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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

Comments () | Archives (43)

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I have so much respect for this guy.By giving up this once in a lifetime chance, he is honoring his faith and beliefs. Stop saying that he is a coward. He must be very good to have gone this far. I truly do feel bad for him, and wish him luck later on.


Joel Northrup is a home-schooled son of a minister who claims his faith won't allow him to wrestle a girl. His father says "girls" should be treated with dignity and respect. What ? Men shouldn't be treated with dignity ?

I'm saddened the media hasn't pointed out that this father and son are sexist bigots who belong in the 1950's. His "religious beliefs" are a thinly veiled cover for archaic misogyny and the belief that women should stay barefoot in the kitchen pumping out babies.

I'm shocked that more news sources haven't pointed out that this guy is a dinosaur and a Neanderthal.

Does Joel also believe that women shouldn't be allowed to get a job, and would he refuse to wrestle someone who is gay ? I get the impression his father is the type who would have refused to wrestle a black man 30 years ago - because the Bible "says so."

Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide

Males and females (in all species) compete daily: for grades, attention, jobs, advancement, and so forth. If mothers are against their sons wrestling daughters, then those mothers should give up voting, stop working and competing with men. Gender discrimination is discrimination. The boy should be ashamed of himself and taken off of the squad.


The young woman is willing to compete, so they both should go for it, full throttle. That would have been a great match! Cassy might have kicked his butt, who knows?


Ok, as a former wrestler in high school, I know exactly what the boy was thinking. I once had to wrestle a girl in my weight class but lucked out, when there was an opening in the varsity team and I took it. She got a bye (free win). I *REALLY* didn't want to wrestle her, because it was in front of my friends and family, and I didnt want them to see me beating up a girl. Hell, I used to injure *GUYS* in my weight class by stacking them or something, and girls just do not have the upper body strength to seriously compete with a guy in wrestling.

And everybody on the team knew it too. We always talked about how wrestling a girl was the worst thing, because if you do, you lose no matter what... even if you win the match.

The fact that this happened in a STATE tournament .. i feel really sorry for the boy. I'm sure he wanted to win the tournament bad.. its a tragedy.


Those that think all girls are soft, think again. There are some of us that can and have held our own and even beaten men in strength and endurance. I have outmatched males my entire life and all through school was never allowed to play sports even though I would have been an asset. If that girl wants to wrestle, I say let her. If the boy wants to forfeit, no matter his reason, it's their loss. If the schools are that concerned about it, they need to offer girl's sports that equals that of the boys. Both sides are screaming about what's fair; equality is fair.


Sure, California has some tournaments just for girls, but those girls also wrestle on their coed high school teams. My son is a high school wrestler and EVERY single team they wrestle has girls on it ( but not enough for a whole girls team). Every match, every week girls wrestle boys. In in all the time Ive watched, i've sadly not seen a girl win. No one is going easy on them. This kid is acting like he is in an unusual situation, and he's just not. When you forfeit a match, the other team gets points. Your team loses. He should be benched if he is going to pick and choose who he wrestles.

Zachary Eckel

Do you not understand the actual problem? We're not discussing whether or not girls should be wrestling with guys; although they can split it up like boys and girls soccer, baseball and softball, girls and boys basketball, etc. The problem is his belief in wrestling a girl, he doesn't believe it's the right thing. So why force him to do something against his beliefs? That is what was wrong. The tournament directors could have easily fixed this by flipping the bracket and allowing Joel to wrestle a guy and Cassy to wrestle someone else. I personally don't think you should have to lose a match over wrestling a girl. But it's true; every girl I've seen wrestle a guy gets seriously injured and somehow the guy is a horrible person? But he's just wrestling if he hurts another guy. That's wrong. I say split the sport by gender like every other sport. Boys and girls wrestling.

Mayberry Dad

Vonda, I am sure glad my son and daughter don't have you as their teacher...

Steve A

People who say the boy is wrong? Consider yourselves among those who cannot see the last domino fall or visualize what's in the pan after the water boils out.

If females and males are to be placed together in high school athletic competition, there will be MANY females who will not make the team who would otherwise have gotten to play a sport that they like.

Did I say "many"? How about MOST or ALMOST ALL.

Oh so now you see your error and you wish to change your position? Allow girls to try out for boys teams if they want to but still allow girls-only sports where the field is even? Nah... you're just pulling at straws now.

Go stand in line for your forced "affordable" health-care plan.

Vonda Rabuck

I am a female who happens to know quite a bit about wrestling, having traveled with my high school wrestling team, taking stats. I am also a 23 year veteran math professor. Do you know how many under-prepared bright female students have intimated to me that they never learned the math they should have because they were told girls are no good at math? Come on folks! Take the "she should wrestle with girls" argument out of this! She can't wrestle with girls because there is no girls program! "Well, there should be", you say! THERE ISN'T! PERIOD! I simply do not understand those who sympathize with him and applaud him for his decision. The girl was there to wrestle and she obviously earned the right to be there. What is honorable and respectable about chauvanism????? He was taught that a gentlemen doesn't hurt girls. Well, some of the same men who are taught this principal hurt their wives and daughters every single day by dominating them within the home and telling them they can't do what they want to do. It's a bunch of malarchy if you ask me!


"“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,”"
What? I recognize that he's a kid and not necessarily articulate, but wrestling is a CONTACT sport, not a combat sport. No weapons are allowed, and there are rules, right? And the rules apply to both contestants equally, right? So as long as both contestants are abiding by the rules, let the best wrestler win. It's that simple, and I imagine Cassy would say the same. I don't hear anyone alleging that the female wrestlers are asking for any favoritism here, so that's all in the minds of the sexists like this boy.


I think that allowing guys & girls to wrestle together is just asking for trouble.

No matter how well both sides are at trying to be professional, eventually somebody's going to complain "Oh, Stacey kept grabbing my crotch- she was sexually harassing me" or "Ben felt my boobs and it seemed like it was being done in a sexual manner" or even a case of a boy getting an unfortunate "you know what" after wrestling someone he finds attractive. Then the lawsuits start pouring in, some of which will be from people who just want to make a fast buck off of the system or aren't happy that their little snowflake (male or female) didn't win.

It's not that I view either side as being stronger, just that eventually someone's going to complain and abuse the system to the point where it's just going to go back to where it was before.


some of you clearly have never seen a wrestling match, or you would never think it's appropriate for a heterosexual teenage boy to wrestle a teenage girl. ever.

like someone else pointed out, it's a no-win situation for young men competing against young women in this sport. if you go too hard, you're a jerk and you're not giving her a fighting chance. if you lay off a little, you're a jerk and you're not treating her like an equal.

and for all you people who are saying "men and women should compete against each other in all sports all the time"- you are idiots. look at the olympics: the top female athletes in the world are not as fast or as strong as the top male athletes. that is a biological fact. that is why they do not compete against each other, plain and simple. it will never be an even playing field.


Some of the folks on here need to work on their reading comprehension skills.

He was a pre tournament favorite, her record was average. He would have destroyed her. He chose not to wrestle a girl because for him it's inherently unfair and wrong. His convictions are just that, his convictions. I salute him.

Iowa needs to follow CA and have a girls program.


Rojo - I don't think it's that girls want to wrestle boys, I think the issue is that girls want to wrestle, period. Unfortunately, there are few programs available for girls to wrestle only within their gender.


He only forfeited, because he was going to lose anyway. She has a much better record & he didn't want it known that a girl beat him. Get real


Anybody supporting the boy's position on this is stuck in the 19th century. The world has moved on - it's time the rest of you did, too. The boy has obviously old-fashioned beliefs that will leave him unprepared for the real world, where women get college degrees at a far higher rate than men and will likely be outcompeting him for the rest of his life. The bottom line, this kid didn't "stand by his convictions" - he forfeited a match because he was afraid. Not afraid of losing, but afraid of engaging a woman as his equal. And that attitude will cost him a lot more in the long run than some midwestern wrestling match.


My basketball star son was 12 and the other coaches would send in the girls from his school on him.

The first time this happened, I was confused, thinking, "what is wrong with Brad.....he's not aggressive or even defending or really even in the game?'

Then I realized it was Emily from last year who was guarding him, with her cute pony tail. Athletic, long-legged, tanned and sweet, just what he likes. Thats right, Emily, whom he walked from class to class when they were at the same school. He just gave her all the opportunities that game, and she had a wonderful game. Her team won and his lost. But, he was a gentleman, on the court and off.... Sorry coach!

NO! Male and Female should not compete.

Omar Torrez

As a former middle school and high school wrestler I can say that wrestling women (Unless you are Andy Kauffman!) is a no-win situation. If you try to crush her (Suplex, Saturday Night Ride, Cross face, etc) you will be a graceless, misogynistic jerk. If you let her win, you are eviscerated by your peers. You will be demoted to cheerleader. Thus your competitive drive is thwarted.

If women want to wrestle, (Why???) then they should wrestle with themselves. There must be a limit to the American neurosis of TOTAL EQUALITY, ALL THE TIME. Men and women ARE DIFFERENT, you know...


If women don't compete against men in running, swimming, skiing, boxing or any of the other Olympic sports, or even chess for that matter, why on earth are people insisting on boy-girl wrestling? The boy's stated reasons for not wanting to wrestle the girl are cogent and shared by many in the sport. The issue is not whether girls should wrestle. It's whether forcing boys to wrestle them is fair. To me this misguided policy seem not fair at all.


Let's face the facts that there are certain things a girl can't do. I doubt that she would bet him and at 20-13 she's luck to have even be in the tourney. He should have/ could have made it a painful lesson for her. Just like women aren't in the UFC (yet). A Catch 22 situation no matter how you look at it. If he beat/ hurt her= easy victory; over a girl but IF he lost=he lost to a girl.
rojo and Brainiac: true and funny! XD

Chris Kent

Ha ha it's pretty obvious he was afraid to lose to a young woman.

He ought to be ashamed of himself for denying the young lady a sporting chance to win. He doesn't belong in a tournament if he's going to drag his cultural prejudices in. Maybe he should take up video games.


Much respect to the guy.


Why is there a need for mens and women's sports? Why not just one sport for all sexes per school? Just have basketball, baseball, football, wrestling, track, tennis.

They need to just level the playing field. In tennis Grand Slam events, why do women play the best of only 3 sets while men play the best of 5? The pay is almost the same for less play.


this is so crazy- why the hell should girls be allowed to wrestle with the boys? all it will do is casue some girl to run and sue for sexual harrassment for too agressive maneuvers or innapropriate contact- it happens even with guys against guys so bringing a vulnerable female into the picture wont help it at all especially with how people coddle women as these pure ..helpless creatures-- boys vs boys- girls vs girls period!

Maria Gutierrez

Kudos to this gentleman. BTW what a weird game ... girls vs boys in wrestling


Wait a minute! How could the kid wrestle for Linn-Mar if he was home-schooled??? In any case, families that home-school their kids are generally religious whack-jobs or just strange in general. Seriously, how many home-schooled kids do you know who aren't at least a LITTLE weird? See what I mean? :)


What a wrong. Every thing must be twisted (no pun), it's beyond PC and now it's just base what we are now. No shame just me first


This is ridiculous. Women aren't men. What is it with women who think they can compete with men on a strength level? At least drag queens know they are being ridiculous.


Wish they had girls wrestling when I went to high school. I might have taken up the sport! Heh, heh.


LOL, he was probably afraid she'd pwn him


Above is says, "California is one of three states, along with Hawaii and Texas, that sponsor girls-only high school wrestling tournaments."

Wrong, Washington also does.



You are using one anecdotal situation to paint a rather broad brush stroke. This girl obviously belongs there and if she can get this far then good for her. If the boys are too afraid to beat her or they go easy on her then they don't deserve to be there. Period. Time for people to step into the 21st century. Time for women to get a chance to play with the boys. If they can't handle some situations then they will know it. I think in this case women [or girls] can handle high school wrestling.


I don't see any reason why a girl can't wrestle if that's what she wants to do. Even if I did, it wouldn't be any of my business. The commenters on this board seem to think that it's their call whether this girl should wrestle or not. If the girl can wrestle competitively and wants to, then she should do it. And if all the guys just forfeit because they're afraid of losing to a girl then that's their problem.
I love how he hides behind his religion too, as if his God wants him to be a cowardly chauvinistic pig. You are free to believe in whatever Beings you want. You are not free to restrict the rights of others based on those beliefs. I say the guy deserved the loss.


Honestly I see both sides. You have a girl that wants to do a sport she loves. She makes it this far and gets a win by default, is less than honorable by any athletes standards.I have seen many women accomplish alot in many sports and I have met many that could take on many full grown in mnay combat sports. Then you have a boy with strong beliefs who feels it is unfair to face a face a young woman and is a afraid of competing due to our social standards. Yet if he loses he will be considered an embarassment. But if he wins, he wins state by beating a girl. I heard all this on the radio this morning, and both make valid points. So its hard to choose a side. But I honor the kid for standing for his beleifs.

Ben Scanlan

@ Lisa Livingston...Well said, I am very impressed with this mans decision.


Seriously? He'd throw away a state championship for that? I wrestled in NY when girls were first allowed to wrestle, 1988-92. My coach said flat out he wouldn't let us wrestle a girl. That was TWENTY years ago.

I thought that was crazy then let alone now. The last thing competitive wrestling is is sexual. If she's ok getting grabbed in the crotch, breast or what have you, I have no problem with her being on the mat to compete.

PC gone crazy.


What is with these girls and their parents that makes them want to wrestle boys. My son is a wrestler and once he faced a girl. I told him...if she wants to wrestle with boys you show her what it's like". When the match finally got under way (it had to be stopped several times cause her hair kept falling out of the skull cap, she was wearing) my son took he down hard. She began crying, they stopped the match some people in the crowd were yelling out "ohhhhh, and come on she's a girl". My pinned her. She sat in the back of the gym crying, my son felt guilty!!! We found out the next day the girl received a concussion! GIRLS DO NOT BELONG IN BOYS WRESTLING, THEY ONLY WIN BECAUSE THE BOYS TAKE IT EASY ON THEM!

Lisa Livingston

Wow. How honorable for someone so young to stand by his convictions, especially when many people today might consider him a fool.

Marleen Burgess

Congratulations to Casey. I respect the boys situation but wrestling is not offered to girls in most high schools. Maybe now high schools will consider girls wrestling. My granddaughters wrestle in Waukon Iowa, but its grade school. She loves it and I hope she will continue to wrestle. The men may have to deal with the girls. It is wrestling-and that's it.


it is more painful for a girl in wrestling to win by default. than to get pinned like any other wrestler.


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