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. dude

    It's more likely that he is a bigoted christian redneck and is scared of losing to a girl.

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

      I do not agree with your assessment. Try putting yourself in this young man's place.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Trebec

      yeah that's right. he's the bigot. sheesh. could anybody get this guy a mirror?

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

      Your remarks are prejudiced and ignorant.
      If he didn't want to wrestle her, that's his decision.

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

      That girl should have likewise forfeited the match. Why didn't she? It would have been the respectful thing to do. Another good question: Why is a supposed Christian wrestling anyway? Christians are to pursue peace, not conflict.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Calvin

      dude -you are the bigot

      February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Nunya

      Hilarous that you don't see the irony in your statement. Dull is one thing, blunt is another.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Geroge

      Yep, that's how I read it too. He's not man enough to just be a worthy opponent for another athlete. He thinks he's the center of the universe or that women aren't capable of wanting to compete or something.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Name

      Funny . . . if he is the bigot, why are you persecuting him? You are acting more like a bigot than he is.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Chris

      he didnt say anything about religion idiot

      February 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  2. Sven


    February 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  3. cat

    I think it is VERY irresponsible for high school athletic departments to allow girls and boys to wrestle each other. REALLY?!?
    At at time when they are becoming very "body conscious" and hormones are raging, how awkward for them. And not really so much the girls as the boys. As a girl, they have made that conscious decision to put themselves in this sport, but the boys have no choice. And it is awkward to "grapple" a girl intimately as some holds require. I have a son who was put in this position as a freshman, and it was completely embarrasing to him. The girl was very butch, so she obviously did not care....but ths schools should have more sense. The operative word here is "should".... but don't.

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

      "The girl was very butch, so she obviously did not care" LOL Sounds like it was probably the closest thing to heaven she was ever going to get.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  4. DoYourResearch

    Sounds like he should be home-lived as well. You can't forfeit out of everything.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  5. MikeMazzla

    Im the most lib guy out there...and im not really into the whole weird homeschool religious thing..but the kids got a point here. if anyone has wrestled before, especially when you are younger..its pretty inappropriate for a guy and girl to wrestle.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  6. tyler

    The girl new what you she was doing when she signed up, being a girl has nothing to do with it they obviously have a place in mens sport if she has a record of 20-13

    February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • MR. RIGHT

      Please take an English class.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  7. MightyMoo

    If I were to wrestle, the last thing I want to have to worry more about is where not to grab my opponent because of gender differences. Last thing I'd want to deal with in the middle of a wrestling match is grabbing the wrong thing by accident and suddenly being accused of something improper. Especially this day and age, I'd just rather forfeit and not deal with the worry.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  8. Davydenko

    The real reason he didn't wreslte was because he was scared of losing to a GIRL. He used a BS faith excuse (what does faith/religious ignorance have to do with wrestling?) He also wanted to draw attention to himself by "taking a stand" under bogus pretenses. What a joke.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Also from Iowa

      To a person of faith, faith is a consideration in every part of life. I think the young man did the right thing for him.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  9. Seriously?

    This is a perfect example of poor sportsmanship. Some convictions.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  10. wraith729

    He was afraid of getting a stiffy.

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

      woulda broke his cup.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Mark


      February 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  11. pat2192

    Faulting these young people is wrong Clearly both sets of parents could have done better Wrestling has always been considered a male sport enough said

    February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  12. HomeschoolDad

    Homeschoolers participating in public High School sports is not uncommon these days, which I think is a good trend. The 'cost' question is usually handled by the property taxes we all pay for our education system. Kids can be homeschooled lots of reasons, however, values and quality of education lead the list.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  13. Jason

    They should be allowed to wrestle with no special consideration made for it. There is nothing moral about not wrestling a girl that wants to wrestle.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  14. Shreve

    Take a look a pro wrestling. It's choreographed, but you still don't see men and women wrestling each other. It's because there is always the chance that something could go wrong. As a man, I wouldn't want that on my conscience.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Would you wrestle an obviously lighter male opponent though or would you not do that either in case something went wrong?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  15. R.Murray

    In the classroom it is wrong for a male to touch a girl's crotch, mash her breasts or grab her rear end. You will be suspended, if not expelled or arrested. So how can it possibly be OK on the mat? He had no choice that agrees with today's ethical standard.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Silly argument. Its would result in the same if a guy did that to another guy in the classroom but you would have no issue with that on the mat though right?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Wayne Rooney

      and you wont be punished if a boy grabs another boy's crotch, fondle his man breasts or his butt....come on!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  16. pete

    He has the right to believe what he wants to. I have no problem with him believeing in anything. Correlating the violence of sports to the actual physical violence is quite a stretch. People are saying that they have tought their son on to hit a girl. Have they tought him not to hit other boys as well?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  17. Brandon

    Am I missing something? Is this really a faith issue?

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

      He faced her once before in the year and he forfeited then too. His dad is a pastor and yes this is his belief. Good for him for sticking to his guns, even if it inconvenient.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  18. Mark

    I didn't realize that this sport had turned co-ed. I don't think faith has anything to do with it. You can just look at the logic of the whole situation and wonder, what were these people thinking in the first place. Save the co-ed wrestling for the drive-in, where it belongs.

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

      Dude had a lot to lose if the chick beat him. He was trying to save face in case she whipped his butt. He would always be remembered as the guy who lost to the girl.

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

      He is 35-4 she is 20-13... I don't think he was worried about losing. When he said the sport gets violent he meant he didn't want to have to hurt her... and with stats like that, he was probably going to!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Emma

    Ya know what some sports are meant only for boys! I truly believe that!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  20. Robert Slaven

    It's not appropriate to mix genders in physical combat sports like boxing or wrestling. Period.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:28 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.