Iowa wrestler defaults rather than face girl in state tournament
Cedar Falls freshman Cassy Herkelman made Iowa wrestling history Thursday when she became the first female wrestler to win a match at the state tournament. She did so when her opponent, Joel Northrup, defaulted on their first-round match rather than face a girl.
Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore wrestling for Linn-Mar, was considered one of the favorites to win the 112-pound weight class. After defaulting his first match, however, he now must wrestle in the consolation bracket.
“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,” Northrup said in a statement, referring to Herkelman and Ottumwa sophomore Megan Black, the first girls ever to qualify for the state tournament.
“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.”
Northrup was 35-4 entering the tournament; Herkelman was 20-13. Several thousand fans were at Wells Fargo Arena for the opening round, and there was a smattering of cheers and boos from the crowd when Herkelman's hand was raised by the referee to signal the victory.
Tournament organizers declined to make Herkelman available for questions.
“It's nice to get the first win and have her be on the way to the medal round,” Herkelman's father, Bill Herkelman, wrote in a text message to the Associated Press. “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.”
Black, who also wrestles in the 112-pound weight class, was pinned in her first match and will also compete in the consolation bracket, perhaps setting the stage for another uncomfortable situation for Northrup.
California is one of three states, along with Hawaii and Texas, that sponsor girls-only high school wrestling tournaments.
-- Chuck Schilken
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Cassy Herkelman wins by default Thursday. Credit: Steve Pope / Associated Press