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. Mike

    Brain washed by Christianity and his parents, poor kid 🙁 It always makes me sad to see stuff like this in 2011.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • liza

      i'll bet you hit women, you scuzball.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • pumpernickel1988

      That is such a pompous and ignorant statement

      February 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Jimmy

      wow, there are some real a***oles in this world

      February 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Tony

      the family clearly stated this did not go against their "religion". The kid has clearly thought this out, and is willing to sacrifice to stand up for something he believes in. It's easy to cowardly criticize him on a blog, but he's publicly taking a hard stand. That's courageous. He could have quit altogether, but he took a stand–not easy to do.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • man

      you call a kid who refuses to use force again a girl, give it sports or no sports, brainwashed? i guess most parents would not wish to have their kids, boys or girls, be anywhere near your kids. oh wait, we have lawyers, never mind.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Da King

      Washed white as snow, I would say.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Duo


      I agree with you. If a woman wants to box or wrestle, to diminish her choices, to relegate her to the back china shelf is incredibly insulting.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  2. Woman

    why can't we be equals? we aren't made of glass, and both genders get into sports for the SAME reasons: to compete, to conquer, to have fun.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Frank

      ya i would have got a woody to buddy at your age dont worry you can cover it up with religion

      February 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • MAN

      Same reason why women do not fight men in MMA. Women are not as strong as men. Or bone structure, muscle, everything is different and the male is built stronger.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Mars

      make me a sandwich

      February 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Andrea M

      As a girl, I'd like to point out that we're normally a bit more delicate than guys. What might just smoosh a guys pinkie finger would probably break our more slender digits.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • liza

      here is a young man who was raised properly to denounce violence against women and you're asking why we can't bw equal? i'll bet you're very ugly. only ugly women seek to be equal to men.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Jim Massey

      Then, you should allow men to compete in WNBA and LPGA.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Jim Massey

      The boy did an honorable thing. The girl tried to push her way in a place she did not belong. The organization that allowed it did that just to be politically correct.

      For all the ladies who scream equal right, what do you think about allowing men to apply and compete in WNBA or LPGA?

      February 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • man

      There is a distinct reason for this. We are designed completely different, and in that respect it will never happen. But, because of a woman being shaped different and carrying different body parts, they are not looked upon as a man, and I am sure the majority don't wan to be.

      We need you to keep us alive, you need us to keep you alive. Women deliver children, men give them the chance to do so. Women deliver, men help them. We are equal because we both help each other.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Victor

      Why not ask that to any male Soldier in the Army who is required to work with female Soldiers? Females receive the same pay, yet are not required to meet the same standards as males on Physical Fitness Tests, and rarely pull their equal share of the work load. I can say this is based on over 18 years of experience in the Army. Before all you females start harping on me about the one or two "exceptions" that they know; which are what they are; "exceptions". Honestly tell me do at least 80% of all females in the Army pull their equal share of work as male Soldiers?

      February 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • man

      equality has nothing to do with *this* sport. don't generalize everything.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Duo

      Because if they allow women to be equals, it unsettles the balance of power that says males should lead. In a Christian world view, self esteem is not something intrinsic to the individual, but a result of fulfilling the role they were assigned by God. To allow for the idea that we have choice in our roles, diminishes God's over all control, and is frightening, so no, women can't be equals. If we lived in a world ruled by reason, perhaps.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  3. Ken

    A young man of high character! I applaud his decision and his conviction as a Christ follower. His parents should be commended for raising this young man as a believer.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  4. Eric Rife

    So he only likes rolling around on the floor with guys, not girls. That's cool. People need to get off his case! Some guys like rolling around on the floor with other guys or being on sports teams which gives them the opportunity to shower with dozens of other guys. Again, that's cool.

    Me, I'd rather roll around the floor and shower with girls. But you know, that's just me. To each his own!

    February 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  5. F. E. S.

    I am proud that everyone's morals on this planet hasn't gone to the dogs. In a time where every loser sitting at a keyboard, or with a cell phone, "has an opinion"...it doesn't mean they've earned it. Grow up everyone. A boy doesn't need to be rolling around, wedging his body against a little girl. Come on. That's not a sport, it's awkward. It's silly and stupid for us to expect a boy and girl to do that...and then we're gonna watch. What the heck is wrong with everyone? I give this kid credit for having the balls to stand up to all the soccer moms out there with an "opinion." Good for you...and Amen brother !!

    February 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • ES71

      I completely agree. I am a woman and I don't know what "disrespect" and nede for equlity other women are talking about here. Man are physically stronger, no matter what. Women are never going to be s strong as men, and if you don't agree with this "inequality" take it up with mother nature. It is not right to see a young mn to beat a young woman, this is not a sport, this is more like gladiators show in the roman times. People completely lost understanding of what is proper and what is not.
      As for the girl, I think she must know she'll never have eqaul strength and uses her gender as an advantage and a distraction instead. I can't respect that. It is all twisted.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  6. Sam

    This is a compelling situation. I understand the boy's conviction. In a society in which we all are subject to media attention because of changing gender roles and responsibilities, it seems right that this story be featured in the news. I also understand the point many are making about the inequality this girl faced. Is it truly inequality though? It seems unfair that a sophmore in high school be subject to the media and further public out lash. All in all, I believe that this story presents a case for our changing society, one in which both a young woman can compete against men in a typically male dominated sport, and one in which a young man can be criticized for simply not competing against a female. I must ask the question, Is this fair to him?

    February 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Sam: I have to ask for clarification... is WHAT fair to him? The media attention? In all honesty, I don't know. I don't know about the world of compet!tive wrestling, maybe these kids get the media attention just for being at state for wrestling. If so, then his forfeiting is a story and should be covered at least locally. Nationally? I don't know. I don't really think a small town boy being se-xist about sports is nationally newsworthy. But I think the topics that it brings up are absolutely worthy of discussion and attention to me. Personally, I am glad to know about this situation because it says to me we have not come far enough in understanding what gender equality really means. That's especially clear by the comments made on this article. As for whether Cassie's treatment was inequality, yes, it was. It is the gentle se-xism of saying men's roles are to protect women, and women should sit back and be protected whether they want it or not. Would we not consider it se-xist if we told our sons, you are not allowed to stay home and take care of the children whether you want to or not?

      February 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  7. Not a believer

    I certainly don't agree with the boys stance, and I think using the bible to justify any actions in this world is dangerous and typically leads to problems, but at the same time, the boy didn't complain about the forfeit or ask to be allowed back into the tournament. He simply said he wouldn't wrestle her and quit. Its totally his right to do that, and he took the consequences like a man. For that he should be commended.

    For the rest of you that are using this as a forum to vent your political and religious views, move on. Just as people are allowed to believe in god, others are allowed not to. When both sides constantly try to force their views on each other, no one wins and you all look stupid. And to those who feel that women are inferior, get over yourselves. I was a male Div 1 collegiate all american, and I knew many girls who were far better athletes then I was. If this girl made it to the state tournament as a freshman, then good for her. She obviously has worked hard and deserves the accolades. To think she doesn't know what she is getting herself into is crazy. She is not asking for any special treatment either. Other then to be treated as an equal.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • CDK

      Not furthering the conversation much, just replying to say thanks. I appreciate your view & ability to say it without being snarky (something I fail at pretty often).

      February 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  8. idnar

    so it's OK for boys to grope other boys? um hum....

    February 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  9. Michael

    I've seem stupider decisions made in the name of Jesus.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Reddjackk

      lol... amen.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  10. lance

    It's nice to see kids that age take seriously their worldview and hold firm to what they believe....

    doesn't matter if I feel the same. It matters that this kid held his ground. Congrats

    February 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  11. Mario

    What an idiot!! So what he's afraid he'll get aroused fighting a girl (and that he'll lose)? He's sending out a very anti feminist message to boy and girls his age. He should be ashamed of himself.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • WOW.

      Chivalry is dead... and YOU killed it.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Frogist

      @WOW: If that's chivalry, I'm glad it's dead.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  12. Preacher

    I say jump in there and wrestle.....Slam her down good and hard and she won't want to do it again. It was her decision to compete in a mans sport and league, she gets what she gets just like we all do. Remember, women wanted equal rights.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • tablesturn89

      Whoo! Someone's masculinity is easily threatened. How dare we women learn math and develop athletic ability!!!

      February 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • CDK


      Oh, I'm sorry, was that not what you said? That's what I heard.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Jason

      Do you think she just showed up and asked to wrestle, not knowing what she was getting into or doing?

      February 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  13. Buggaboo

    I don't get why they even asked him he should have said I don't want to wrestle a girl and left it at that. I wrestled in highschool and they used to hand us a form before the season that would ask us if we would wrestle a girl if it was needed we could check yes or no. If we said no our coach would forfeit the match and we would not have to justify anything to anyone about our decision. I think the biggest tragedy of this story is that he was put in a position where he had to give a justification irregardless of what it was!

    February 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  14. Rusty

    @gabe – well said.

    Whether or not I (or anyone else) agrees or disagrees with his choice, or his reasons for his choice, it does demand the utmost respect that he stood by them. Thinking back to the people I knew at 15, I can imagine that most of the boys would have jumped at the chance to wrestle a girl, if for no other reason than to get a shot at some cheap feels. No matter how he rationalizes his decision – whether religion, chivalry, whatever – he made the choice, which could not have been easy, and that is exceptional, and DEMANDS respect.

    How many of you could have stood against your coach, your friends, your peers, and said that you would not do what was expected of you?

    February 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Rob

      Standing by wrongheaded principles is just as bad, if not worse, than wavering back and forth on right and wrong principles. The best scenario is for this kid to stop listening to his religious-nutcase parents and learn to respect woman.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Rusty: I vehemently disagree. Courage is not sticking by your convictions no matter how wrong they are. It is the willingness to re-evaluate your position to make the right decision even if all your life you have been taught the wrong one.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  15. Moral?

    So the media picked up on the religious side and amplified it. Even reading through that, it seems like it had less to do with demeaning women or not thinking she is strong enough and more to do with a kid not thinking it was right to grope a girl, even in the form of a wrestling match. Why people have a problem with that view I have no idea? Maybe because all of these so called "adults" don't see a problem with having to grope a girl if we call it a sport. Besides his decision in no way hurt the girl, she got a easy win because he forfeited.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  16. Michael

    This kid is repressed by the rules of Christianity ans that type of contact with a girl would be more than he can handle (he is probably mortified that he would get aroused and those wrestling uniforms don't hide much).

    February 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Wendy


      February 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  17. Niles

    Sounds lile a pay per view event to me 🙂

    February 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  18. mamaofthree

    He sounds like an honorable young man who stands by his convictions and has a healthy, respectable view of women. Unfortunately, that very type of male is becoming more difficult to find in our society. I hope that one day my daughter will be lucky enough to marry such a man.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Ryan

      Its people like you that make this story more than it is. This is not about respect for woman. This is about a wrestler who was scared to get embarrassed by a talented female. Give me a break with the religion talk! bunch of bs

      February 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • tablesturn89

      I do not think that this is a respectable way to treat women. Respecting the girl would have been recognizing that she is an equal being who is completely capable of making the decision to risk physical injury, just as he is doing.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Chris Cordes

      Well said, Mamaofthree! Thank you!

      February 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • CDK

      @tablesturn89 THANK YOU.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Jason

      Maybe he'll tell your daughter how to dress and what kind of career is respectful and appropriate for a woman.

      I see that the vast majority of people commending and praising this boy also suggest in one way or another that a girl shouldn't be wrestling. People act like he declined to grope some girl he saw walking down the street in provocative clothing, "just asking for it."

      February 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • SolidRox

      ...the odds of your daughter finding such a man is great because our secular society believes the greats are odd.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Frogist

      @jason: Good point.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  19. Branden

    I wrestled for sixteen years. In that time I managed to face a grand total of three female wrestlers. The first time I faced a female I was in the second grade, and I simply fell to my back and allowed her to win because I had always been taught not to be aggressive toward females. As time went on and I got my serious about the sport I started to respect the females that competed, but I also came to the realization that they knew what they were getting themselves into by choosing to participate in what is by and large a male dominated sport.

    It's true that this boy had the choice to face her or not, but by choosing the latter he is effectively ruining any chance he might have of competing at the next level. No college coach is going to accept someone who would so willingly forfeit a match. He said himself he would give away a state championship. He doesn't really deserve to be commended for that IMO. At the same time I don't think he deserves to be scolded or made light of for it either.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • CDK

      Thank you for this level-headed comment. Input appreciated.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  20. fishpaws

    i would have loved the chance to beat a girls a$$!

    February 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • hillytoo

      I am sure you would. And I am sure there are a lot of girls out there who would like to kick yours.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:31 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.