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The Gazette KCRG
Posted February 17, 2011
VIDEO: Linn-Mar student cites conscience, faith in not wrestling girl

Linn-Mar's Joel Northrup (left) and Cedar Falls' Cassy Herkelman sign in at the scorer's table before their class 3A 112 lbs. match during the Iowa High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa. Northrup forfeited the match. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

An Iowa high school wrestler who was one of the favorites to win his weight class defaulted on his first-round state tournament match rather than face one of the first girls to ever qualify for the event.

Joel Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore who was 35-4 wrestling for Linn-Mar High this season, said in a statement that he doesn’t feel it would be right for him to wrestle Cedar Falls freshman Cassy Herkelman. Herkelman, who was 20-13 entering the tournament, and fellow 112-pounder Ottumwa sophomore Megan Black, who was 25-13, made history by being the first girls to qualify for the state tournament. Black was pinned quickly in her opening round match.

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“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,” wrote Northrup. “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. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.”

There were several thousand fans on hand Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena, but many were watching other matches when the referee raised Herkelman’s hand to signal her win. There was a smattering of cheers and boos from the crowd before Herkelman was whisked into the bowels of the arena.

Tournament organizers declined to make Herkelman available for questions. Her next match is Friday.

In a text message to The Associated Press, her father, Bill Herkelman, said he understands Northrup’s decision.

“It’s nice to get the first win and have her be on the way to the medal round,” Bill Herkelman wrote. “I sincerely respect the decision of the Northrup family especially since it was made on the biggest stage in wrestling. I have heard nothing but good things about the Northrup family and hope Joel does very well the remainder of the tourney.”

Linn-Mar athletics director Scott Mahmens said the school would not penalize Northrup for defaulting. Because he defaulted and didn’t forfeit, Northrup is eligible to compete in consolation rounds. Black will also compete in the consolation rounds.

Wrestling is hugely popular in Iowa, and this is the first time girls have qualified for the state tournament, which began in 1926.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, just more than 6,000 girls competed in wrestling in 2009-10 — compared with nearly 275,000 boys. Though most states require girls to wrestle boys, California, Hawaii and Texas now sponsor girls-only high school wrestling tournaments.

Video: Dad speaks

VIDEO: Herkelman accepts forfeit win

VIDEO: KJ Pilcher talks about today’s forfeit

VIDEO: Herkelman leaves the mat after the forfeit

VIDEOS: Linn-Mar athletic director Scott Mahmens talks about Northrup’s decision

Photos by Jim Slosiarek

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139 Responses to VIDEO: Linn-Mar student cites conscience, faith in not wrestling girl

  1. I don’t understand why religion is such a big issue here. Why do we always think of things in a religion vs. liberal way?

    Did Joel gain anything from it? Seems to be a lose-lose situation and we just like to assign blames. If anybody’s gaining, Iowa wrestling is gaining attention, not that I’m saying it is intended.

    Some guys may feel uncomfortable wrestling a girl and some don’t. For those who do feel comfortable, it is great for them and it is good that they compete with girls as if they compete with guys. For those who don’t, it is good that they don’t allow themselves into a situation they feel wrong. It would be worse if Joel feels it is wrong but still do it under any kind of pressure.

    The best solution for all, maybe is to support a woman division when that is possible.

  2. Will they let boys play on the volleyball team now?

  3. Bet we wouldn’t be seeing so much support if he had stepped aside because of Muslim faith instead of Christian faith.

  4. This entire thread is pathetic. Grown men and women harping on a sophomore in high school for his bold decision, all the while blowing it way out of proportion, attributing it to cowardice and relating it to racism.

    Give me a break. This is the cancer of society.

    That being said, VERY few people on here know much more about the situation aside from the fact that it involved a male and a female. I say this because I know Joel, I know the wrestling program, and I know some of the people who have posted on this thread.

    Get it together.

  5. I agree with him. I would not put my best effort in a physical confrontation with a woman. I was raised to respect women and not raise a hand against a woman even if she is trying to harm me. I do not believe that these girls are at that level because of their skill and strength alone, part of this is most young men will take it easy on a girl even if they loose because of it.

  6. Wrestler — Nice. So no one on here is allowed to disagree with you for calling it a “bold” decision! Well, all right then. We see how it works for you.

    I get that you “know” a few of these people. Well, here’s a message you can take back to them. Like it or not, the kid and his family made a choice to make a social statement at the statewide stage. The girl was cleared to compete by her coach. She was cleared to compete by the school. She qualified for the tourney by beating other wrestlers. To go in the face of that, and refuse to wrestle, is to say that you know better than all of those people.

    And guess what? When you choose to do that on a the statewide stage … well, we live in this funny place called America, where people are allowed to respond. So if doing that makes us the “Cancer of society” in your eyes — well, all right then! I guess we’ll make a “bold” statement of our own.

  7. Having read “The Malleus Maleficarium”, I find it hard to believe that faith is against violence on women. Anything faith based is situational based. The coach stated that they talked about what would happen with this decision, so using faith as a reason was a move to try and keep the questioning voices more quiet. As we are taught to be afraid to question people when they say this. If he doesn’t want to wrestle her we don’t need a reason. Just don’t do it and move on.

  8. Hey TheRock im going to make a bold statement too: just because you are a out of shape 45 year old harping on a 15 year old who is in better hape than you could ever imagine,put down the twinkies and leave the computer in your mothers basement. Girls should be able to wrestle against guys when guys can play highschool vollyball.

  9. Get off of the volleyball thing. It’s a weak argument. Stronger male athletes would essentially drive the girls out of volleyball. A girl wanting to wrestle guys is showing far more bravery.

  10. Umm … OK, Feldog. I don’t think I saw anything in my comment about (a) wrestler fitness, (b) my age or (c) Twinkies. I do think it’s entertaining that because you can’t debate me on points, you have to make things up.

    Oh, wait. You DID actually make one argument in there. “When guys can play high school volleyball.” Yeah, OK. I don’t have a problem with that. Guys play volleyball at other levels. Talk to folks at the state level. Make it happen. You know, sort of like how women did when they went in to wrestle.

  11. WOW! As a wannabe girl wrestler, this really makes me mad! How rude!! I am a very religious and faithful person and i have never been taught to not compete against someone because of their gender! Seriously, this kid needs to grow up! I’m not bashing this kid or saying he is afraid of getting beat by a girl, but he atleast needed to give her a chance to prove who the best wrestler really was!

  12. Thank you, Morgan. You said this much better than I was able to. I agree.

    Get ready for Feldog to call you a fat Twinkie-eater now.

  13. This kid has been taught never to harm a girl under any circumstances since he was young. Now, as a sophomore in high school he sticks to what he was taught as a boy. He never said women shouldn’t be allowed to wrestle, he said he didn’t agree with wrestling them. She had the option of going out, he had the option of not wrestling her. So he didn’t. Why is this so blasphemous?

  14. probably part of the Bob Vander Platts crowd.

  15. This young man is right. No man should wrestle a girl. This is disrespectful for a female. The women libbers are pushing girls to do things that they know are not right and descent, then they will hollow that he won because he is a man. The females should participate in sports for females because of their physical anatomies. Wrestling is a contact, violent and rough sport. All of the young men must stand strong against this type of foolishness! This mixing of male and female on the mats together should be contrary to every man’s religion.

  16. I have a hard time accepting that Northrop’s “faith” commands him to default on his commitment to represent his school as well as the greater wrestling community as well. This is a cop-out excuse. Miss Herkelman is a trained athlete with 33 matches to her credit who is fully aware of the hazards of competition and doesn’t need to be protected because of her gender. It is ridiculous that in 2011 females have to receive special “protection” from harm in athletics.

  17. The bottom line is that this kid obviously has tremendous faith. As a fellow Christian who understands his motives, I completely respect his response to not wrestle the girl – his action was a class act. Linn-Mar’s AD said it right at the end of the last video posted above…”Well, obviously faith is more important to him.” It is never OK to disrespect what is dear to someone’s heart as long as there is no harm done to others. Faith lasts forever, wrestling does not. What is more important in life? For those who believe in God, faith is far more important than something here on Earth that does not last for eternity. This kid has faith – and a Christian man or boy is supposed to respect the ladies. Wrestling is an extreme contact sport with athletes laying on one another. I mean, who knows what some of the male wrestlers have on their minds when wrestling these female wrestlers besides not getting their butt’s kicked. Bottom line – this kid’s decision was a personal matter and it needs to be shown respect. At no point did he discredit the female wrestler’s capabilities or that she truly earned her trip to State. Question: How many fathers with daughters would enjoy seeing their daughter having a male wrestler in close contact with their child’s body, EVEN IF they support her? I know I wouldn’t. I undoubtedly respect the 3-4 states who have separate wrestling tourneys for women.

  18. Everyone in the Wells Fargo Arena knew the better wrestler was Joel. Even Cassy knew she was going to lose. She lucked out with a forefit. And yes i do know that about you because no self respecting citzen is going to bash on a 15year olds vaules and beilefs

  19. His team wrestled her team earlier in the season and he chose not to wrestle her then as well. His BACK-UP pinned her in the first period. This is NOT about being scared of losing to her. This is a story of faith and belief over personal glory or in the case of this message board personal attacks.

  20. When a guy goes throwing around a girl, his hands are going to go in places where a Christian young man’s hands shouldn’t go. It can easily lead the young man to thoughts that are, for him, mortally sinful. Even if that weren’t the case, where has chivalry gone when a young man pounces on a young girl in a fight? The idea of girls in wrestling is another example of the ridiculous effects of the gender “equality” movement. While it’s a good thing to recognize the long ignored talents of women, to pretend that the sexes are the same, even to the point of putting them in sporting fights, is absolutely ridiculous and actually undermines true feminism, which focuses on the femininity and unique quality of womanhood. Two thumbs up to Joel. You did the right thing.

  21. Joel was definetly not scared of losing. Anyone who thinks that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

  22. well said, don’t blame him! VERY VERY well said.

  23. Joel never said that he was more likely to harm her because she is a girl. He simply did not want to engage a female in an aggressive physical manner. I think for any guy you would feel a little akward if you had to wrestle a girl.

  24. A female who won bouts to get to the finals is denied because another athlete who happens to be male gets forfeited?

    Please… As a former wrestler. This boy didn’t want to get beat by a girl. If in fact the parents knew about the draw a day before another match could have been selected.

    Women should be under a man’s hand according to the bible.. Really. this female athlete should have been given the chance to own this poor boy’s butt.

  25. As a graduate from Linn-Mar HS, I applaud Joel in his decision to not wrestle Cassy. I completely understand that she is a great wrestler and that she entered the competition on her own accord. BUT never the less Joel proves that chivalry is not dead. Joel did what he thought was right. And it is amazing that a teenager has great morals, not many these days do. He seems to be a very respectful kid.

  26. Even if he did wrestle people would still have a problem with him doing that

  27. The important distinction between sexual harassment and boy/girl wrestling is choice. The woman doesn’t have a choice in sexual harassment. In wrestling, the competitors are there by choice. I think that’s very important to realize.

    A male cheerleader who lifts a female cheerleader isn’t sexually harassing her. Just touch is not sufficient to distinguish the behavior.

    I also think that the physical intensity of sport is different from violent assault. When I play football, I tackle my opponent, but I don’t head-butt him, sweep his legs out, or dislocate his shoulder.

    I think we all need to realize that we are people first, and concentrate on treating each other right as people, not as our particular gender.

    All that being said, I support his right to choose.

  28. They don’t offer baseball at my son’s school but they do softball. Should/could the boys go out for softball or would they stop it because it is a girls sport?

  29. A quick educational note …

    Iowa High School Athletic Association: Provides interscholastic competition for various public and private middle/high schools in the state of Iowa. Does not offer volleyball.

    Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union: Provides interscholastic competition for girls at various public and private middle/high schools in the state of Iowa. Does not offer wrestling.

    Both of these organizations are independent of the state public school system and any private schools. They generate there revenue primarily from gate admissions and business sponsorships.

  30. He showed great sportsmanship by not shaking hands or show any respect to the female opponent, Baby Jesus would have wanted it that way- He doesnt want boys to touch girls that wear wrestling shoes. Personally my religion states that i HAVE to wrestle with girls

    i have no choice in the matter- for i will be struck down by a bolt of lightning if i dont except any female challenge- be it may Connect Four or on the wrestling mat- So i know exactly how this young sailor boy feels. Keep up the good work. And as for the lady, you would have pinned him in 6 seconds- My money would have been on you -

  31. Dear “Sanity” when LM wrestled CF earlier this year Joel didn’t want to wrestle a girl so LM moved up their 103 kid who pinned her. Joel could have easily wrecked her.

  32. Years ago a father would not put his daughter in this position. They would not want a young man to be on his daughter’s back riding her. But today we do not have those boundaries. We don’t teach our kids what is right is always right and what is wrong is always wrong. Then years later we wonder why these same kids don’t have boundaries? Are we THAT stupid? PARENTS: teach you kids how to treat other people. Only men you see on the TV show Cops treat women violently. If you don’t think wrestling can be violent, then you haven’t watched much wrestling. Iowa High School Athletic Association: you may have to take a moment and stop raking in money and make some real decisions about what is acceptable. Maybe women’s wrestling time has come. Or maybe our high school’s could save money and just offer one sports team for boys AND girls. Then we would only need ONE athletic union/association. So if you want to keep your cushy Athletic Union/Association jobs, you better address this issue so this situation does not happen again. Congratulations to both Cassy and Joel, and shame on the athletic unions for letting this happen. The kids did nothing wrong and the athletic union just did nothing… that was the problem here.

  33. After 130 opinions if there are any new ones left? Well here is 131. Not knowing anyone involved I think the biggest misunderstanding is how Joel’s faith played a role in his decision. It likely has nothing to do with manmade religious rules, like not dancing. It likely had nothing to do with harming his opponent, or losing to a girl. Injury is not the intent of wrestling, even though it may be a result.

    I THINK it has to do with ones sexuality. In the work place if one is made to feel uncomfortable due to any sexual reference, either words, implied gestures, or physically touching, it is considered sexual harassment. Immediate termination in some cases.

    I’m guessing, like most of us with opinions that he and his parents just felt it was inappropriate for a boy his age to engage in physical contact with someone of the opposite sex. He was being forced to do something that he felt very uncomfortable doing. Due to the lack of morals in our country, too many people think this is OK. I have no opinion on the girls who participate. I would not begin to judge them on their faith or motives. They obviously do not feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make it OK to “force” someone else.

    I also think most people are viewing this as an unfortunate circumstance. I, however think this has created a GREAT opportunity for discussion. It has made us all think. However, I doubt few have change sides in their thinking.

    Just Wondering since none of us really know.

  34. He refused to wrestle her. It is no different than if he refused to wrestle someone who was black. He hid behind a christian cape when he did it. Yet he is no more christian than any other opponent she’s wrestled. He and should be ashamed. His family should be ashamed.

  35. And to all those who commented that boys should be able to play softball or volleyball.

    A man acheiving success in a women’s sport is not a feat. A woman acheiving success in a man sport is an exemplary feat. There is a difference.

  36. He’s a punk: who are you to determine one’s christianity? Last time I read my bible that was left to our Creator.

  37. 4 everyone who calling Joel and his family out, how about you meet Joel his family. 1. You will find out they r a very religious family. 2. You will also find out that Joel and his family r the nicest people u will ever meet. If you ask anyone who has ever talked to Joel they will all say he is the nice kid and won’t have a bad word to say about him. 4 all the haters of Joel decision maybe u should learn something from Joel. Joel treats everyone with respect, he would never come on 2 a blog and call people punks or a sissy like some of you r. What kills me is people say he scared to get beat by a girl. Linn Mar 103 pounder beat Cassy in a dual. Joel is just as good or better than his teammate. Joel is ranked 5th in the state, Cassy wasn’t ranked. Joel place 3rd as a freshmen. Cassy went 1-2 as a freshmen. He gave up a shot at a state title that he has worked so hard 4 because he wanted to stick 2 what he believed in, and that is not to be in a physical combat with a girl. I think that took balls, but people want to call him a punk. BTW he got beat out by the defending state champ from last year that beat him in the semis last year at state. Joel lost with 1 sec left in the final overtime. So if he doesn’t ff I would say Joel would be in the finals but instead he didn’t even place because he stayed true to his beliefs. This year CRW wrestled ICW and ICW has a girl on their JV team. 2 of CRW guys weren’t allowed to wrestle her because their MOMS were against it, but that didn’t make any national news.

    Joel and his family run a free wrestling camp called wrestlers of faith. Not only was it free but the counselors were Matt McDonough and Ryan Morningstar. Also at the camp they talk about faith and read from the bible. The kids get get to stay in a cabin and get to go hiking, sounds like a great deal 4 it being all free.

    I support Joel and his decision, it took balls for giving up a state title. Joel is not a punk, the real punks r the ones calling Joel a punk on any blog. I’m proud 2 call Joel Northrup my friend. I hope my post help some of u have a better understanding of Joel and his family.

  38. ^ Hell yeah warriorfan!

  39. I think it is sad that we as a society would say such hurtful things to a person who stood up for something they believe in, so much so as to give up a seasons worth of hard work.

    I would be proud to have him as a son. He is inspiring to kids all around him. He is mature beyond his years!

    I hope people do not read so far into the words used… I do not beleive that he meant “violent” in the true sense, as I have seen many write his religion allows him to be violent to males but not females… maybe what he meant was rough. It is not MMA, it is wrestling and there are limits, but it is full contact, and kids can get hurt– I have seen it.

    I don’t think he was upset that she was wrestling or said anything bad about her, rather he made a choice to not wrestler her because of his beliefs and feelings.

    Kudos Joel… your choice wasn’t easy but you still made it!

  40. He would just rather wrestle a girl in the bedroom rather than the wrestling mat. Nothin wrong with that.

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VIDEO: Linn-Mar student cites conscience, faith in not wrestling girl

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