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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. bam

    The faith thing is pathetic....
    However I am not sure why females are wrestling males, for the other reason he mentions harming a female. On one hand SOCIETY wants to make everyone equal with no winners aka no tears and on the other hand in this case it is ok to harm a female opponent. Now maybe she can handle it and it is ok in this situation. I'de probably only do it after I wrestled her before in a non match situation to know there are minimal risks.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Near Iowa

      By dismissing a person's faith beliefs as "pathetic" bam the poster shows a shallow nature. People have given up their lives for their faith beliefs, this guy only forfeited a match. How easily will you toss away your most cherished beliefs?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Sally

      He accepted losing the match to honor his own thoughts and feelings. I have no problem with this. II wish more people lived up to their own expectations.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Dave

      "The faith thing is pathetic...."

      The article could have simply said that he chose not to wrestle because he finds it inappropriate. I doubt you would have been as critical then.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Peggy

      i just love the comments to Bam!
      Bam.... opinions are like a_ _holes, everyone has one and some people ARE one. You're an idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  2. SG

    I respect this person, his ideologies and his living upto what he believes is right.
    I don't see anything wrong with his refusing to duel a female opponent.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • J

      I agree 100%

      February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  3. Jerome

    He's afraid she might touch his tiny pee-pee.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Dave

      Well from the sounds of it he's more of a man than you either way.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  4. Stef

    I am female and I agree with the young man. If females want to wrestle, we should promote female wrestling. Men have a physical advantage (their only advantage :D) over women and we should not participate in sports with them. When I was in high school, a girl tried to play football with boys. Once she figured out how hard they hit, she was forced to back off. Also, women in that situation will be a target so they are only asking for trouble.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Guest

      I can her the femi nazi's now, "BUT SHE IS ASKING FOR IT!".

      February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Jim

      She can obviously hold her own if she qualified for state in IOWA. For CLASS 3-A! If she made it this far in that class then she obviously can wrestle against the boys......

      February 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Guest

      Her record isnt that amazing and i wonder howmany of those wins are forfeits? i know the girl on our wrestling team had a winning record and she only wrestled and won, one or two of them. I gaurentee this wasnt the first guy to refuse wrestling her.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • brian

      Hey Jim get a clue here.... how many others took it easy on her or forfeited?? come on dude get real.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Jim

      As far as I know there no one else has refused to wrestle her.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Jim

      BTW I live 3 miles from the school that she wrestles at so you guys should get a clue. Haven't heard anything about anyone refusing to wrestle her.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  5. lct1119

    Good for him. Congratulations. This is what Women's lib has wrought. Wrestling, not equal pay for equal work.
    Stick to your convictions. It is totally inappropriate. You are right. And I am a child of the 60-70's lest one thinks I am some right wing christian crazy.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Bart

    Is it against your faith to snuggle up with guys, though? No win situation for a guy. Win and so what, you beat a girl. Lose and you lost to a girl. (This is probably the real reason he did not wrestle.) As a former wrestler myself, I do not get why this is a big deal. Maybe he just needs a new religion.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Peggy

      most neanderthals probably think the same way as you.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Daniel

      @Peggy

      I think you've got it backwards, i think the neanderthals are much closer to your line of thought, you know, what with the chanting to a magical man in the sky, the outdated "ideals", you know, all that ancient religious bs that lacks reason and logic. It's funny you would call someone a neanderthal.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  7. Two Witnesses

    he just didnt want to get a woody during the match...can't blame him..

    February 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  8. NamVet

    His choice and he accepts the consequence of his choice. I guess that makes him pro-choice.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  9. Kent Bowen

    Boys and girls should do their wrestling in the back seat of Dad's car.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  10. beazygsu

    It looks like most of the commentors are not listening to what this young man has said. Due to his convictions and morals he does not think wrestling a female (whether she is good or not) is right by what HE believes. I think he is very brave to actually stand up and say that he has more respect outside of sportsmanship for himself and this youg lady than the actual sport itself. Kudos to him!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jim

      I wonder if he considers men who compete in physical sports with other women not as faithful or as nice as him........

      February 17, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Peggy

      Amen.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  11. ROCKWOOD

    I don't agree with hormonal boys wrestling with hormonal girls..... Often young men and teenage boys have er*ctions during the sport, which has nothing to do with their s*xual preference and is normal.....Once some girl is brushed up against by a stiff one.....she or her parents will be screaming s*xual assault.....

    February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • brian

      OMG that is hilarious!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Beware_of_God

      Why the heck do you think she joined the wrestling team? Maybe it was the only way her parents would let her get close to a boy. Don't you remember little girls slow dancing with you? They would press so hard up against you that .... well you remember, don't you?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Daniel

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      February 18, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  12. Mike

    I can see his point.....Some of the holds would mean putting hands and arms between her legs and across her chest. That's just not a good position to put a youngster in.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Ralph

      I believe u and I are the only ones who understand exactly where he was coming from these other clowns need to grow a brain.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • The Dude

      I would have buried my face in her chest and between her legs and enjoyed every second of it.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • opi

      So it's ok to grab another boy there? Shouldn't matter either way. Not that there's anything wrong with that... If you're not grabbing, you're not wrestling.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Daniel

      So what you're saying is, you'd be comfortable grabbing a dude between his legs, but the thought of grabbing a girl between the legs makes you want to forfeit? I'm going to stop because I don't want to be the first one to make the "wrestling is g*y" joke.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  13. Beware_of_God

    Hooray for home schooling, where parents can continue to brainwash their kids and keep them living in the Dark Ages. Or maybe the kid just knew he would get beat by the girl and didn't want to have to face the ridicule. Still, its his home schooling that has made him a wimp, afraid of facing the real modern world.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Kent Bowen

      That was an intelligent remark.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • sajhkadsgflk

      My daughter was home schooled but decided to finish her last two years of high school at regular school. She dropped out after the first nine weeks complaining they were too far behind her level. She finished at home needless to say. I'd say it was more the religion that made him wimp out (if that's what you want to call it) and not the home schooling.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • brian

      parents brainwashing their kids??? HA you obviously dont have kids in school. Let me tell you the schools are the ones brainwashing as you call it.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Tim

      judging by your comment, he's likely to be much more intelligent than you thanks to his home schooling.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Beware_of_God

      That is a bunch of bull, sajhkadsgflk. I might have bought it if you would have said elementary or jr. high. In high school you can take any level courses you want, from remedial to accelerated. You mean to tell me she couldn't find a calculus or advanced French or Russian course to challenge her? Maybe she was just afraid she might be socially exposed.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Beware_of_God

      Tim, the point isn't intelligence. It is social awareness and acceptance. The boy obviously has been sheltered from the reality of the real world.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • PentecostalTexan

      BRIAN IS RIGHT!!! public schools do brainwash kids!

      February 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Peggy

      you're the one living in the dark ages with stupid remarks like that about home schooling! idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Peggy

      One more thing about the home schooled "brain washed" child.... I know one young woman, home schooled all her life out on an Iowa farm.... guess what? She scored VERY HIGH on written and memory type tests for the NAVY and just left a week ago to start her career and maybe someday saving sorry butts like yours with more guts, brains, honor and glory than you will ever hope to possess. Did I also mention, her and her entire family are EVERY-SUNDAY-faithful-God-fearing Baptists?. So stick that in your ear! Again.... you're an idiot.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Stevegnostic

      BoG comes up wiht a very sensible comment....

      February 18, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  14. Brandon

    I think he may have been scared........

    February 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Benjamin

      :It was my contentment cminog across your site a short while ago. I arrived here just now hoping to find out interesting things. I was not disappointed. Your ideas for new methods on this subject material were useful and a terrific help to my family. Thank you for leaving out time to write down these things plus for sharing your thoughts.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  15. Girls Can Grapple Too

    I disagree with those male wrestlers who say boys wrestling girls are placed in a "no-win" situation. I have yet to see a girl wrestler complain or claim harrasment when beaten by a boy. I have also seen boys lose graciously to girls. It's unfortunate that societal norms encourage the boys' peers to tease them if they are beaten fairly by a girl, but that's certainly not a reason to forbid girls to wrestle against boys. On the other hand, it's completely ridiculous to claim that boys are criticized if they beat girls. If you're saying that a serious male wrestler will allow a girl to win by not giving it his all because he's afraid he'll hurt the girl, that sounds like a lame excuse to me....

    February 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • denverBob

      I would have loved to play vollyball in high school. Why couldn't I? Because I was a boy.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • namelessbanana

      @denverbob
      I would have loved to play football but I am a girl.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Rgrau

      Boys (most) are taught from an early age not to hit women, be gentle with their sisters etc. I think it would be difficult for most boys to come into a match with the agression they are used to. It's not until they are older and have been married for a few years do they really want to smack them around a little bit 🙂

      February 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • brian

      yeah girls CAN grapple but here's the point all of you jock girls are missing.......WE DONT WANT TO WRESTLE FEMALES!!!!!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Iowa Liberal

      Girls should be able to wrestle. Against other girls.

      I can't for the life of me figure out why wrestling is gender integrated. They don't put boys and girls on the same basketball teams. They don't mix the softball and the baseball teams. They don't even have mixed relay teams. But something as personally physical as wrestling is integrated?

      When I was in wrestling in Iowa in the 80s, we faced a team that had a girl. The guy who had to wrestle her was freaked out, and I'm sure we didn't help by saying, "Hey, what if you pop a b@#er?" and "Be careful where you grab her." He ended up practically curling up in a fetal position on the mat and lost.

      Say what you want that it shouldn't matter, but it does. It wouldn't matter if it was a girl on a basketball court or a mixed volleyball team, but it does with wrestling. I'm all for girls wrestling, but it needs to be in a different bracket.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  16. TxSundown

    I commend the young man for his honor and his principles. This guy is in a no-win situation. If he wins he gets "You beat a girl..." If he loses it's "You were beat by a girl..." I am a female that disagrees with this venue for "equality". This is more psychological warfare than physical prowness. It's one of those cases where I wish there was a guy who would just be able to drop her fast and make her tap out. I would have a hard time believing that any girl that won was really put to the test because of the guys having to deal with the no-win situation he was placed in. Let the girls wrestle each other.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  17. minutes

    She has the right to participate just like he has the right to NOT participate. He didn't complain about it. He simply exercised his right to not participate. There is nothing in the rules that says he can't forfeit. I don't see a problem here with any of this.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • minutes

      Oh and he should have just forfeited and kept silent. He is not required to offer an explanation as to why he chose to forfeit.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Two Witnesses

      I dont think it is fair that it be a forfeit...it should be a draw....

      February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • f16bmathis

      Someone probably asked why he wouldn't wrestle her. The news seems to be the only ones making a big story of it.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • brian

      Her right?? to wrestle boys?? Give me a break. So is it my RIGHT to take a potty break in the girls bathroom or shower in the girls locker room?? No it isn't. That's how rediculous it sounds to have females wrestling males. A separate league should be created for girls if there isn't one. And if you think it is her RIGHT to do so then it's my RIGHT to play girls basketball and dominate the game!!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • f16bmathis

      No, whats really wrong was the Mulslim women getting (what college) to close the gym to men for (time?) so they could exercise with thier faces in the open!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Stevegnostic

      kid and his dad are cowards plain and simple....

      February 18, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • Daniel

      @f16bmathis
      What does that have to do with this story? Could that just be your hidden prejudice coming through in a completely un-related article?

      February 18, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  18. huhn

    How is an opponent supposed to pull her hair if she is wearing that funky helmet?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  19. Logic

    It is a classic no-win scenario. You win, you just beat up a girl. You lose, you just lost to A GIRL?? No adolescent boy would want to choose between those eventualities.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  20. Vader

    Me? Wouldn't hesitate for a minute

    That said, I would not criticize, belittle, or question anyone who, for whatever reason, decided for themselves that they could not.

    Each of us are responsible for ourselves and our own choices. He chose to compete on the wrestling team knowing full well that meeting a girl on the mat was a possibility, but if, when actually faced with the reality, he cannot in good conscience participate, so be it. Take the forfeit and move on.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Dave

      A very reasonable response from the Dark Lord! 😛

      February 17, 2011 at 7:36 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.