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. Shelle

    I am annoyed by this article. As a general rule, men are stronger than women (yeah, yeah, yeah, not EVERY woman is stronger than EVERY man, but the vast majority). I think it's inappropriate to pit men and women against each other in this type of physical sport. I like the fact that a man (boy) doesn't feel right or comfortable doing something that will possibly result in physically harming a woman. As women, we have our own strengths over men, just not usually physical. Why do people have to somehow infer that to admit this would make us inferior?

    February 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • ChivelveryIsDead?

      Because they put stock in the things of the body. They believe in the physical not the mental. They love muscle bound jerks.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  2. CaliMom

    I feel like this young man did what he felt was right for him. Even if you don't understand why he would do this, I think everyone should respect him for this choice. I feel women and men can be equal in sports such as this. I have a cousin that happens to be femaile that was very invovled in wresting here on the west coast. I can't say I'd allow it for my daughter. Some moral boundaries need to be respected. I applaud Joel for doing what he feels is right. Good luck to all!

    February 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  3. AshleyG

    I greatly respect this boy for doing what he believes what right. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to repsect his decision and he's not STUPID for doing it. As a boy he was taught to never get aggressive towards a female, and that's something that we approve of in the south. When it comes to morals, no one has a right to judge him. I don't believe in the bible, God, or any other religion, but he sticks to way he believes. If you were taught to never disrespect your elders, would you wrestle them? I think not.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  4. Aaron

    I applaud this young man. It's good to see a man be a man, and do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. He is an inspiration. God bless you, young sir.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  5. Aaron

    He's pathetic. His parents have warped his mind with nonsense and he has no thoughts of his own. There is absolutely no crisis of conscience or moral dilemma. She has knowingly chosen to play in the rough sandbox. She knows the stakes and the risks, and has taken personal responsibility for her own decision. His refusal to wrestle her is disrespectful to everyone and dishonors our entire species. He disgusts me. He and his family's justification are nothing more than a facade to obscure the fact that his warped mind sincerely believes that it could well be sinful to engage in something so intimate with a girl. He's a fool, and he needs to be..."dealt with".

    February 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  6. Albert R

    I respect his decision, but he should have paid respect to his opponent and wrestle her as an accomplished wrestler. She made the effort to get there, be a man and face your opponent.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  7. Meh

    Its more action that he usually would have gotten with a girl. Imagine that, you start off with a good view of second base right out of the gate and your grinding against her butt as well.
    I hated wrestling in high school. Who the heck wants to roll around on dirty mats with another guy? /yikes

    February 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  8. BernieD

    To MarkinFL. Feel sorry for you. You sounded like a bitter loser.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  9. BernieD

    Hurray for Joel. So glad to know that there are still boys being raised to be future gentlemen. I hope there are girls being raised to be future ladies as well. I'm a woman and strongly believe in women empowerment but male and female are different and meant to compliment each other, not compete with each other.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      We shouldn't compete? Back to the kitchen, off with the shoes and get pregnant now!

      That is the only way women will not be competing with men. Reality check. Equality requires compet.ition. Anything less and then one half the human race is deciding for the other.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Sean

      How is it gentlemanly?

      February 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  10. shower with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal soap

    "Given the skin-to-skin contact in wrestling, it is inevitable that infections are common among high school wrestlers
    Cauliflower ear, Mat rash, herpes, Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - Staph infections that prove resilient to common antibiotics ...... yeckkkkkk

    February 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  11. J

    I aplaud women that work hard to compete with men. Though the fact of the matter is men will be physically more capable then women when put on an even playing field. Is there a female footbal player that could run with men in the NFL. Even in professinal body building were everyone does steroides and everything else under the sun to get the body, men develop more mass and strenghth. Dont get me wrong there are women out there that rock in MMA and other sports and can probably whoop a lot of men. But break it down to the basics, take two great athletes, one man and one women. let them train for wrestling, MMA, What have you. The man will have a physical atvantage every time. Hence the reason there are women leagues. There is yet to be a women that can compete with men at the at the same professinal levels. Guys shouldnt worry about being soft on girls. They wanna role with men they should be treated as one. If that means putting them to shame then so be it. On the other hand if the guy loses then he deserved to lose because he was beaten by a better opponant. To this kid its not about winning or losing to a girl, but about his moral and religious belief in being in that postion with a girl.... This news report is another example of how the media has nothing better to do then try a stir a hornets nest of emmotion in the public over a smal trivial matter.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  12. Martin

    I'd love to wrestle him.. He's very cute...

    February 18, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  13. Chris R

    Hey if he doesn't want to wrestle her then that's his choice. It's a really really stupid choice but it's his choice. His reasoning is what bothers me. The woman he would be wrestling is there because she is good and is obviously aware of what wrestling involves. She isn't forced to be there – she's there to compete. That this kid has some issue with possibly having to touch girly parts is demeaning towards woman and, in my view, an affront to the very faith he claims to believe in. Where in the Bible does it say "Thou shalt not wrestle girls?". Instead, in the Bible we find stories of strong women who played the role of the warrior like Judith, Deborah, Jael, the woman who killed Abimelech with a millstone, and so forth. These are not meek shrinking violets and we see there is no Biblical justification for this kid's refusal to wrestle a woman. He's misguided and confusing his social mores with religious ethics.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  14. brian

    Freedom is not about having the freewill to do as one pleases but about being able to express true maturity and not the maturity defined as being able to copulate, rationalise and corrupt. From true maturity stems true authority and not the authority defined through being scholarly, mighty or having some faith which lacks substance/proof, the superficial authority of Control merely being its [latent] Abandonment.

    This example shows that true humanity exists everywhere except that it lacks a real voice being hampered by viewpoints, the aim of polarities being to distract its reactants onto the cyclical platform of uncertainty, the platform that is The Bookie, the One who profits through disagreement. As all know, under perfect conditions, a gamble will only realised nothing – as in nothing gained and nothing lost. That may seemed acceptable but when humanity is about true progress, oka Evolution, that which is grey is still not white, fence-sitting being a choice for “No” within Reality whereas the concept of “Right & Wrong” does seem very much alive and real within the human realms of Relativities/Judgements.

    Like it, agree with it, or not, within Reality, Right & Wrong is not a concept but a principle – as someone was supposed to have said, “If you are not with Me, you are against Me”. When one is merely gambling/uncertain/temporal/transient, what is/seemed right today is merely a wrong tomorrow. Should one be of permanence, however, in reality/absoluteness, nothing has changed, is changing, or will ever change – other than those who are seldom certain and therefore will viewpoint as the wind blows, the MO of humanity being of gambles/ownership issues. Humanity is not Truth, Love nor Intelligence but we should always strive to be truthful, loving and acting intelligently to the best of our ability.

    As such, do not react/judge/try-to-own but witness [and never blindly believe as in blind faith] for Reality is merely a Witness whereas His Pure Desire is Love [The Almighty], the One who gifts without expectation. Reality in all matters absolute is therefore the purity within one’s desire and not the desire for purity, especially the attempt at correcting/judging/owning the purity of others’ behaviour. Humans cannot be taught, we have to learn, and we can/could only learn when we [are able to] witness and not react/trying to master others which latently is being mastered.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  15. hi

    I just wanna punch the second caller in the face. That's all.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  16. BlackBelt

    I dont see any reason why he shouldn't have just wrestled her, being from Iowa and a wrestler myself I can say for a fact, that wrestling is HUGE here. and Ive wrestled 2 different girls and nither time did it seem any different than any other match. Its how you think of it, most of the wrestlers I know dont care who they wrestle, once the wistle blows its doesnt make a difference if its a boy or a girl. To not wrestle her after working so hard to get to state is just dumb, does he realize how many kids would kill to have a place down there?? and I garrente that at least 90% of them would wrestle her anyway.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  17. Интернет,решения и съвети

    Very interesting article thanks to the author

    February 18, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  18. The Corporation's Champ (The Republican Rock)

    Like the girl pointed out in the phone interview, for a guy who loses, he gets labeled as the guy who got "beat by a girl," and for the guy who loses, he gets labeled as the "guy who beat a girl." I'm all for equal rights and everything, but remembering high school and how those things tend to follow you around, I don't blame any guy for not wrestling her. She said her reason for playing male sports was, "to prove that a girl could do it to." Stupid. If she was just doing it because she loved the sport and couldn't play them otherwise, cool, but I'm still behind the guys who refused to wrestle her.

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

      Yeah, guys NEVER compete in sports to prove their abilities.....

      February 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  19. James

    I have great respect for this young man. What class. He knows what is right and wrong. The only thing he is afraid of is hurting that girl. More men in this world should be like him. Good show sir.

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

      The only thing he's afraid of is getting beat by a girl and having his classmates taunt him. He's a measly 112 lbs.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • bob

      They both way close between 110 and 120 lbs. Not to much a difference.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  20. Wrestlers Mom

    I think if you know a bit more about wrestling you might see things differently http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/2011/02/18/lunatic-fringe-girls-wrestling/

    February 18, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Blanchard McLeod

      There are a few sports where there is some very serious physical contact that can be of an extreme and potentially intimate contact. If the young man were to inadvertently grapple her 'privates' or even intentionally do so which does happen when guys are wrestling guys, then there would be 'h to pay' for him.
      I personally think the argument that he is scared of being beaten by a girl is just a 'libber' diversionary tactic from the real issue. The ultimate reality is that above or below the belt, there are some serious significant bodily structural differences.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:10 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.