February 23rd, 2011
03:45 PM ET

Wrestler who refused to grapple with girl explains decision

The high school wrestler in Iowa who forfeited a match against a girl in a state tournament last week says he objected both to "compromising" positions that such a match could entail and to the idea of inflicting violence on a girl.

“Wrestling is a combat sport, and at times it gets violent, and you get put in moves and holds that are comprising,” said Joel Northrup, a sophomore. “I just don’t believe it's right that a boy and a girl should, in this manner, wrestle.”

Northrup’s dad, Jamie, said that the decision to forfeit was his son’s alone but that it reflected the family’s Christian convictions.

“Even though there’s no specific Scripture that addresses wrestling with girls, there is the biblical Christian principle of treating women with respect and dignity,” Jamie Northrup said, “and not looking at them as objects to be defeated on the wrestling mat to be, in some cases, groped or slammed.”

Joel Northrup, of Linn-Mar, forfeited a match Thursday to Cassy Herkelman, a freshman from Cedar Falls, who then advanced by default.

Both Northrup and Herkelman lost subsequent matches and were eliminated from the tournament before the finals.

But Northrup said Wednesday that he would forfeit a match against a girl even if it meant giving up a state championship.

“I would give up the chance," he said. "I wouldn’t wrestle a girl, whether it’s finals or any other meet or districts.”

Northrup said female wrestlers should face other girls.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Sports • United States

soundoff (1,396 Responses)
  1. David G.

    What a cop out. Grow a pair kid.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  2. Mark F

    Let me see...Earthquake in NZ killing hundreds, anarchy in Northern Africa and Middle East, price of gas hits all-time high...let me file this one under "Who gives a ship!"

    February 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • jy


      February 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  3. Frankie Bollinger

    What is right, Is he was a good ambassador in his sport! He is just a Momentary visitor here on earth His eternal Life is in heaven .
    Although we must learn the culture here and get along we must answer to one and one only when we make moral decisions.

    What is wrong is CNN and other Liberal agenda staions are trying to persicute the boy for standing for what he believed His lord would have him do.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  4. bb

    lets do the math....he wins – well he beat a girl, no glory there....he loses – he can never walk around in public for the rest of his life....gee...i think he made the right choice, dont you?

    February 23, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  5. Nik23

    I think that there needs to be a girls league if there is that much of an interest in wrestling. As a parent I would not even want my daughter wrestling with a guy. Have you seen some of the moves they have, I respect this boys decision to not wrestle with the young lady. I think he did show respect and think it is wrong to say he is lying about his intention without knowing him.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  6. JOHN Linaburg

    I support this young mans descision to not wrestle this young woman. I pray that my young sons walk with the respect that I believe this young man showed to this young lady. No sport is so important to lay down the values you place in life which are God's given morals. Thank you young man for representing Jesus Christ and laying down your life for the care of this young woman who God loves.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  7. glen

    what a cop out. the girl made it in that tournament fair and square. if she does not deserve to be there, then prove it to her and give her the pain she deserves. if i, at 160 lbs with no MMA training, got into a ring with Brock Lesnar, where i am an obvious mismatch.. i guarantee you... he's gonna fight me just as hard as anybody else and even make me pay for daring to get into an octagon with him.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  8. nijode

    Maybe if he took her to dinner first, after that a little groping might seem more natural.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Jason

      Ok, I'm sitting here trying to defend a kid with enough character to stand for his beliefs. But seriously, dude, that was funny.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  9. GB

    I wrestled in high school. I wrestled a girl once... it was strange and my team gave me crap for it. But I hammered her as if she was one of the guys. I didn't care; this kid is a p_ssy. He earned a spot that hundreds of other kids would have killed for, and threw it away. Good luck dummy... the world needs more people like you that the rest of us can walk all over.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  10. MarcusFish

    In the Bible, inflicting violence on women is regularly commanded. For example, in the book of Deuteronomy, any woman who violently grabs a man by the crotch is to have her hand cut off. Little Joel hasn't read his Bible.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Len

      Your talking old testament it doesn't apply now. Learn the word before you make statements like this.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • MarcusFish

      It's the fact that it ever did apply, you moron, that's disturbing. Also, the Ten Commandment are in the Old Testament. Do they not apply? And slavery is in the New Testament.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  11. sornord

    This was a lawsuit just waiting to happen: the girl loses then up pops a lawsuit that he touched her inappropriately and it caused her to lose focus and she lost: pain and anguish, etc. She goes into seclusion because of the emotional damage and can't comment, blah, blah.

    For whatever reason, this boy likely escaped far more attention that this wrestling match would have garnered by itself.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  12. Hil

    Wouldn't the Christianly thing to do be NOT to get violent with girls or guys if violence is a concern? Does he think getting violent and in compromising positions with a guy is better because of gender somehow? You are still willing to hurt a person.

    What he seems to think is that guys can willingly put themselves in that position and it is fine, but when a girl wants to do the very same thing for the same reasons somehow it becomes wrong. Whatever virtues the sport has I'm pretty sure isn't connected to gender. Respecting her would mean looking at this from her point of view and acting based on that. If he was a girl who loved the sport how would he feel to be regarded as too weak and delicate to compete with? She obviously was good enough to get as far as she did. It isn't like he would be jumping someone on the street. If he bothered to look at her as an individual and not just a gender classification he might have made a different choice.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  13. Shawn

    Joel is to be commended for his beliefs towards women and treating them with dignity and respect. Throughout the bible there are dozens of examples of how women should be treated as "the weaker vessel, the feminine one" (1Pe 3:7) In a world in which adultery, divorce, and domestic abuse are prevalent, Joel is a fine example of how we should live with higher standards, especially towards the treatment of women.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  14. Yossarian

    Obviously it's his right to choose not to wrestle, and I respect him for standing by his beliefs, but those beliefs are a bit contradictory. Sure the Bible is against violence against women, but it doesn't exactly support violence against men- violence is violence and shouldn't be committed against people. Likewise, if he finds that wrestling necessarily involves 'groping,' the bible is at least as much if not more opposed to men groping men. If he interprets wrestling to involve violence and groping, it's the same grabbing and same violence regardless of who it's against.

    But whatever, props for standing by your beliefs. Too few people do that anyways.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • tg

      I like your post. You don't seem to agree with him. Fine. But you support his choice to stand on principles. I agree with you. No one stands on princples anymore and when they do they are often ridiculed.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  15. Amber

    I am a woman and believe that no girl should wrestle against a boy to begin with. It's simply not the place for a proper lady. While everyone is so busy bashing Joel perhaps they should be wondering what kind of parents would support this girl doing this in the 1st place. I know my daughter won't be that's for sure!
    Joel did the right thing and it is refreshing that a young man these days has that level of conviction for his beliefs. Good job, Joel & good job Joel's parents!

    February 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • VigilanteGal

      Women all have the same rights as may do they not, I believe if this girl wanted to wrestle she should have that right, or would you rather she stay home like betty crocker and bake cookies.
      It ridiculous that women, can have higher positions then men in the professional sense, but when it comes to sports some people, think that we should take a back seat and watch,
      Maybe you should brush up on you equality rights.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Christopher


      And you, your english.
      Also, you make some interesting compromises in your logic..

      February 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • KC

      Please tell me what is "proper lady" behavior? Is it unproper for a girl to play any sports? Do you think your daughter is "unladylike for playing sports if she does or do you not allow her to? I wrestled against my brothers all the time as the only girl. Survival of the fittest...

      Well I feel sorry for your daughter. I'm sure you must shelter her.

      If they want to use Christian morals as the basis for not wrestling her, they were wrong. The bible is full of all types of atrocities against women. Try reading it.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Arthur R


      No one said that women should take a back seat and it has nothing to do with equality but rather all with biology. The girl in this situation was very brave and I commend that, while the boy was being a NORMAL gentleman whose parents taught him the most basic principles of human decency when it comes to treating women. men are physically stronger its a FACT ! It has nothing to do with women holding high professional positions thats an invalid association. No one said that women cant play sports thats what WOMEN'S leagues are for!!! I can't believe this is an issue at all. I mean or would you rather do away with the social norm that a man must never hit a woman?

      February 23, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Mel

      I guess your daughter can't be a firefighter, either? After all, being sooty is soooo unladylike. If you so drastically underestimate her ability to be the equal of a male, she will likely end up 16 and pregnant. Enjoy being a very young grandmother!

      February 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Amber

      @VigilanteGirl – Women are equal, but we are inherently different from men in the fact that we produce life and our duty is to care for and nurture those children and YES that should come BEFORE a career. Who cares what you can "have" in the professional sense if it means sacrificing the fate of the next generation? Read the headlines. 80%+ of the kids in America today were raised by daycare and look where it has gotten us. The feminist agenda was noble at first but has become nothing more than selfish and if you have to ask why I say that all I have to say is look at today's youth! I am well educated, but chose to be a stay at home mom because material possessions mean nothing if my legacy (my children) arent successful in life. This is why my 4 students (daughter included) are all honors students and I have never once had a bit of trouble with any of them.

      @KC – Of course she may play sports... for girls. She will be encouraged to peruse an education as well. She will also be taught the importance of being a mother once she decides to have children. As for the bible – I have read it cover to cover, thanks. Respect for one another is the key, not a misguided attempt at proving a point. My daughter has 4 brothers and none of my boys would wrestle their sister – they were taught respect for women as was this young man.

      @Mel – If you honestly think that sheltering a girl leads to teen pregnancy, you are wrong. Go ahead and ask me how I know that. It is actually the opposite – parents that don't care enough. Once again, read the headlines. There was a story recently about the HS in the South with an overwhelming number of teen pregnancies. Do you think their parents cared what they were up to?

      February 23, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  16. teebee

    I applaud his decision to stand my his moral convictions and respect other women. Whoever marries him in the future is one lucky woman. God bless you sir! 🙂

    February 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  17. leilacle

    I don't understand why it's so disrespectful to throw a female down on the mat but it's business as usual to throw a male down on the mat in the same manner. That doesn't make sense. If this kid is okay with forfeiting the match, more power to him, but his reason for it seems flawed to me.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Joe Wrestler

      What does not make sense is forcing a teenager to compete in an abnormal setting that even an ADULT would not do. If the NBA and the WNBA is in the same league, then sure go ahead, but its hypocritical to make a kid do something adults would not.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  18. Me

    I'm not sure what part Christianity plays into this situation. It's ridiculous to even bring it up. Also, why is this news, CNN? I used to have respect for CNN, but their news is lacking.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Northview

      You read it.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Lean Cassius

      Yep, found him. There's always at least one d-bag in the comments section questioning why a story is newsworthy, despite the fact that he/she chose to read the story anyway.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  19. LibertarianAtheist

    I can see a few ways to look at it. For starters, his religious reasons are not very sound, because the bible is full of misogyny. For example, 1 Timothy 2:11-12. A better reason would be the unfair ridicule he'd receive if he were to lose to a girl, compared to losing to another boy. There would also be unfair ridicule if he were to beat her; I can just imagine the feminists calling him a future wife-beater. The kid was on the losing end either way.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • brett

      I agree....let's not respect women at all!

      February 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Christopher


      February 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • akafoure

      If you look at the original Greek translation of the words used in that particular passage of scripture, Hesuchios/Hesuchia, you will notice that the translation actually means "undisturbed", or "peaceable". I would recommend reading Linda Belleville's writings, and you will get the complete breakdown of this passage, and a very thorough explanation of the true translation.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • LibertarianAtheist

      I just got done reading that article, and I have to say that the cognitive dissonance is mind numbing. It doesn't surprise me that a Christian feminist is behind that. I see similar apologetic interpretations by gay Christians, despite Leviticus 18-23 saying they should be put to death. How about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35? Even without scripture, just look at the way the churches have treated and segregated women. Heck, the bible and scripture attributed to Jesus himself were used to justify slavery for hundreds of years! If Christians would read their own bible, they'd become atheists too.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Da King

      The kid won.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  20. ld

    I don't believe him. Without any knowledge of the ability level of either wrestler, I would be willing to bet that he was just scared of losing to a girl.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • joe

      actually, he didn't wrestle her during the dual meet season. His back-up (jr varsity) pinned her in his place. it would have taken a huge fluke of events for him to lose to her. he wasn't ducking her. He knew by forfeiting, his best hope was a 3rd place finish via wrestle-backs.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • juststoppingby2011

      He had 4 losses on the year, she has a record of like 13-12 or something. He was HEAVILY favored to win this match and possibly win the whole thing. He wasn't afraid of her.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:46 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.