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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. Rachel Lopez

    Ok, so I was a wrestler in high school AND I am a very strong Christian.

    Fact#1 = When at the same weight class, there is very little strength difference between boys and girls, and strength is not the all important factor, knowledge and ability to perform take-downs and other moves is very important and equalizing as well.

    Fact #2 = I was honored to be on the boy's team and they all accepted me like a sister. There was never an issue of fairness/unfairness while I wrestled them. We went through the same practices, endured the same exercises (up-downs, mountain climbers, lunges, sprints ect...) over and over again. I earned my place and was respected for it.

    Fact #3 = When you are competing on the mat, there is no problem/thoughts to any kind of s-exuality. You wrestle, a sport, pure and simple. You are objective. I never experienced any un-comfortableness with the physical contact associated with the sport and those I wrestled never complained of feeling uncomfortable.

    Fact #4 = After two years of being thrown down and around on the mat I can put to ease fears that women will somehow lose their r-eproductive ability. Actually, men should fear that more, their r-eproductive o-rgans are outside; at least mine were cushioned in my belly ha ha!

    Fact #5 = I am very very very secure that wrestling never contradicted my religious beliefs. I am a very devout Christian and think God is proud of me for being his strong and confident daughter, who represented Him with honor in this sport.

    Fact #6 = When boys from Catholic schools refused to wrestle me (2 or 3 total over the course of 2 years) I respected their decision, but I strongly disagreed with it. Also, it did sting emotionally at times, because it felt like they were saying either, although you have worked just as hard as us you’re not worth wrestling. Or there was a guise the idea that they “respect females too much” and so, decline. Truly, I think if they respected me, then they would’ve wrestled me.

    March 18, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  2. likamarie

    I respect his decision, though I think that if she made it that far, she had to be a qualifying wrestler. The girl can't be mediocre and make it to state.

    February 26, 2011 at 5:45 am |
  3. Bill

    Guess that "biblical principle" about respect that he quotes only applies to women, not the guys he chooses to wrestle. Truth be told, he was afraid of getting his ass kicked by a female and this was his cop out.

    February 24, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • iawrestlingfan

      I have to wonder, are you from the midwest? Were you at Des Moines last week watching wrestling? comment on the issue and don't shout out your opinions without any grounds to support it.

      February 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • VictoriousHumanoid

      You don't know what you're talking about. He's telling the truth sure as he chose not to wrestle her. I am among the group that holds to the same beliefs, and that is what we do. I know a number of honorable guys who do the same thing. Beliefs are strong.

      February 26, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  4. Nate

    Finally someone with integrity in sports. It's simply shameful that the "equal rights" movement has placed our youth into these prediciments. Horray for Northrup. Maybe he should run for president. Just think of it...... an honest politician.

    February 24, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  5. Laci

    I'm a female wrestler and i completely understand why he chose not to wrestle. Coming into this sport i realized that not all boys have the same values and if he believes that wrestling a woman isn't right then everybody should accept his decision without criticism. I think what he did wasn't dishonoring the girl or attempting to make her feel "unworthy" to wrestle him, and I've been in the same situation where a boy wouldn't wrestle me and i wasn't insulted by it.

    February 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  6. Megan

    Thank you for standing up for your convictions and treating women with dignity!

    February 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Mike

    In his shoes I would've wrestled her. I've grappled women in Jiujitsu plenty of times, and we're talking submission grappling, not pinfall. If you refuse to spar a woman in a controlled environment because you are too much of a "gentleman" you are doing her a grave disservice. If she never has any experience sparring with men she will be less prepared if a man attacks her in real life. If a woman is interested in the self defense aspect of any combat art she needs to train with both men and women, end of story.

    February 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Sherri

    I would describe myself as an agnostic, democratic feminist and I respect this young man's decision. I'm about as liberal as a person can get but when it comes to a full contact sport such as wrestling you have to draw the line. Women in combat, sure! But come on.....this is nuts!

    February 24, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  9. Jane Doe

    And we wonder why we have a bullying problem in America. For crying out loud, if the ADULTS can't get it together enough to have civil discussions concerning a controversial topic, how does one expect American kids to do the same? Frightening. Anyway, what disturbs me most about a majority of the comments on this forum are the vile things being said about this kid, his religion, and his belief system. Okay, so you may not agree with his reasons for stepping aside, but is it too much to ask that you at least comment respectfully?

    February 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  10. Frogist

    Also it might be nice to change the headline of this story to "Boy refuses to grapple with wrestler explains his decision."

    February 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  11. Frogist

    Joel is mistaken in his actions. And it is unfortunate that his father has supported him in this way instead of showing how an adult male with true respect of women approaches this situation. Joel says he doesn't want to get into compromising positions with a girl, and doesn't want to disrespect her by slamming her into the mat. What he is actually saying is, "I think girls are for groping, and too fragile for contact sports." Joel and his father have ignored that Cassie is a sports person, an athlete, a compet!tor. These aspects of who she is are completely ignored by Joel and her father because they don't fit their idea of what women are supposed to be. Instead they see her as just a girl and have assigned her roles they think befitting of girls. In other words, wrestling is a man's sport, and although you have 20 wins under your belt competing against other men, we think you shouldn't be doing it because you are a girl and you are for s-ex and gently caring for other people. They can't see past her being female to her being an athlete equal in his sport. This is not in the least bit a respectful position to take.

    Unfortunately this extremely antiquated vision of gender roles is still part of our world. And bolstered in part by religion. Eve's actions have condemned us all for eternity; never mind that Adam did the same because it was the woman's fault. Catholics insistence that women are just not as fitting as men to be priests because Jesus had a penis. Muslim women are told to cover themselves or they are temptresses and creating adulterers. But it would be unfair to blame religion for the way women are still viewed as lesser beings. In truth, society at large has always treated women as inferior. Practices of religion just reflects that idea. Much progress has been made, but obviously not enough if Joel and his father still think of women the way they do.

    Sure Joel stood by his principles, and made a bad decision. That's his right to make mistakes. He has the benefit of youth. Joel's father, does not have that excuse. He should be teaching his son better morals. I wonder why haven't we heard from Joel's mother about this. Maybe she has a different view on the situation. I don't know. I know I feel bad for Cassie. Thankfully other boys have competed against her. Hopefully they showed her the respect of thinking of her as more than "just a girl".

    February 24, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • iawrestlingfan

      you commented about how these athletes are evenly matched in strength and skill...I have to ask, were you at the tournament in DesMoines? Because I was, and I saw a lot of matches where there was no contest. There are some wrestlers that dominate over others. This kid was a ranked wrestler. Even if you don't agree with his decision, it should be respected.

      February 24, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • VictoriousHumanoid

      You've got to be kidding. Way to go, Joel Northrup, and kudos to his parents for teaching him what is appropriate and what is not! It is no disrespect to women for a man to honor her gender. He is absolutely correct in that male and female should not be wrestling in this manner. Because women are inferior? NO! Why then? Because wrestling is a hands on touching sport, and for two people of age and of the opposite gender to be wrestling in such a manner is grossly inappropriate. And I'm not just telling you what I believe, but this is obvious from the words of Northrup himself that he strongly objected to the aspect of "groping" and "positions". Oh, and by the way, I'm a girl.

      February 26, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • AdventureCalling

      I agree completely!

      @VictoriousHumanoid I am a woman, not a girl, and I agree completely with the thought from Frogist. Let's break this down. People get sqeamish at the idea of touching someone of the opposite gender. Get over it. No one is groping anyone; they're competing. If the female athlete is willing to compete then he should match her...that's respecting a fellow athlete.

      February 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  12. Nono

    I don't believe in the bible at all or any religion for that manner, but I think this kid was coming from a good place when he made that decision and it is his right. He has to live with the consequences of forfeiting the match, not any of us.

    February 24, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • MarkinFL

      So does she. Including becoming a national story.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  13. joe

    Said it before, I'll say it again.... chicken. He and his family played the religion card because they couldn't play the race card. How could he and his family face the world if he lost to a girl. I would love to see that match because I believe she would kick his butt.

    February 24, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  14. Thomas

    Funny, I forfeit to my wife all the time, and that NEVER makes the news

    February 24, 2011 at 5:33 am |
    • V

      That is funny, lol.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Pete

    I thought he was an idiot when I read the CNN article about this a few days (maybe a week) ago. Now that I actually saw him talk about it and explain himself, well, he's an idiot. He says it's about not demeaning and disrespecting women, but what he did was exactly that. I bet if Jesus was a wrestler and he had to wrestle a girl for the championship he wouldn't hesitate a single bit about slamming her into the ground for the win.

    February 24, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • rocinante

      Wow. Is there anything you *don't* know? 'Cause I'd like this Friday's winning Powerball numbers....

      Leaving aside the stunning presumption of your statement, it is an objective, provable fact that there is no way for anyone to knowwhat Jesus would have done in this situation.

      Therefore, unless you're telepathic and a time-traveler, you have no idea -earthly or otherwise – what Jesus would have done.

      Feel free to voice your opinion – just don't dress it up as the opinion of someone else's god.

      March 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  16. JJ

    I dont like the fact that the father just compared women as objects. The kid was perturbed he got called out that the reason he backed out was that hes afraid he might've lost the match. Eh, still his choice.

    February 24, 2011 at 3:05 am |
  17. doctore0

    Poor little Jesus boy bwaaahh

    February 24, 2011 at 3:00 am |
  18. SayTrueWords

    You beat a girl, what does that say about you as a man? How good would it feel to say, "I won!" SERIOUSLY!!
    You lose to a girl, what does THAT say about you a man?

    There are some sports that allow men to play against women, but usually where strength is involved, there are some boundaries. Volleyball is an example. A bunch high school freshman boys would be required to play UP against junior or senior age girls.

    Regardless, it's a sad day when a big portion of people lack RESPECT for the human who has strong convictions and abides by his convictions. I COMMEND this young man for doing just that. The world needs MORE men to stand up and be like this. THIS is coming from a woman, by the way, and I love that quality in a man.

    February 24, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • Frogist

      @ SayTrueWord:
      Strong convictions are not to be commended if they are based on bad ideas. What should it matter how Joel looks after he has won or lost? Shouldn't his conduct on the mat be more important than what people think of him after? I think you have missed a vital point. This is not a bar brawl where a random beefy guy decides not to beat up a frail skirt. This is a controlled environment where both athletes have been equally matched by strength and skill. Joel is showing disrespect for Cassie as a human being and an athlete who has proven thus far to be equal to him. He is also showing disrespect for Cassie as a women by telling her the reason he doesn't consider her worthy is because she is a girl.

      February 24, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I suppose we should also hold strong racist convictions in high esteem as well. Integrity is not automatically a positive trait if the person has bigoted views. Some of the worst dictators in the world had very strong convictions.
      I for one am NOT impressed in the least.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • JdJr

      Well said, Say. There is a lot of pressure to bow to the great god "pragmatism," and kudos to anyone who will not compromise his or her beliefs.

      Racism is disrespectful to bring up here, both to the poster, and to the subject. Obviously, this kid has a sense of chivalry; too bad more don't. Don't agree? Fine, this kid will not be impressed with you, or really bother thinking about you at all.

      February 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  19. Kay

    Oh and Headlock, Jacob wasn't wrestling God for sport.

    February 24, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  20. Mike

    I saw this WWE match where Vince McMahon wrestled some girl, I can't remember her name though. But she kicked McMahon in the nuts and won the match!

    February 24, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • mmi16

      If this kid truly respected women....he would have wrestled his opponent as scheduled....by forefiting the match he was disrespecting both himself and his opponent.

      February 24, 2011 at 2:47 am |
    • Me

      That's NOT REAL wrestling...all that stuff is staged/choreographed...TRUST me I'm a former wrestler!
      In REAL wrestling she would've been DQ'd for kicking him in the nuts

      February 24, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • claybigsby

      MMI: STFU....when this kid seriously hurts this girl you will be screaming "why did he wrestle a girl?" There is no disrespect here...and the fact that he didnt want to wrestle a girl is his right.

      February 24, 2011 at 1:06 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.