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. Ron in California

    We have separate boys and girls sports teams in other sports why not wrestling? Whats unfair here is this young man had to forfeit.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Whats unfair here is this young man had to forfeit.'
      He did not have to do anything. He choose to do so.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Martell

      This boy never "HAD" to do anything. He chose not to wrestle.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • from iowa

      There were 33 other boys this season that chose to wrestle her – she won 20 of them by the way.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  2. J

    It is unfair to have women competing vs men in games where so much is dependent on pitting one persons physical strength vs another. The playing field is too unbalanced for that. Even the strongest females are out matched physically by the average male. It would be like Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his prime) were to wrestle a chimpanzee. The chimp would kick the crap our of Arnold due to the fact that their muscles are 6 times as dense.

    The margin between a man and a woman might not be as profound as my example but it is enough to the chances of a woman defeating an equally skilled man in a wrestling match impossible.

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

      Absolutely wrong. You statement assumes there is no skill involved in wrestling. If there isn't, it shouldn't be a sport. All other things being equal, if the woman is more skilled she will win. I see it in martial arts all the time. Some big, badass boy that thinks he is tough because he beat three other boys gets his @$$ ripped off and handed to him by a girl 50 lbs lighter.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jus Saying

      She knew what she was getting into by joining the team. It's not about being grobbed, it's a sport. If more women would go out, maybe Iowa can be the first state to have women's wrestling. I respect his decision, but let's not look bad upon a young lady for challenging young boys. Obviously, the 'strength issue' is clearly not an issue if she's made it this far.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  3. aaa

    Since women are equal to men now, and are allowed to wrestle them, why do we still have these domestic violence groups saying women are victims? Men and women are equal now, so all women should be treated like a man. They should be able to register for the draft and receive no more special treament in terms of quots and affirmative action. Women are now men.

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

      women are now equal......but thats how the world turns

      February 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  4. sajhkadsgflk

    I wonder if that move where they stick their fingers in orifices (to get a good grip of course) would be OK in this situation.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  5. Dr. Delhi


    Wrestlers are Gay


    February 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  6. jl taylor

    I had the pleasure of playing football against several girls in junior high school. That was the only time during my football
    career,which lasted through college, i enjoyed holding penalties.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  7. pat

    What would Jesus do?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • from iowa

      Who cares? How could this even possibly be a religious issue? It was all theater and a bs excuse. Yet another generation of ignorant republicans in Iowa.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  8. Reality

    Hmmmm? Get your tickets for "FeMa". In this corner the "Corn Husker". In the other, the "Pink Oink". Ding Dong!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  9. Dr. Delhi

    ___ How may girls would Jesus grapple ? ___

    HMGWJG ?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  10. Amy

    Looks like someone is afraid of losing to a GIRL!!!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  11. what a whimp

    To the what if she was hot and he got a woody comment, they do that anyways when wrestling other guys. And i think he was just afraid to get beat by a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  12. Beth

    In response to Joe Seattle's comment...it's not always about strength in wrestling....there's also good techniques that can win a match also.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  13. CW

    Very very very co-'mmen-'dable.

    Mr. Northrup....you did the right thing.

    who says that chi-'valry is de-'ad.

    I disagree....on some of the comments. Girls are girls and they should play on teams made up of GIRLS. The same thing goes for Boys...they should only play on teams with Boys. Don't want to talk anyone's right to play a sport away but...it needs to be done responsibly

    February 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  14. swin

    Most of you who are critical are critical of the guy. Really? I'm critical of the girl. Any girl/woman who would knowingly put herself in a situation where she would be groped by a guy is not a lady. Period. Call me a chauvinist, fine, but boys are boys and girls are girls and this is feminism gone crazy. First we throw out the traditional rules and customs of society and then our society goes to pot and we are too stupid to draw the connection. Men and women are equal in worth, but they are not the same. A woman commands the most respect from a man when she acts like a lady, not when she tries to act like him. I get all the macho hormonal stuff I can stand when I'm around the guys, when I'm around a woman I want something different. Again, call me a chauvinist but ladies, I admire, value, and appreciate you for what God created you to be and not for what the feminists are trying to make you into.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Pam

      HUA ! Just because you can, doesn't mean you should! I love that this young man understands and realizes the importance of that. Too many people are ready to lump female behavior in with the guys just to be considered equal. Baloney!! I can take it with the best of them in the board room, but on a wrestling mat? That's just disrespectful I am a woman first, and I prefer others to ALWAY S remember that. Makes me remember 'Large Marge' from the Peewee Herman movie!! LOL

      February 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Seraphim0

      @Swin -In essence, you are saying that her desire to participate in a sport makes her loose? if she was out to get groped, I'm positive there are much more direct methods open to her. I know several females who enjoy rougher sports because they honestly enjoy them. They have fun. How is this any different?

      All of you people judging either party... get off of your high horses. I don't believe in the same things as the boy, but it's admirable that he is standing up for his convictions. As for the girl, she's had an amazing accomplishment making it so far in the sport.

      As far as "violence against women" you people are really a shame to any female who has ACTUALLY been through unadulterated violence. This is a contact sport. It's no more a fight out of a desire to harm than arm wrestling. Boys are not attacking her or jumping her, or looking to hurt her (or one another). It is a sport. Plain and simple. If you make this argument, you are severely skewing the issue and might have some perception problems, yourself.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Diane

      When they start allowing co-mingling in basketball/ baseball/ tennis etc., but until then keep boys and girls in their own divisions. Let the girls wrestle in "girls wrestling" just like the other sports.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  15. JC

    I tip my hat to this kid standing up for his convictions. Maybe some "older and wise" adults will take notice.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • E Combs

      Exactly! Well said.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  16. Trello

    I have to disagree with the comment about the kids touching various areas. Cheerleaders, dancers, skaters all of the same age end up touching the same body parts, if not more. Somehow these teenagers seem to come through unscathed. The girls knew what potential abuse they signed on for when they joined the sport. If they're willing to take the pummeling, then by all means, let them participate. They would probably surprise you how tough girls really are. I knew girls in HS that our football team was scared to cross. And that was outside of a gym. They were vicious in sports.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • jl taylor

      What superhero cartoon land did you get that story from.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  17. Beth

    We have a female wrestler at our school and she does a really good job. She's been wrestling since she was a young girl and doesn't expect the male wrestlers to treat her any differently once they are on the mat during a meet. She has won and lost various matches and we are all very proud of her accomplishments in this sport.

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

      Who did she go with to the junior prom, the senior ball?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  18. B Nakka

    Seriously everyone who thinks the boy is brainwashed for his upbringing why don't you also admit the girl might be brainwashed?

    Why is a girl competing with the boys? I don't know how you can commend this girl and her parents for trying to push their girl into a sport with opposite gender. What if the kid does wrestle and he happens to touch the girl where they can claim he was groping? Then what? Just because she says I am cool with this does not mean she will be all the time.

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

      shame on her for trying to break into a male dominated HS sport.

      Its all about weight class, they are are the same size. what is wrong with this again?

      sounds like jesus freak was afaid to get whooped by a girl

      February 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • jl taylor

      We should all forgive Crish Brown for beating his girlfriend. We send young males to many mixed messages.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • mycatsbreathsmellslikecatfood

      jl taylor:

      are you that stupid to equate wrestling to domestic violence? last time i checked, you couldnt throw a punch in a wrestling match

      they are in the same weight class, they are the same freaking size!

      i guess all the males are just practicing to beat up on their boyfriends in the future?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      I love your handle

      February 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  19. melissa

    Hey denver Bob......theyre teaching him not fight with girls duh!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  20. guest

    PRAISE GOD! for such a young n mighty man of God to stand no matter the cost to him, his parents have done a great job! The young man has also did it with such respect to the two girls, God Bless all involved. Young man you shall be rewarded in the end!

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

      Why will he be rewarded?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:27 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.