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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. tom

    I don't know if any of the responders here work in corporate America, but the rule in the real corporate world is WOMEN ARE EQUAL BUT WATCH EVERY WORD YOu SAY AROUND THEM AND NEVER RAISE YOUR VOICE because going behind someone's back to their boss is encouraged and if you act around women the way you might act around men you will be fired - the kid was put in a difficult situation don't be too hard on a HS kid

    February 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  2. mee

    Home schooled son of a minister? Ohh my...what a poor kid. shelered life, no social skills, incestious behaviours.... bad news.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • tom

      no bigotry on mee's part

      February 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  3. Pretty Unfair

    Too bad a young athlete has to deal with an awkward situation like this in front of the entire nation. This issue shouldn't rest on the shoulders of two teenage wrestlers. Boo, CNN.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  4. Wes

    Just break the girls neck and be done with it.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  5. KungFuChick

    As a female martial artist, I am insulted by this young man's actions. I understand that men and women are different and that most women are uninterested in participating in violent sports. However, these two female wrestlers chose to compete and should be treated with the same respect as their male counterparts. Just like the men and women that my husband and I train, I expect that once someone gets on the mat, everyone has the equal opportunity to be punched in the face, or put flat on his or her back.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • ChivelveryIsDead?

      Do not super impose your beliefs onto his. He does not hit girls use your karate to beat him up for being a gentleman.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  6. Ex Post Facto

    Folks, you are looking at the US local equivalent of Sharia Law and what the country will turn into if theocrats of any flavor gain control of the government. This kind of thinking and barbaric behaviourc flows to today via social constructs pre-dating the middle ages – aka the dark ages. This is silly, petty and totally revealing of biases that have no factual foundation.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  7. sand

    i think i missed that part of the Bible; "thou shalt not wrestle a woman"

    February 18, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Bugmenot

      You do need to seriously reread it....not for rationalization's sake but to learn.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  8. jj

    I wasn't going to read this story. The headline sounded too stupid, like some kind of foolish chivalry. I finally read it, and wish I hadn't. The story is crazier than I imagined. MORALS??? Nice child rearing, dad!
    Maybe it's an unmarried boy touching a... female. How unclean! I'll have to slaughter a goat just to get that thought out of my head!

    February 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  9. Everett Kindred

    I used to wrestle as well. I personally would not feel comfortable slamming a girl on the mat. Some of the positions you need to put your opponent in would be very uncomfortable if it were a girl. In wrestling it is not all power and strength, it also takes a lot of quick thinking and I think some boys would naturally have the issue of wrestling a girl on their mind and would be a distraction. You might not be as aggressive with her, you might be overly conscious how you grab her, especially in the groin area. Instead of putting all this fight into allowing girls to wrestles boys put it into making a girls league.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • KungFuChick

      to put it in the vernacular, MAN UP!

      it is far more distracting for her to grab him in the groin area, and yet somehow women manage to control themselves. how ever do we do it with all that external genetailia?

      February 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Weak Sauce

      That's exactly what happens. He mans UP. Yes, people should learn to control their genitalia. That's all fine and dandy. But it becomes a bit hard to control when

      a) you find the girl attractive. (I don't know, she looked good to me at least....)
      b) you are pretzeled together.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  10. Roger

    Typical Preacher's son who finds $ex coupled with violence arousing – so of course he's going to forfeit since the alternative is everyone seeing him get wood in his spandex.

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

    He's bloody right...if he had a lawyer the lawyer would advise against it...I can just imagine it being hauled up in the future as evidence that he likes to abuse women..any other boy doing it is also pretty dumb and should get legal advice.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  12. Big LEbowski

    Please stop trying to change women into men. Women are inferior to men is certain aspects. Men are inferior to women in other aspects. If we were all the same we'd all be walking around like lady gaga.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  13. areyoujoking

    I don't blame him. Religious faith aside. Guys won't give it their all against a girl because we've been taught not to harm them... meanwhile the girl will be putting in extra effort because she wants to pretend she's "just as tough as the boys."

    February 18, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Robin

      Apparently, this girl IS "just as tough as the boys" because she qualified for the match. For all the boys who would hold back, there are just as many (if not more) that would try to inflict more pain so as to discourage her. She and the other girl who qualified should be applauded, not this boy who is afraid to test his skills against hers.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  14. oklahoman

    The young man should be applauded! You don't think its hard to walk away from something that you desperately, because of principles?! A young man holding up integrity instead of a trophy – WOW! That is what we want in our young men again!

    February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  15. motofe

    Did anyone ever think maybe he didnt want to get his ass beat by a girl???

    February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  16. malyha

    Awesome! I cannot believe an American has morals. This just changed the image I have for the American individual who grew up on cartoons that teach kids how to lie and get away with lying.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • tomtom

      And you are a F... moron, just to keep in line with your view on average americans.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  17. Rev. Wallace Ryan

    Religious bigotry is a sad excuse to cover up for what looks like cowardice. So much for the "Land of the Brave". He was just afraid of getting his butt kicked by a girl. Sad.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • oklahoman

      Take the Rev. off your username. This is no way to talk from a minister. Change your use of words... or change your vocation! Pure foolishness!!!!!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Optimus prime

      Idiot. Go get a brain.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Bugmenot

      If you have any credentials as a reverend, how might that be confirmed? You most certainly do not speak as one with christian values.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • norcalmojo

      Yeah, only wimps won't a fight a girl. Great thinking there, Rev.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  18. Downtym

    I wrestled in high school on team with females. They gave as good as they got, showed up for practices, and worked hard for their place on the team.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  19. the_dude

    The kid did the right thing. He is in a lose-lose situation and did the best thing. A young teen-aged boy shouldn't be put in that situation. Boys and girls ARE different. I guess people won't learn until one of these girls gets seriously hurt.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  20. KS

    Kid's just trying to follow the commandment 'Thou shalt not lose to a girl.' Seriously though, this is America. If someone makes a choice to do something, then they accept the consequences. In this case, the girl has already accepted that she may get hurt, etc. (Although her record shows she's beaten over half the people she's wrestled anyway, so she's probably as likely as any guy to get hurt.) Don't worry about your opponents background, just go out and play the freakin game. Write an essay or give a speech if you have some social/moral point to make.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • oklahoman

      This is probably coming from someone who is either not an athlete, not a gentlemen or a nut who thinks that there shouldn't be boundaries for our children in regards to propriety.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Papa

      @KS – Thank you for a well thought out opinion! We are talking about kids that just want to play their sport, and do their best. I think most people respect his decision not to wrestle, just as they respect her decision to wrestle. This has nothing to do with their parents, Jesus, republicans, wimpy boys, or manly girls. Wrestling is in my opinion is one of the most demanding high school sports there is, and the practices are insanely intense. I'm sure that both the male and the female wrestler in this story have incredible heart and spirit to make it to this level and could not give a rats a** about any of our political opinions concerning thier achievments.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • TappedIN

      My freshmen year in high school hmmmm two girls wanted equality and at there discretion were allowed to try-out for the football team. Me being the linebacker that I was decided enough is enough and hit one of the girls with a brutal tackle that almost sent her the the ER. NO I'm not proud but needless to say the other girl walked off the filed as the school nurse was administering first aid to her friend.

      Common – Rights are Rights and Wrong is Wrong No Place for females in a mans sport. Sorry if this offends!!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Papa

      @Tappedin – There is a female linebacker on my son's varsity football team that might disagree with you...just saying, I agree that there are some females that are not a got fit for sports, just like there are some males that are not. And while I will concede to the fact that a female cannot really go much further in football past high school...there are great women's wrestling programs at college level, and even woman's wrestling at the olympics. With this in mind it would be hard to classify wrestling as being a mens only sport. If the ladies don't have the option of female only teams at the high school level, I don't see why we would deny them participation in the sport of their choice if they can perform at that level.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
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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.