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. Qularkono

    I young man that is willing to stand for what he believes ... I wish our politicians would do the same.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  2. Rhoda

    One of our high school wrestlers had his neck broken. He was paralyzed. It was one of the most gut wrenching things I have ever seen. No female wrestler should compete against a male. God bless you, Joel. You made the right decision for the all the right reasons.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  3. Day Cross

    I am so glad there are still young men who have moral convictions about how to treat young ladies. This young man will go farther on that than he ever would with a ribbon or a trophy. Way to go, Joel!

    February 24, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  4. AC

    I have been raised to respect Germans. I admire what my opponent has accomplished, but I should not have been put in this situation. Germans should have their own division if they want to wrestle. It was a tough decision, but my morals will not let me compete in such violent sport against a German.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  5. David Davidson

    Detecting large numbers of e-feminists in these replies. The boy is in highschool. He clearly realized the choices that were in front of him.
    1. Win by defeating a girl. Who cares? You beat a GIRL.

    2. Lose to a girl. Enjoy years of ridicule as the wrestler who lost to a GIRL.

    I'd have made the same decision. Who cares if the boy told his father it was because Jesus told him to? He just didn't want to be humiliated in a no-win situation. Had he chosen to just wrestle her and then wrecked her on the mat, I'd assume the media would then go "SCHOOL DISTRICT ALLOWS BOY TO BRUTALIZE YOUNG WOMAN". Turns out it was a no win situation anyway.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  6. Roger

    Feelings and opinions will always be subjective because they are autonomous. To defend your own feelings and opinions while facing the scrutiny of others is courageous. Shame on those who cannot admire a teenager who continued to compete without compromising what he believes in.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  7. miscnelson

    I applaud them both. Her for competing in such a tough sport and him for standing up for what he believes in. It must have been disappointing for her that he forfeited – but he has every right to do so. It's too bad there isn't a women only division for her to compete in. I am a female corpsman for a marine infantry unit and have noticed the affect it has on them when they have to train with me during our martial arts training. they have a hard time with it. I think it's just hardwired into a lot of guys to not want to hurt a woman – and I don't think that's a bad thing.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  8. alykat

    'Theresa', not wanting to wrestle a woman does NOT indicate " a lack of maturity from this young man"!!! He has given his reasons and is now having to be second-guessed by everyone!! AND he said "in some cases, groped...", maybe he has heard of this happening or thought this was how his wrestling a girl might be perceived and was troubled by it......YOUR words are "cop a feel"!!!! That why you like 'co-ed sparring and grappling'??

    February 24, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  9. Lee Oates

    Being somewhat of an old fashion gentleman, I would not feel comfortable wrestling with a girl, both because of the high likelyhood of what some might consider inappropriate touching, and having been taught to respect women and never treat them with violence. I admire the young man for having the courage to stand up for his convictions. While I believe in equality, I believe more in treating women with respect and some degree of limitation on physical contact in public events.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  10. Kryptonite

    Very admiral. Woman are interjecting themselves in ever facet of male activities in the pursut of equality. What many fail to realize is there can never be a total equality...we are not all born equal.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  11. j1ggy

    Only in the United States does the media run Christian based stories and debate religion. It's a good thing I stick to my homegrown Canadian media instead of these non-news stories.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • alanjay1

      And yet you're comment on this non-news story from the news source you don't read?

      February 24, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Eutychus

      The irony behind your comment is that you actually spent your valuable Canadian time reading a religion-based article from America only to say you don't like religion-based articles from America? Why read it and then comment?

      February 24, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  12. Richard

    Who, is able to question the boy's belief system? It astounds me, that there has been, by some, a need to belittle him when the words 'Christian' or 'Christianity' were mentioned. If they weren't, there wouldn't be this "news". I don't get it. The boy stated his postion, and that's that. Some, are just looking to accuse him of lying, or being a coward. His decsion, to forfeit the game, is his own. Why would this bother some people? What has he done wrong? Nothing! It's only because he is a Christian, that he is being labled, a liar, and a coward. He seems rational, can think for himself, and understands what and why he has done. Perhaps too, he might develop to be a respectable young man who will learn how to treat women well and respect them; not like many men in our culture today who don't. So, anything done by this young man, in the end, affects no other lives but his own. May he serve as a good example of a sportsman and a gentleman. Good for him.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • MMA

      He is neither a gentleman, or a good sport, and definitely doesn't showcase "Christian" virtues. Rather, he exemplifies archaic beliefs that women are somehow the weaker species. The best man I know is the man who helps me train at the gym – he helps me with my wraps, teaches me new technique, and doesn't take it east on me in sparring, because he believes in my capabilities and wants me to improve. I roll or spar with guys every day, and the men I respect the most are the ones who treat me like an equal. Off the mat, absolutely, open my doors and treat me like a lady – and true gentlemen know how to differentiate and do just that. BOYS can't tell the difference between on the mat and off the mat acceptable behavior.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • senseicg

      MMA, I like your style!!!

      February 24, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  13. Idiots

    So let me get this straight....we value this guy for his 'beliefs' and standing up for his convictions whilst not acknowledging how profoundly archaic and retarded said convictions are. If my convictions are not to talk to black people and I follow through with this am I then to be commended for standing up for my convictions?
    So all the other boys that didn't bow out cowardly and wrestled the girl are in the wrong then? You know, the one's that actually respected this girls right and treated her as an equal and didn't make up an asinine excuse to cover the fact that he was scared of losing.
    You're all idiots. Welcome to America. Where this is news and then people agree that 2000 year old fairy tale morals are truth. And you wonder why we're the laughing stock of the rest of the developed world.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • AR

      Hey everyone, listen to this guy who knows what is right and what everyone should believe. I think that all Americans should be required to believe exactly what this guy things. Lord knows, HE certainly thinks that everyone should believe exactly what he should believe.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Idiots

      You're right! I should write down my thoughts in a book so that maybe in 2000 years my common sense will catch on! Although people like you will probably still interpret it in your way anyway!

      February 24, 2011 at 12:37 am |

      Whatever be the roots of this young mans convictions is irrelevant, what IS relevant is the fact that he didn't want to wrestle a girl and grope and fondle this young lady. Respecting her is to know the limits of his own actions, he knew that him being on top or pinning her in certain situations could be looked at in a whole series of ways. OASN you not talking to blacks is actually a god send, now if only we can get you to do this for the rest of HUMANITY...one could only hope!

      February 24, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  14. oluposoup

    So he is willing to get into 'uncompromising' positions (also shunned by the bible) with other boys, but not with girls? okay...

    February 24, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  15. sherry

    Seems it's easy to put down or tear apart other people while hiding behind a computer screen. Most probably would not be so loud mouthed or opinionated if they were in a face to face open forum. Kudos to the kid or any kid for standing up for their faith and how they believe. That's real bravery in this secular minded world today. He's more of a true gentleman than the losers that are looking at women on the internet, magazines or hanging out in bars.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Idiots

      Yea, because lets make vast, baseless assumptions about all the people pointing out the obvious flaws in the kids 'convictions!'
      Seriously read what you just typed and then tell me how you aren't completely stupid.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • MMA

      No, he's not a gentleman, and shame on his parents for instilling a belief system that treats women like inferior creatures.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  16. Comet14

    You're now on the same depressingly level playing field as Iranian officials who have banned their internationally competiitve athletes from competing against those who don't subscribe to their views. Viva American Taliban! Viva religious zealotry!

    February 24, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • alanjay1

      Hysterical much? Thank God or whatever you believe in that you don't have to know what it's like to live in Afghanistan or Iran.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  17. AzzA

    Two choices. Beat up a girl or lose to a girl. I would do the same.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  18. Alex

    Seriously CNN, this is not front page news!! Yet you have chosen to make it so for at least 2 of the last 3 days. Seriously, who cares about this story??!?!?!?!?

    February 24, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • douglas

      Actually Alex this is a refreshing story. I was getting tired of hearing about mothers murdering their children.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  19. Ashley

    All this says to me is "I didn't want to get a hard on in front of everybody."

    February 24, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • AR

      All your comment says to us is "I'm too immature to respect some other person's religious convictions, so I have to poke fun at them".

      February 24, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Marlye


      February 24, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • ddferrari

      You missed the point entirely. Go do your homework and let the adults handle this topic.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • MMA

      Ashley – AMEN

      February 24, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Fnordian

      AR: Exactly which "religious convictions" were being observed? The one about how it's okay to give up your daughter as payment? Perhaps, the one about killing your daughter if she isn't a virgin on her wedding night? You know, the "biblical principle of respecting women" and all...

      February 24, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • Kryptonite

      Now what if he did get hard in front while wrestling her...wouldn't people be disgusting and angry at him? Women shouldn't be wrestling guys at all.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:44 am |
  20. Derek Allen

    I played football in college and I have a very athletic spirit. But I will never let my daughter wrestle guys. If she is into athletics...I will promote the various womens sports. If she has the mentality to compete with the guys...she has a good chance of being dominant competing against the girls. I'm all about equality and don't have a problem with ladies being better than guys. (it's a reality) But allowing girls to wrestle or play football is going over the top in my opinion.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Ashley

      Females actually make better wrestlers at that level, as they are generally more flexible and have a lower center of gravity so they can grapple and get out of holds easier than the males of similar weight class. That's mainly because the boys try to rely on raw power and strength when leverage and maneuverability win matches.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • rh

      WtheF does this have to do with Xianity? And wrestling is gay.

      As for girls beating up boys, my older brother used to beat me up, and I finally beat him up and he stopped. I was 13 and him 15. Seems to me he didn't have a problem wrestling a girl – until she won.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • senseicg

      Most of my female jujitsu students would have no qualms about getting on the mat with a boy...they do it every practice and they are some are really really good at it. Many of them put up a great fight...the size and strength difference does matter, but nonetheless, the fighting spirit makes up for a lot! We laughed about the story and most of my female students were more than willing to get on the mat with this guy and see how much "respect and dignity" they could choke out of him!

      February 24, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Anon

      Girls cannot beat men in wrestling hands down. They lack the upper body strength. This is scientific fact, not opinion.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Phijo Philip

      The decsion take by the young lad is right , always a battle should be on the same strength and on gender basis. People needs to understand into the thought process analysis of the young lad. This is other known sportsman ship professional. You needs to have the real balls to take such decisions.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • TG

      Guarantee you that kid is gay.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • krin

      How is religion popping into every conversation? A girl wrestling a boy has nothing to do with beliefs. Coed wrestling has been going on for years, only ignorant, pompous men will pull the religion card to forfeit a match with a girl. And for the moron who said that its a fact girls dont have the upper body strength to beat a boy is wrong. Wrestling is more than upper body, its more core body strength and some lower body.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • alanjay1

      To me, it's not even about religion, and it's sad that many of the commentors see this as an opportunity to bash "backwards" Christians. To me, it's about violence towards women. I support this girl if she wants to compete, but I also respect the boy for his decision to forfeit, rather than to attempt to suppress a girl with brute force. The two positions are actually not contradictory. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of boys that will wrestle this girl. That's their decision, and that's fine too.

      To wax philosophical, I personally believe that there are REAL differences between the genders–which is not to say that one gender is better than or subservient to the other. There is a difference between equality and equivalence. I think there are some aspects of male nature that women shouldn't try to emulate, for the sake of us all. Men are already destructive enough by themselves.

      February 24, 2011 at 2:56 am |
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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.