hard core democrat before anyone makes up their mind about my political affiliations.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  7. sas265

    Why is a home schooled student even allowed to compete in the high school tournament? If the family has issues with attending public school, they should also apply to school sponsored sports.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • NEIowan

      Exactly!!!! There should be a separate HomeSchool State Wrestling Tourney!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Tracie

      Because home school families still pay taxes and have the rights to have services from the public school at their disposal and that includes sports. This is policy in most, if not all states. Home schoolers are saving space in the public school class rooms, yet still paying taxes. Our academic scores across the board just blow public schools away. It's nice to see a family with morals and convictions. Bravo to this boy and his family!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  8. Luis Wu

    Isn't religious indoctrination great?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  9. jl

    "Mom, I wanna do that!" I never thought about it, nor did I know how rough a sport wrestling is...I said, of course, yes to my daughter when she asked if she could wrestle in school! I was not gonna tell my daughter that she couldn't do anything she wanted to do in life because she was a girl! When I asked if I could sign her up, they looked at me like I was crazy...but had no rules against it! They were not happy. It was a small town in Pa. I never went to practices, but I went to her first match. As I sat there and watched how physical this sport is, I started to get nervous. It was my daughter's turn...the guy she was against was way taller than her. She clearly shined...took him down in a matter of seconds! My daughter went on to work for the Miami Heat...got in the top twelve of America's Got Talent, and is still working in a very physical, and challenging performing world! I stand by my decision...was the boy crushed because he got beat by a girl...absolutely!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  10. WrestleMania

    Does anyone here know what "Checking The Oil" is?

    It is when you grab your opponent by the sphincter. You place your index finger and your middle finger near the anus and the ring and pinky finger near the jewels and drag the opponent sideways. I don't know of a whole lot of wemon that were okay with this at highschool parties, let alone multiple repeats within a 9 minute schedule.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Jimmy James

      Um...you'd think more straight guys would be more worried about doing that to other straight guys than girls....just sayin'...

      February 18, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  11. gbmg

    to be fair to her, if wrestling was a female dominated sport, i would love to be the only guy out there wrestling them

    February 18, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  12. Terri Franchetti

    It is not immoral if the sport is offered to the girls, My son ws a wrestler in hgh school he went up against a girl twice she was good, he lost the first time because he didn't want to hurt her. then next time he won. they are equals if they go on the mat. they als work just as hard as the boys. FYI It mi8ght not be the "norm" but the fact is girls do wrestle and the boys know that.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  13. Kyle

    Seriously why is this news?

    February 18, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Mcaswell82

      Because CNN needs idiots like you to read the article and then question why it's news in the first place. I mean seriously you must have no life at all if it consists of reading articles you're not intersted in to begin with!!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Charlie

      It's news because they know people will read it. If it's slightly interesting and will attract readers, it's a story. You've read it, proving my point. News outlets' main goal is to captivate readers, not necessarily only to advise you of the most current events relevant to you as an individual.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  14. Charlie

    It's far from fair. Guys, especially high school guys, are raging with testosterone. Not only are males naturally stronger than women, but I know that if someone forced me to wrestle a girl, I'd hold back. I'd be worried about my elbows swinging around and hitting her in the face. I'd be hesitant and overly careful. Why aren't girls wrestling other girls? If girls and guys are the same, why is there a WNBA? Why do girls play softball instead of baseball? We've always softened things up for girls. Whose brilliant idea was it to pit male against female in a wrestling match? Ridiculous!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Jimmy James

      Your mental setbacks work as advantages for the female prey. If you were in the wild against female cannibals, I bet your tune would change. It's not really much different in sports, and luckily with wrestling you would be in the same weight bracket...so the strength issue would not be wildly disproportionate.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  15. Luis Wu

    Isn't it great how the reply function for these comments doesn't work? CNN needs to get their act together or give it up.

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

      The reply function works. It just isn't very good.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Justchecking

      Seems to work OK

      February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  16. J

    well...my daughter, when she was in school...saw the boys wrestling and said, "Mom, I wanna do that!" I never thought about it, nor did I know how rough a sport wrestling is...I said, of course, yes! I was not gonna tell my daughter that she couldn't do anything she wanted to do in life because she was a girl! When I asked if I could sign her up, they looked at me like I was crazy...but had no rules against it! They were not happy. It was a small town in Pa. I never went to practices, but I went to her first match. As I sat there and watched how physical this sport is, I started to get nervous. It was my daughter's turn...the guy she was against was way taller than her. She clearly shined...took him down in a matter of seconds! My daughter went on to work for the Miami Heat...got in the top twelve of America's Got Talent, and is still working in a very physical, and challenging performing world! I stand by my decision...was the boy crushed because he got beat by a girl...absolutely!

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

      Wow, that's impressive. I have to admit, my daughter wanted to wrestle, and I said no. I didn't care for wrestling. My son did for a few years and decided to quit. I applaude your courage and your daughter's accomplishments. But I have to say, I wouldn't want my daughter wrestlling. Didn't even like my son wrestling.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Dickie

      The story doesn't say if she is hot. Maybe he said no cuz she's ugly and he didn't want that stench. The weight class indicates that she's not fat.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • James

      I am sure this story is total true. Girl beats Boy world cheers. I know girls that beat boys in about everything from shooting to basketball. Thats not the issue. It's the right of a man or boy who is becoming a man not to beat up on a girl. Its not the way he was brought up. We teach our young men not to hit girls, to be nice to them. Then you idiots want to take advantage of this. I bet the long tall guy simply didn't want to hurt a girl and was willing to loose. I know women who get mad if a guy opens the door for them. Who gives a crap. It's what I do and the world I am willing to defend.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • moosh

      congratulations, she won a match! how many times did she get pinned within 30 seconds?

      February 18, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  17. Sandra

    He knows she'd kick his back-burner is all.

    Poor Jesus, he gets blamed for everything. Betcha by now he's wishing he'd never brought up the whole Messiah thing.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • John B

      She ended up being pinned in under a minute when she finally wrestled a boy in this tournament. Combat sports (wrestling, boxing, MMA) will almost always favor the male.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  18. danger! danger! crazy feminist alert

    i am appalled at the parents on here who would intentionally steer their daughters away from "boy" sports. that is disgusting, demeaning, degrading and misogynistic, to say the least.
    i'm sorry, did i just hop on a time machine back to 1958? i can't even fathom a parent who would do that to their child. way to encourage those stereotypes and put limits on a child's abilities and ambitions.

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

      Chivalry is dead because women shot it.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • James

      Go away Billy Jean, of course there are limits and in case you haven't figured it out, boys and girls are different. Not better, Not worse but different. I am very proud of this young man and his parents.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • John B

      I agree. I'd love to be able to box a woman. Especially a crazy feminist.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • danger! danger! crazy feminist alert

      and yes, james, thanks for stating the obvious: boys and girls ARE different. and i have absolutely no problem with the young man in the article standing up for his beliefs, i honestly find it refreshing. but don't get all backwoods on me.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Tracie

      As a mother of boys and girls, I teach my sons to respect their sisters and women in general. They are not to be rough with them. Yet, this young man was expected to go against how he was raised in the name of almighty 'sports' and equal rights.
      Bravo to him and his family for standing up for their beliefs. Funny how when Christians have a conviction or belief, its mocked yet others can do vile things or have strange beliefs and people run to defend their "rights".

      February 18, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Tracie

      Sorry for the double response. I waited several minutes and saw one comment accepted and thought I didn't get my comment approved. 🙂

      February 18, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  19. WrestleMania

    Bravo! If they want to wrestle they can get their own league

    Otherwise I want to see Michele Bachmann or Nanci Palosi scap with Floyd Mayweather Jr

    February 18, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  20. gbmg

    this is stupid and shouldn't be news. men dont want to wrestle women. its weird and uncomfortable. get over it

    February 18, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Dickie

      He could totally get off on it. Only problem would be if she's fugly or he gets hard during the match.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Mcaswell82

      He should've wrestled her and been straight up with her about whats gonna happen. Namely that he's going to get an errection shoot if it was me I'd use it to my advantage to throw her off. I mean don't they wear cups when wrestling anyways it's not like his raging clue is gonna be poking her. I think he just didn't wanna wrestle her because he was afraid of losing to a girl. If you never wrestle a girl you can't lose to a girl I think that's what this is really all about!!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Luis Wu

      He didn't wrestle her because he's been brainwashed, practically from birth to believe in a fairytale world.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:25 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.