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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)
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  6. Burak

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    March 31, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  7. Tayla

    If she wants to wrestle let her freaking wrestle. If the guy is dumb enough to forfeit thats his choice, but shouldn't he realize that she chose to and im sure that even if it was his religion that she would have said something to him because she made that decision. It was not her fault at all and some of u d-bags are making it seem like it is her fault

    February 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  8. Thinks2010

    I think someone at CNN should stroll by the moderator's desk to see if he/she is still alive. I have a comment that has been 'awaiting moderation' for six days. The moderator must be way behind in his/her work or in a comma or dead at his/her desk.

    February 24, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  9. Matt

    Why is nobody concerned that intelligent children still dream of going to law school? As an attorney, I find that to be the most troubling aspect of the entire story.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  10. Anonymous

    This is a joke. This matter should not be discussed.
    Im a female but I am not a feminist whatsoever.

    I dont think boys should fight girls.

    February 23, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Fred

      exactly

      December 8, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  11. Liz

    I wrestled in High School: the only female wrestler at my high school and the first of many in our region after I paved the way so to speak. This is something that I did NOT because I wanted to prove a point but because I really enjoyed the sport and I refused to let anyone tell me I couldn't do something. More power to the girls, I can understand the frustration of their situation...I had one particular coach that would not allow any of his team members to wrestle against me. I can also, on the other hand, understand where the boy is coming from religiously. Very difficult decision on his part.
    When it comes down to it girls work just as hard at this sport as guys do and should be recognized for that. It isn't to prove a point (for some) it is to be athletic and have fun. Why discriminate? Guys are able to take dance even though it they aren't "comparable" to girls in the sense of flexibility, agility, etc. So why say girls can't wrestle because of incomparable upperbody strength and certain body parts?

    February 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  12. Richie P

    Looks like nobody is willing to address the elephant in the room. Wrestling is some pretty intimate contact. If you deny it, put your young, pretty daughter in a singlet and tell her it is unfair for her NOT to wrestle a strange boy because she is uncomfortable with that type of contact. That would be ridiculous. Granted, most boys would not object to rolling around on a mat with a cute girl, and these girls who chose to wrestle are obviously comfortable with wrestling men. But the fact is this particular boy does not think that it is appropriate. Why should he not be allowed to decline the same contact from a girl that you would kill a boy over if he forced it upon your daughter? Secondly, for all you people saying he shouldn't go out for wrestling at all if he doesn't want to wrestle girls, it is called MEN'S wrestling because a boy has a more than reasonable expectation of participating and not getting paired with a girl the whole season.
    Now that he unexpectedly finds himself paired with a girl, he is just forfeiting and not asking for any special treatment. Leave him alone. This "discrimination" is no more unfair than having separate girls and boys locker rooms for "oldfashioned" people who are willing to disrobe in the presence of their own gender but not the opposite gender.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • dawn

      I think it was wrong for him to have been automatically forfeited. It shouldn't go on his record, considering he refused to fight a girl.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  13. ThomH

    This is a situation of two different convictions clashing, nothing more. He is right to believe he should not wrestle a female and she is right in believing she can wrestle in a Men's" sport. Neither is wrong. In the real world, conflicts happen and people have to compromise. Sometimes, one person may have to give up, what seems to be a little bit, more than the other. In this case, I believe they both won. They will both grow from this experience.

    For all the people that are trying to take the myopic side; he is clearly not less than a man and she is not ONLY there to prove her point. Your shock statements may be exciting reading or a way for attention, but they are nothing more than that.

    I am glad the story was headlined; it only goes to show that both these young adults stand for what they believe and we should admire and respect both decisions equally.

    Just so you know, I am a Bible believing man, a home-schooling father, the head wrestling coach of a public middle school with a paid female assistant coach.

    February 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  14. Peace2All

    Being in the martial arts world, in karate, and especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have encountered situations where I have had to spar either in stand-up (punching/kicking, etc..) and/or jiu-jitsu, which is extreme grappling on the ground.

    My instructors had often warned us guys, that 'be careful of the girls, do not let your guard down and underestimate them, or you may get hurt.' They didn't say ..'be careful of hurting the girls, etc..' They were warning us.

    It seems if a female is willing to step into an arena, especially like martial arts or wrestling, etc..., then 'they' are well aware of the risks, and in one sense will not and should not get treated any differently, in general, from the males.

    I have seen several times, when a male and female opponent were paired up, and the guy 'felt bad' or underestimated her, as he didn't want to hurt her, and in several of these situations, the male got his a-s-s kicked by the female, and in a couple of situations, the male got hurt, because he didn't want to hurt the female.

    My belief and experience is if, the women has chosen and earned the right to compete with the men, then they have earned that equal respect.

    In relationship to this article, the girls have obviously earned the right to be there to compete at the state competi-tion.

    And... if this young man 'chooses' for his own reasons to not wrestle the girls, that is his choice, whether one agrees with his world-view and choices or not.

    Peace...

    February 21, 2011 at 4:24 am |
    • dawn

      I respect this boy. What he's doing is a rare level of manhood for this day and time. You, and your marital arts coach, well, not so much manhood there apparently. Otherwise you wouldn't feel that way

      February 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • doug

      Right on Dawn. My daddy taught me that a REAL man, regardless of it being a sport, would rather be the one GETTING hurt, then to intentionally hurt a female. Even if she DID go in there voluntarily.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
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  15. Jose

    This situation is very wrong! She is wrestling for the wrong reasons, according to the video interview she wants to "prove something that she can compete with the boys. Right off the bad she is turning the whole thing into a political issue. Why not ask her if she thinks its fair for men to be exterminated in war for womens equal rights? While women are put on the fast track for jobs traditionally held by men , so that the men could feed there families for land sake. I know of no man who has gone to war and not suffered greatly and continues to suffer for the rest of his life. Why is this always a one sided argument that is always desired in favor of women. Males are being dumbed down to conform to a very sick fema-Nazi propaganda and no one says hay but what about mens rights? What if a man wanted to dominate a womens sport when he is approximately 30% stronger on average. Com-on people get to the core of the issues. Also she is not a girl she is a pervert because she wants to go out side of the norms. We have norms and standards for a reason. What if a guy just walked into a womens bathroom and ignored the standards or a women into a mens restroom. Or a locker room for that matter, what if a guy just said ya know, I feel I am being discriminated against and I am going to walk into a womens locker room because I can do anything a women can do. You people for the most part offend common sense and are a disgrace to sound leadership... You promote a double standard and cause this young women to chaise after your ignorance and political propaganda that is extralegally one sided in favor of women to the detriment of males in the larger aspect of this issue~!

    February 20, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  16. Jos

    This situation is very wrong! She is wrestling for the wrong reasons, according to the video interview she wants to "prove something that she can compete with the boys. Right off the bad she is turning the whole thing into a political issues. Why not ask her if she thinks its fair for men to be exterminated in war for womens equal rights? While women are put on the fast track for jobs traditionally held by men. Why is this always a one sided argument that is always desired in favor of women. Males are being dumbed down to conform to a very sick fema-Nazi propaganda and no one says hay but what about mens rights! What if a man wanted to dominate a womens sport when he is approximately 30% stronger on average. Com-on people get to the core of the issues. Also she is not a girl she is a pervert because she wants to go out side of the norms. We have norms and standards for a reason. What if a guy just walked into a womens bathroom and ignored the standards or a women into a men a mens restroom. Or a locker room for that matter, what if a guy just said ya know, I feel I am being discriminated against and I am going to walk into a womens locker room because I can do anything a women can do. You people for the most part offend common sense and are a disgrace to sound leadership... You promote a double standard and cause this young women to chaise after your ignorance and political propaganda that is extralegally one sided in favor of women to the detriment of males in the larger aspect of this issue~!

    February 20, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  17. Michael

    The problem here is two contradicting ideas. On one hand boys are taught at a young age to respect women, and never raise a hand to them or try and hurt them. So from a young age it teaches the boy that they are stronger than girls. Yet, girls should have every right and opportunity a boy has. So until social lessons change, this will continue to be issue

    February 20, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Father of 6

      So which lesson should change? Should Boys NOT be taught to respect girls (it's because of respect for the girls, not beacuse they are weaker in anyway, BTW) or should girls be taught not to succede?

      This is not because he was afraid to hurt her or that she isn't capable of wreslting. This is more than a simple "hit and run" contact sport like boxing or American Football, this is a grab and hold on sport. The contact between this boy and the girls would have been completley inappropriate.

      This boy is standing up for something that should be taught but has been lost in our world, Chivalry.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  18. Jamie Wright

    The most disturbing thing about this is that the heartfelt convictions of this family necessitates that a girl or woman not be able to compete in her chosen sport at the highest level at which she is capable. The message is, "Yes. We know you are good at this but you simply aren't allowed." Why would God give her the ability to make it this far in her sport only to deny her the opportunity to use the gift she was given?

    February 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • mike

      Are you nuts? Any guy is going to really hurt any girl in the same weight class. Get real.And what if he touches her in the wrong spot. Pick another sport girls.

      February 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Mr Jude

      Mike, you are an idiot. Pure fact. I've seen girls wrestle, and some of them are tougher and stronger than boys. At that age, nobody really has an advantage in body size/strength for the most part. Most girls I've seen wrestling are tall and can use that to their advantage. There are boys that have that one advantage, too, instead of the muscle mass. In certain weight classes, you will see this the most... Short guys with muscles, or tall skinny guys. Neither has an advantage. Girls mostly fall into the latter category. That gives them just as as much of a chance of winning.

      February 20, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • varanasi515

      I believe the debate is not who is stronger or did he decline weestling her because he was afraid to be beaten by a girl. They have met in several wrestling clubs in the past from grade school and and each time he has declined to wrestle the girl. So, throughout the years he has been consistent. She knew going in to the tournament that if she or the other girl had to meet him in the match that he would decline to wrestle. I believe the story is that she has the right to wrestle and he has the right not to wrestle. It is high school sports, not the WWF where they have huge contracts stating they have to wrestle. This is a voluntary sport and voluntary participation. If she wants to participate she should be given the chance. If he doesn't want to participate, he should also be given the chance. She did go on to lose and he went on to the consolation round. Being forced to wrestle or forced to not wrestle, neither is right.

      February 27, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • lwatcdr

      Sorry but I was rased that you do not hit a girl, you do not physically fight a girl. As an adult I have a strong inhibition involving any violence to women. I see that as a good thing. Yes it is just a sport and I would have probably been willing to compete with a woman in that sport but I can understand and respect his choice.

      March 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  19. Mark from Middle River

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/28/local/me-prom-queen28

    February 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  20. Mark from Middle River

    http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Male-star-leads-field-hockey-team-Is-he-an-unfa?urn=highschool-285871

    February 19, 2011 at 2:38 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.