Iowa High School Wrestler Refuses to Face Female Opponent


An Iowa high school wrestler named Joel Northup preferred to default on his first-round state tournament match rather than wrestle a girl. As a result, said girl, a freshman named Cassy Herkelman, who was 20-13 entering the tournament, won the match by forfeit. She and fellow female wrestler Megan Black made history by being the first girls to qualify for the state tournament since 1926, according to CBS News.

In a formal statement, Northup, who is home-schooled but competes for Linn-Mar High, explained his decision:

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. 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.

In other words, he'd feel more comfortable in a sport that completely shuts young women out of athletic competition.

Hey, I have nothing against this kid -- he has his beliefs, and he's stickin' to 'em. Good for him. He sounds perfectly nice, and at least he's acknowledging respect for the young women. I'm also sure his decision is coming from a good place. But, those points aside, the matter's eye-rollingly laughable. Deal with it, kid. Herkelman's just as good as you are, and if she wasn't able to take the heat (or violence, as you put it), then she wouldn't have become a high school wrestler in the first place.

Nonetheless, Herkelman's dad was very understanding of Northup's decision. He released his own statement:

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

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I wish everyone well, too, but this incident does say something about sexism in sports. No matter how much progress we've made with gender equality, sadly, it's still difficult for female athletes to battle stereotypes and be taken seriously. Someone's always going to question their abilities, decline to compete against them as an equal (as in this case), or ask them why they don't just cheerlead or play a sport for which there's an all-girls' team. That's all there is to it. And it's seriously frustrating.

At least there's someone who seems to get it. Chandra Peterson, who is now a senior at Iowa State and wrestled in high school, gave her opinion on the situation to USA Today:

Whatever he's upset about you'd think he'd want to put it aside and wrestle. That's his loss. It's sad that it's 2011 and there are people that still think girls should not be wrestling.

Sad is right. Oh, well. Despite having to face discrimination in her sport, Herkelman thankfully has other young women like Peterson to look up to.

Do you think Northup should have defaulted on the match with Herkelman?


Image via Jim Danvers/Flickr

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kaylaird kaylaird

It's not sexism. It's a young man being brought up RIGHT.

I don't understand these bleeding heart feminists. They want better than men in everything, but complain when men show chivalry. I can't believe you found this story and found something negative in a respectable young mans refusal to engage in a contact sport that is based on violence with a female.

So should domestic violence be okay too? Since obviously we are all equal and the woman can just fight back, right? Like a regular old fight between two guys in a bar? That's logically what you're saying. 

Women with that kind of mindset make me sick. Let the kid do whats right. He obviously has respect for women and has a conscious.

2tiny... 2tinyhineys

I think Cassy's wrestling should speak for herself, not him.

Momma... MommaGreenhalge

I'm fine with girls wrestling, but not against boys. My high school had a girls' wrestling team that did very well, but against other girls. I hope I am raising my boys to do exactly as this young man did. I bet his mother taught him to never, under any circumstances, get violent with women. Good for him for standing up for what he believes in.

Emera... Emerald_storm01

People thinking in the same way that you portray in this article is reason why chivalry is all but dead.  I am glad to see there are still a few men and women teaching their sons right.  Hopefully kids like Northup keep their ideals thorughout their lives.

o0o_A... o0o_Alleigh_o0o

I agree with the previous and first poster. I do not see sexism as the issue here.I dont see why this was spun in such a negative manner. never did he say anything about her not being able to wrestle... his decision was based on his personal belief that any sort of physical violence towards a woman is wrong, whether competive or not.All is see is a young man standing up for what he felt was right. If the shoe was on the other foot, this girl would be praised and supported for standing up for her beliefs.


the only thing i see "eye-rollingly laughable" is the reaching of this article... eye rolling

sweet... sweetcherry_59

Kaylaird, I could not have said it better. I agree 100%

miche... micheledo

I think he did a great job standing up for what he believed.  It's not sexism.  In fact I think he has a TON of respect for a woman because he is not willing to engage her in a match.  He is not willing to touch her/fight her/wrestle with her out of respect for her.  I hope my daughter dates a young man with that kind of respect.


nonmember avatar Anon

I hope the girl is proud of the fact that the boy now has no chance to compete. In case you haven't noticed, HS boys and girls are not physically equal. I assume you feel God is sexist since he persists in making the average man taller and stronger than the average woman. I'm surprised you aren't picketing department stores for not stocking bras in the boys' department.

nonmember avatar mccccccc

You people need to realize that this is wrestling, not boxing or MMA. I see absolutely no reason why any capable woman (and judging by her record she is more than capable) should not be allowed to play in any non violent sport.

Ashley Castillo

Wrestling works like this. You have classes based on weight. If this boy and girl are allowed to wrestle against each other, it is because they are of similar weight, probably within ten pounds of each other. So this is not some David/ Goliath matchup.  Not being able to see the two, you can't judge if he has siginificantly more muscle mass than her.

He doesn't want to wrestle her because some moves require running your arms between opponents legs and running your hand underneath their armpit, fine. I can understand that. People laugh at the homoerotic stances all the time and it is undeniable that wrestling moves cause you to be all in your opponents body.

But because wrestling is violent? Not necessarily. Physical force is only half the equation in wrestling. Just as important is mastering the moves and using them in a calculated way to defeat your opponent. Plus, the use of physical force (interpreted here as violence) is something I like about it, because especially as women, we are taught to keep it inside, and pretend can't use our bodies that way. I bet that is something these girls enjoy too, and in the context of a wrestling match, it is laughable to equate it with domestic violence. You are in it to win, not scar your opponent and control them. If they have wrestled before, they understand the pain of it.


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