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. James

    If she wants to wrestle, start letting guys on the women's basketball, baseball, tennis teams, etc. Let guys play in the WNBA and on the WTA tour. If we're tallking about equality here, why have seperate teams at all, if women can do everything a man can do? When this topic comes up, it's never about equality really. It's about rampant feminism, making a spectacle to show that women are equal to men. Face it, there are some things that men are better at, and some things that women are better at. If women can do anything a man can do as good as a man can do, then tell me why men are always the one's forced to do the physically intensive work at most workplaces? See, this is why Western civilization is doomed. Liberalism has permeated every aspect of our lives.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • LEB

      There probably WOULD be an all-female team at their school if more girls were interested in wrestling, but it's not a sport girls are typically interested in. If a handful of girls want to wrestle, or play football, or participate in other "male" sports but there are not enough girls to form a girls' team, what's wrong with letting them play against boys? If a girl thinks she can hold her own, more power to her!

      And as far as physical labor goes... trying giving birth sometime.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    21st century or not, WRESTLING is a boys sport and let it continue to be a boys sport for god sakes people. Its the lack of education these days thats the problem, parents should be teaching their kids of what a boy should do verse girl. Some things in life should be equal but not everything. You don't have to turn your kid down about something they find an interest in doing at that given moment, its about educating your kids on what the right thing to do is. Just b/c they say I want to try Smoking doesnt mean its okay to do it, you educate your kids of WHY its not good idea to smoke. This is why the world is on a downward spiral-

    February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Paul Bunyon


      February 18, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • LEB

      What a stupid comparison. Smoking is harmful to your health. A girl wrestling is a harm to no one's health. If anything it would make her healthier because she's participating in a sport.

      And it wasn't all that long ago when college was only for men, the military was only for men, and most jobs were only for men. Yet women do all those things now and are just as good, if not better. The ONLY jobs or activities that should be gender-restricted are mother and father. That's it.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  3. Paul Bunyon

    I think her father is great! He nailed it. It's not a big deal. The boy followed his religious convictions...period. She wins...oh well. That's the way it goes. I don't want to hear that girl garbage. Clearly she was good enough to get as far as she did against boys. She entered willingly and participates willingly as well. Most boys are probably apprehensive because they don't want to lost to her. Really, not much of a story here. Good for her, and good for him for following what he believes in.

    Boom! Roasted.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  4. Wayne

    I agree with the kid.. He not only has strong convictions which is a good thing... He doesn't seem to be willing to fall under peer pressure at least on this issue. Of course, I don't know if I could wrestle a female either – its just umm wrong. Never mind the violent sport issue, but where is a guy supposed to put his hands to make sure he isn't "molesting" his opponent. Both wrestlers know well before the match begins that her breasts are going to be touched.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Paul Bunyon

      It's not wrong and has nothing to do with the sport.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Kurly

      Ignorant argument. Put your hands in the same place you do so your not grabbing another guys junk.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  5. Buckeye-n-VA

    It's nice to see a young man with not only moral fiber, but also with regard to violence against women. We try to teach our children that violence towards anyone, including women is wrong and Women's groups lobby for stricter laws to protect women and children yet we're now saying, "hitting women is wrong but if you're on a mat, it's okay". What kind of message is that? No wonder our youth is so screwed up....talk about sending mixed messages! If girls want to wrestle, give them their own league.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Paul Bunyon

      OMG, it's NOT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's a sport. Get off the soap box.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Kurly

      He should be banned for unsportsmanlike conduct!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • John B

      It's a combat sport, just like boxing. To say wrestling is not violent shows your ignorance of the sport.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Kurly

      To clearify PB's point, yes it is a violent sport. Violent against your OPPONENT, gender is not a factor. Violence against women is another thing entirely. If you kid is too stupid to recognize the difference maybe he should spend more time studying Jesus.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • LEB

      Wrestling is a SPORT, it's not about violence. There's no hitting involved. There are rules and protecting gear and referees that keep wrestlers from getting hurt. Injuries happen sometimes anyway, but these girls know what they're getting themselves into. They're not going to get pummeled by male opponents because the refs don't let it go that far

      February 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  6. sadworld

    Good for him. Girls do not belong in full contact sports with guys. This is so stupid. End of story. If he did compete with her and hurt her it would have been hell to pay for the boy. STOP THE STUPIDITY NOW.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Kurly

      He should be banned for unsportsmanlike conduct.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  7. David

    Good for him! He has my respect!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Kurly

      Why because he was afraid of being beaten by a girl so he quit. Nice work ethic loser. If the tourney saw fit to put me up against a 5 year old girl or a 90 year old man, I would go out and do my best to win in either case. I hope he never has to go to war, whats he going to do when a 12yr old girl comes at him with a knife, guess he'll just DIE because he can't fight a girl.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  8. Get Real

    It's not uncommon for boys to refuse to wrestle female opponents. It happens at any wrestling meet, local, regional or state.
    It's a combat sport that involves grabbing, stradling and abuse of the opponent. Females should not be in male wrestling events...
    If this wrestler found it convenient to use "faith" as his excuse, well I guess that's his perogative.
    But this is not a "faith" issue.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  9. Integra_2kr

    Wrestling is about skill, and tactics…
    Speed and agility vs. brute strength…
    This isn’t the WWF, UFC or some underground parking lot brawl...
    Its carefully choreographed moves that are based on offence and defence…
    Safety is everybody’s concern, including referees keeping a close eye on the match…
    It makes no difference whatsoever if you’re a guy, or a girl once you’re in the ring,
    Karate is a perfect example where skill makes the sport, not the gender...
    Too bad the kid’s parents couldn’t see beyond that

    February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Chris

      Integra_2kr, my work out partner is a highly fit female who lifts weights regularly and runs marathons. I can tell you that my strength is more then double and often triple hers on every resistance exercise. You mean to say this sort of natural disparity between the male and female body doesn't give you an edge in wrestling???

      February 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Kurly

      Chris, that natural disparity didn't seem to help all the boys she beat to get to the championship did it.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  10. Mustafa

    Would we be even having this conversation if the situation was reversed? If the girl was matched up against the boy and decided she wasn't comfortable wrestling him – most folks would have suggested that it was wrong for the school to match up a boy vs girl. Having read through the barrage of useless rants, the problem isn't the situation – its us. We make the rules of our society and have an opinion on those rules..

    February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  11. Greggamma

    If the coach and team allow you to bail out because of your ideas, convictions, fear, etc. regardless that's fine. If you can't: bow out of the team. It is the the boy's decision and the girl's decision to wrestle or not wrestle and no one else's. If you have problem either way that is your projected bias and your issue you have to deal with. Who cares? Their are bigger things in this world to be concerned about than our prejudices one way or another. Simple people talk behavior, greater minds speak of ideas...

    February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  12. MEME

    GREAT STORY!!! Its unfair to make boys wrestle girls. (mostly unfair to the girls). Sorry feminists, you don't have enough female interest because most women know they dont have to do every thing boys do to prove that you are capable.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  13. Jason

    It sure is good to be American isn't it? New Junkie, you comments about having an "inappropriate bodily response"...that sounds as about silly as having buddies say "Duuuude.....you roll around on a mat with another sweaty man....you must want to be gay". I mean really.
    However, a couple of things. I coach now. I wrestled as a young kid, all the way through high school, and then into the Marines. Never did we even see a girl or woman in a singlet, and step on the line to compete. I applaud the young man for taking a stand. I applaud the young woman for showing equal respect to him and his beliefs as well. We should learn something from that alone.
    I stated I coach now. We are a wrestling club here in the Chicago suburbs with over 100 kids, and a handful of girls on the team. They train just as hard, bleed the same color, and sweat just as much. I think they have courage to come out and compete against other boys. HOWEVER, I think there should be a cutoff at a certain age. Puberty obviously hits both boys and girls eventually. I'm not talking about getting all tingly either NewJunkie. I'm talking about boys developing and getting much stronger. We have an 8th grader on our team, and yes a female. She was near the top a couple years ago. She even placed nationally. Now...it's quite a struggle going against boys that are much stronger. I am all for girls, and yound women wrestling. But I think at 11,12, 13 they need to compete against female only. It's obviously growing, and stories like this will just give the sport coverage. Again, I applaud both...but instead of bickering, and booing, and calling one another bigots, or making just foolish statements on this platform and others...we should seek out a new stage for these young women to compete.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  14. samson

    It's not as much about rubbing or gropping as it is double standard-– if the girl wins; by beating boys all the time- she will be praised and looked up to by all(not just boys or girls..) for her accomplishments. If a boy wins; by beating girls all the time-he will be deemed a wuss and/or womenbeater or perv. for rubbing against females all the time........or am i the only one who has thought of this???

    February 18, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  15. Ricky Bobby

    This is not right. It is only proper to rub all over another man in wrestling!!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Kurly

      Good point, I didn't realize the kid was gay.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  16. edutron

    There are two ways to go. Yes, decline the match, or bring it on and and put the hurts on the female opponent drawing national attention as far as assualt, law suits, criminal behavior, demeaning verbal assualts upon the male, etc. etc.
    This what happens when people as an example try to sue the BOY SCOUTS of America just because their female child cannot chide with the boys. The male wrestler may get sued yet by her parents.
    This male wrestler definately should be applauded! Excellent moral standards in which the U.S. military should abide by also.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  17. Donald N

    Good for him, I'm proud of him for doing so.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • nanu

      Good for this young man he made the right decision!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Kurly

      Why because he was afraid of being beaten by a girl so he quit. Nice work ethic loser. If the tourney saw fit to put me up against a 5 year old girl or a 90 year old man, I would go out and do my best to win.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  18. samson


    February 18, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  19. Jamaes

    As adults we join Co-ed softball teams, known as Jack and Jill leagues. Why is it accepted for that and not a young woman who wants to follow her dreams of being a wrestler? As men we play softball, Is that not a "girl" game? An athlete is an athlete who cares what gender? as a matter of fact little boys and girls play together in T-ball. and they also play basketball together as young kids. I could go on and on about this subject, but I think you get the drift "Sam"

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

      THat's apples and oranges. You don't have to rub yourself all over another person in softball.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Sterge

      It's not that the boy is not accepting the girl's right to wrestle; he just has personal reservations about it, and that should be respected. Besides, other co-ed sports are of a different nature.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • luke

      name one instance of a boy being allowed to play on a girls high school softball team.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Chris

      Softball doesn't require players to borderline grope each other in an attempt to subdue their opponent using controlled violence…..that’s why a guy might feel odd about wrestling a girl.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • John B

      Softball isn't a combat sport (at least not the softball I've played). Would you be willing to join a co-ed boxing league?

      February 18, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Kurly

      All this concern over him being gay and not liking to grope girls. I don't understand why this is becoming such a big issue. To each his/her own.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  20. Reality

    Wrestling, unlike golf, swimming or running, is not a life-time sport and therefore should not be supported by tax-payers' money.

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

      It's the sport she chose, whats tax payer money have to do with it? Nothing!!!!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Paul Bunyon

      You are a clown

      February 18, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Oh Boy

      Wow, you also forgot bowling, Yachting and croquet as sports that you think should be funded with tax.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • John B

      Football isn't a "lifetime" sport either.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • fred

      wrestling is one of the oldest real sports in existence, golf like many other so called sports is a mere game. Perhaps you see college and high school wrestling as the same as the professional variety it is not and is nothing like it. The physical conditioning and technique training for this sport is far harder than all other main stream sports.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • atapcreations

      No sport should be funded with taxpayer money. We should reserve that for the arts.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:43 am |
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About this blog

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.