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. David Johnson


    Please consider going back to the old way of displaying the thread. When the comments get into the thousands, it is very difficult find earlier posts etc. You can't even do a search. I hate the part_itioning!!


    February 19, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  2. CIRUS

    I am surprised we don't have the women's group's up in arm's over this. Could this be the new nest for men to start abusing women because of forcing them into position's they don't want to be in ? Is this a place where mom or a girlfriend mad you grumpy in the morning and you take ir out on the girl. Personally, I would slam her as hard as I could and when I took her down but full body weight on one limb. Want to play a mans sport, get beaten like a man but even harder. This should never be allowed. If a young man is brought up to respect women and to treat them with kindness like you would your mother or sister or grandmother. Why put him in the spotlight to have to forfeit and to keep his honor to women ?

    February 19, 2011 at 6:56 am |
  3. mick thomas

    He's afraid she won't give him his balls back when she's done with him....

    February 18, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  4. PatHoustonTX

    He competes in a league where girls are allowed to compete. If he won't follow the rules he should be disqualified froim compettion, not just be allowed ro chicken out of facing a girl. I am not happy with the idea of a publically funded school be allowed or forced to accept homeschooled kids on teams or in other organizations for that matter. He's just a slightly more unusual form of bigot and I have no sympathy for him as he wants to make his own rules.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  5. Ian

    I'm not allowed (as a male) to compete in female sports leagues. It's is utter hypocrisy to allow girls to compete in male leagues. It's as simple as that. My school didn't have a boy's field hockey team, and so boys weren't allowed to play field hockey. We had to suck it up, and so should this selfish girl.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  6. Bel

    I just don't get it...why is it okay for females to compete in a male sport (i.e., wrestlin, football), but it's NOT okay for a boy to compete on girls' teams. Just doesn't seem fair to me. Has nothing to do with religion or home schooling. As I said before - girls should compete against girls and boys should compete against boys.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  7. Dannie Wilkey

    I must agree with the young man. As a wife and mother of wrestlers, I find it completely inappropriate for boys to wrestle girls. I don't have a problem with girls wrestling, but I think they should wrestle girls. Good for him for taking a stand!

    February 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  8. TheLaughingMan

    If a girl thinks she has what it takes to get out on the mat then more power to her. I wrestled in high school and it never bothered me when I had to wrestle against a girl. It's not that big of a deal, just wrestle them like you would any opponent instead of being a whiny b**** about it.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  9. Autumn

    I am shocked that there are still guys out there that respect a girl. Kudos to the girls that want to play in this sport but create your own league (girls only). You are asking a guy to be violent and throw a girl around. If he did that in the real world he could go to jail.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  10. Equality

    Would he decline to wrestle a gay male? based on his "faith"? or later in life discriminate against a female doctor? or how bout just change the laws so pesky woman don't end up in jobs meant for men? after all.. the Bible "says" they should be at home servicing the men no ? if we're going roll things back to the stone-age why not at least be upfront about the extent of your families "beliefs".

    February 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  11. jaci

    Give credit where credit is do! If it's against his beliefs then so be it. It takes courage to stand up for yourself and your beliefs!

    February 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  12. 2nd questions

    Whether you agree with him or disagree it is what our world has come to. He is blasted for standing up for his beliefs. My question where does it stop. Can boys play on the girls Volleyball teams or what if i want to play softball instead of baseball. If we are looking for true equal lives lets get rid of separate sports and all just play together on one team. Just something to think about.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  13. Stephen

    The telling part is the Joel saying, [i]t is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most of the high school sports in Iowa." Sounds like self-effacing martyrdom to me.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  14. MarkinFL

    Well, they've both been eliminated now, so no rematch controversy....

    February 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  15. Ron B

    Questions: Is it OK for a male wrestler to grab the female wrestlers breasts during a take down?
    Is it OK for him to run his hand up between her legs to get a hold on the upper thighs?
    Is is OK for him to grab her buttocks?

    February 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Bel

      In answer to your first question, now that would REALLY hurt!!! That is just one reason why boys should not wrestle girls. We are just not built the same!!! I can't even believe that she would be allowed to compete against boys.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  16. kevin

    Hmm what I want to know is what teenage boy would not want to wrestle with a girl? Isn't that why they give out rubbers in health class lol.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • ohyeah

      You bet I would have rolled around the mat with her when I was in school!

      February 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  17. WillA

    Gave up on reading all of the comments – just wanted to throw in my two cents – Home-schooled son of a minister was uncomfortable in wrestling a girl. I'm sure part of it was the moral convictions referenced, but lets face it – wrestling is a very physical sport – you and the person your against use their entire body's to try and take the other down. If I was a high school kid out in front of the public, I wouldn't want to wrestle a girl for fear that biology might rear it's ugly head. The suits they wear don't leave anywhere to hide an erection . . . and for a religious homeschooled teenager – I imagine it's probably a much bigger fear.

    Like I said – my two cents.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Nature

      Duh, Cup!?..Now if his natural tendency is to bite a breast then that might be an issue. Mike Tyson is still being vilified for biting an ear.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Scott

      I don't think so. Fight or flight would set in and he would actually experience shrinkage.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • BadBrad

      Yo WillA,
      You have a sick and twisted mind, You may want to think of morality, witch you appear to lack. There is some innocence in this world and respect for women.

      February 19, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  18. marin

    i like wresteling but i would never for fit a wresteling match

    February 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  19. ChivelveryIsDead?

    If you added up both girls records against this fine young man combined he has beat them both already. Give him credit for doing the right thing.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Josephus

      The "right thing" would have been to treat her like another person in the wrestling league. You don't get to just dismiss your opponents because you have a better record than they do, this isn't WWE.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  20. ChivelveryIsDead?

    35-4 his record is better then both girls but he is afraid? 35 matches 4 loses? Afraid really?

    February 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Tom C

      Think about it. If he wins, everyone goes "Haha, big tough man, beating up on a girl." If he loses, it's "Haha, a girl beat you."

      Lose-lose situation.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
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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.