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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. wheels

    Wrestling in the state of Iowa is unmatched by other states. This girl has beaten 20 other boys to get to state, which in Iowa, says something. He chose not to wrestle and forfeit a state championship, the best he can do is third now. He will always have his faith and it was tested and he stuck to it. Whether we think it is right or wrong it is something he has to live with.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • who

      Who said the 20 were boys?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • LOL

      And 11 of the her wins were forfeits, so at most, she only had 9 real wins against guys.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Reality

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

      February 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  2. Al

    I'm pretty sure if he had an annoying sister like I did growing up, he'd have no problem wrestling with a girl.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Joy

    Way to go Kid! I hope your parents are proud of you. It's good to see chivalry isn't dead. More people should be teaching their sons how to correctly treat women. You should open doors for us!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Al

      I hope you're not serious. I always open doors for ladies, and anyone else for that matter, but you sound like someone I'd immediately shut the door on like right in your face. A lady to me is a woman who doesn't act like a helpless charity case.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Al

      Sorry...I had thoughts of my sister annoying the ever living crap out of me when I was growing up.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  4. Curt

    Kudos for sticking to your beliefs!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  5. Commenter

    (Insert ignorant and hateful comment about the subject of the article here)

    February 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  6. chris

    WAIT WAIT WAIT........it's okay for him to wrestle a dude BUT not a girl!!! HAHAHAHAHA

    February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  7. Chris

    well this is what happened...we wrestled and well now I have a double wide and a couple of kids

    February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  8. aubrie

    I wish more young men were being raised to be gentlemen like this young man!! There would be a heck of a lot less abuse and assault on women. Respect just isn't taught anymore.... Such a shame.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  9. Max

    this is nuts.. why is girl participating in boys wrestling.. the guy is at a big disadvantage.. cuz hes a guy and a teen.. he can get stiffy in no time 🙂 will be embarrased and if he wins – ppl will say , big deal u beat a girl and if he loses he is screwed.. good call fella

    February 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  10. doug

    if this goes on, I can't want to watch some girl fight Brock Lesnar or GSP in the octogon!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  11. Parent

    I agree with this boy... although kudos to the girl for doing what she believes in ... I would stand behind this boy, saying... it is not right for boys and girls to engage in this type of activity against each other.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  12. Kevin

    Funny, I don't recall anything in the bible that forbids competing in sports against a female...
    Personally, I think his "home schooling" has just given him a completely warped view on reality and he's probably upset that the girl isn't wearing a burkha!..
    ...either that or he's simply afraid of losing to a girl!

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

      My point exactly. Yet some refuse to see it and want to twist the meaning of it into something twisted.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  13. Jess

    We're not comfortable with this. At one time we weren't comfortable with black/white wrestling. We are simply wound too tight by our mythologies to be able to embrace life.

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

      I totally agree, good point!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Beware_of_God

      Well said. That is the point of public school vs home schooling to me. Home schooling allows parents to continue to perpetuate their myths, prejudices, and antiquated religious values in another generation of children.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jess's dad

      Jess men and woman should never wrestling... now get back in the kitchen!

      February 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Guest

      Wow. Black/white is the same thing as men/women? Great logic. I think we also ought to get over our speciesism and have some high school level alligator wrestling. Female alligators, I mean.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  14. Lifemaster

    I admire the boy for taking his stance, and I agree with it. If you're going to let women wrestle with men, then you should combine them with men in all sports. Let's abolish separate basketball, swim, golf, softball, ski, weight lifting, hockey, etc. programs. I think it's time. I mean, isn't it PC? Women demand PC in all other aspects of life. In fact, they drive men crazy with PC in the work place. They make us jump through hoops. Women want equality. Let's give it to them. Or do they want it only when they think they can win with it?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  15. TxStateChamp

    i had to wrestle a few girls in my time growing up as a small child and it wasn't a big deal. When I got to highschool it was completely different. at 135 lbs i could bench press 225lbs and would drop weight for tourneys. girls at that age just can't compete physically. i would make it a point to wrestle as hard as i could whenever a girl faced me as an opponent. i would never hold back. no mercy and no tech falls. if she felt she was good enough to be on the mat i was gonna make her prove it through cross faces and busted lips. i wasn't out to embarrass her, but i wanted to make sure she understood that this is a combat sport and injuries are expected.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  16. Geroge

    Man up, kid, and be a worthy opponent for her. Stop thinking that you're the center of the universe. She wanted to wrestle, just like you, so who are you to think that your wants are more important than hers? If she wins, then be even more of a man about it and accept defeat gracefully. If you win, be a good sport about it, like you would be to any other athlete.

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

      And why should her wants override his moral code? He didn't come across as thinking he was the 'center of the universe', he's living his beliefs. At least he had the courage to walk the talk.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • oy vey

      "courage to walk the talk"? He forfeited... Some courage. I totally agree with George that when it comes to sports, you need to act like a good sportsman. Moral codes are great, when applied elsewhere. But since when does your moral code say it is never ok to wrestle with women, but pinning down men is? Why is it ok for two men to knock each other out in a boxing ring? Do their everyday morals carry over then?

      February 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • AGeek

      His "moral code"?! That women aren't his equal? That women are inferior? That they can't play the same games as men? That women can't be counted on to shoulder a burden when needed?

      How about this boy update his "moral code" and get out of the stone age.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • eric

      If it's outside of his beliefs to be in that kind of physical contact with a girl then that should be respected. He walked the talk by taking the loss. How you infer he believes woman are inferior because of this is beyond me.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • eric

      @oy,vey you wrote "Moral codes are great, when applied elsewhere." Are there any other places we should lower or drop our moral codes when living our lives? It seems to me that integrating them into our daily lives is what we need to do. Not taking a moral high road like many do, but just honestly accepting them and then following it up with action.

      February 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • spidathon

      well put

      February 18, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  17. justme

    We teach our sons not to hit women and therefore, it is unfair to have a woman compete against men – they will always have the advantage since our sons are taught not to be rough with a female. I applaud this young man for standing by his teachings.

    February 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • oy vey

      Its not violence against women... wrestling is not boxing. Its what usually happens between a man and a women (unless you're just a dead fish) in bed. Let people compete if they want to compete, but don't commend losers for being losers because they "stand by their teaching."

      February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Kevin

      If you don't know the difference between sports and domestic violence then you have some serious issues...
      Heaven forbid he ever decides to join the military.. any of the female D.I.s would tie him into a pretzel- without even breaking a sweat.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Joe

      What are you blabbering about? This is a consentual contest. The young women know what they are getting into and feel comfortable with it. This doesn't lead to violence to women. Why don't we just pull guys out of ballet, gymnastics, figure skating. We'll pull girls out of soccer, baseball and basketball.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Nothnnew

      Wow! That young man is a REAL gentleman. Moreover, I don't get it. Why do we feel we have to cater to every whim, here in America? Young ladies should learn to act that way and let men be men. Joel Northrup is a stand up young man; just like my son who I know would do the same, yet, the two of them are (obviously) brought up with the same value system as Christians.

      In fact, how do you teach our young men to respect and protect women if – coincidentally – they're allowed to toss them around, like rag dolls, every once in awhile; just for the sport of it? Consequently, where do your really draw the line?
      And this is coming from a tomboy who played sport growing up, but only touch football and racing with the boys; never once considered wrestling beyond the age of seven or eight and even then it was rough.

      I say, let men be men and women be women, with the exception of marriage where the two come together. Otherwise, a working relationship should be the closest we should get to one another out of respect for each others' space. In the meantime, I respect this young man's principles and believe he is a true leader – just like my son – amongst his peers.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Nothnnew

      Wow! That young man is a REAL gentleman. Moreover, I don't get it. Why do we feel we have to cater to every whim, here in America? Young ladies should learn to act that way and let men be men. Joel Northrup is a stand up young man; just like my son who I know would do the same, yet, the two of them are (obviously) brought up with the same value system as Christians.

      In fact, how do you teach our young men to respect and protect women if – coincidentally – they're allowed to toss them around, like rag dolls, every once in awhile; just for the sport of it? Consequently, where do your really draw the line? And this is coming from a tomboy who played sports growing up, but only touch football and racing with the boys; never once considered wrestling beyond the age of seven or eight and even then it was rough, though I'd often pretend to be a lot tougher than I was:).

      I say, let men be men and women be women, with the exception of marriage where the two come together. Otherwise, a working relationship should be the closest we should get to one another out of respect for each others' space. In the meantime, I respect this young man's principles and believe he is a true leader – just like my son – amongst his peers. Kudos to Joel Northrup!

      February 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  18. Lori Trevino

    You ROCK kid! Yay for the girls' accomplishments and nothing but respect for both those boys who choose to wrestle them and for Joel for taking a courteous and respectful stand for his convictions!! I don't remember the last time I saw a man stand for his convictions and I think Joel ROCKS!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  19. Unfaiir?

    Unfair because of unmatched physical strength?

    Read the records of the girls!

    February 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • AGeek

      11 wins by forfeit doesn't seem like physical strength to me.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Chris

      women should not compete against men, period!

      look at the history books and tell me when the last time a woman defeated a man? michelle wie tried this in golf, and failed miserably.

      all i can say is, take the best wrestler in high school for men, and pair them against the best woman, lets see who wins that one....not the woman!

      everyone who thinks men and women can compete together are just dead wrong...

      February 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • oy vey

      Of course it's a physical strength. Their physical appearance and genetic make-up causes their opponents to forfeit on the spot. I wish I could have that ability.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'all i can say is, take the best wrestler in high school for men, and pair them against the best woman, lets see who wins that one....not the woman!'
      So people should not be allowed to compete in sports where everyone knows they will not win?

      February 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  20. Mitch

    Aside from the physical strength issue (which is only averages anyway since some women are stronger than some men, just not on average) I would be uncomfortable with the groping. Having wrestled a little bit in school myself, I can say that some of the holds and positions are inappropriate for a young man to be doing to a young lady.

    I am all for women competing in sports alongside men. I know plenty of tough, athletic women who can compete with men with no problems. But given the nature of wrestling it just does not seem like the kind of sport where the genders should be mixed. Frankly I am surprised that any young lady would want to be grappled and groped by any teenage boy (aside from their boyfriends, haha). I support this kid for standing by his principles.

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

      Maybe he was afraid of "wrestling wood".... could be embarrassing...

      February 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Calvin

      The reason she won so many matches is because the guys felt awkward about the groping. That and she already had 11 forfeits to her credit. CNN needs to do more research.

      February 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • spidathon

      sidenote : pretty sure thats cliff keen headgear (based on the chin strap...could be wrong) Anyways whered she get that cover for it. I NEED ONE.(.helps protect your training partners)

      February 18, 2011 at 1:42 am |
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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.