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Posted at 3:55 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Iowa wrestler defaults rather than face girl in state high school tournament

By Cindy Boren

The decision Joel Northrup made can't have been an easy one, especially for a wrestler with a 35-4 record entering the state tournament. But rather than face a girl in the first round, Northrup defaulted and Cassy Herkelman became the first girl to win a match in the Iowa state tournament.

A home-schooled sophomore who wrestles for Linn-Mar, Northrup was a favorite in the 112-pound class. Because of his default, he will now wrestle in the consolation bracket. Herkelmen, of Cedar Falls, entered the competition with a 20-13 record.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and [Ottumwa's] Megan [Black] and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times," Northrup said in a statement. Herkelman and Black are the first girls to qualify for the 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."

"It's nice to get the first win and have her be on the way to the medal round," Bill Herkelman, Cassie's father, told the Associated Press in a text message. "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."

Did Northrup make the right decision? Scott Bordow thinks so. Northrup may face the same situation again in the consolation bracket. Black, who also wrestles in the 112-pound weight class, was pinned in her first match.

By Cindy Boren  | February 17, 2011; 3:55 PM ET
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A noble sentiment, I suppose, but look at it another way.

What if he had declined to go up against a black wrestler because he thought it wrong to inflict more violence upon the black race? It's a slap in the face to Cassy, who I don't think got that far by wrestling giant teddy bears.

He may have been well-intentioned, but that doesn't make his decision any less sexist.

Posted by: BrazCubas | February 17, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse


"..inflict more violence upon the black race."


Hey, Braz, if you're White, I'd like to drop you off in ANY Black neighborhood in D.C. at 2AM and let's see how many 'good' things happen to YOU there. Jerk.

Posted by: notinca | February 17, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Ron Burgundy: "Boy, that escalated quickly… I mean, that really got out of hand fast."

Champ Kind: "It jumped up a notch."

Posted by: NateinthePDX | February 17, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

The Iowa high school wrestler who forfeited match against female opponent illustrates a serious dilemma. Did he make the right choice? I don't think you can blame him for not wanting to wrestle a girl in such a physical, sometimes violent sport.

Posted by: philtortora | February 18, 2011 1:03 AM | Report abuse

I wrestled in high school in Iowa 15 years ago. I saw female wrestlers. Some of my teammates wrestled them. Those girls made a choice to participate in a sport they knew could be physically tough and kind of violent.

I respect every girl who made the choice to participate. I feel like anybody who chooses not to wrestle their opponent because that opponent is a girl is disrespecting that choice.

It saddens me that someone can't look past gender when it comes to competing at the pinnacle of their sport. Maybe he didn't deserve to be there in the first place.

Posted by: TroyL | February 18, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Do we really have to go any further than he is a politics, no agenda, no prejudice, no discrimination, nothing sexist...he is just not comfortable and has not given much thought to the implications that others might bring. It may take him a little time to wrap his head around it is just competition and she is just another opponent.

Posted by: Dejaiz-MiddleLeft | February 18, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

girl wrestlers in iowa are really nothing new. back in 1985/86 when i was a freshman (yes, i am old), one of my classmates, named Jackie, was literally the first female wrestler to win matches. won 4 by default, and won TWO by actually wrestling!

Posted by: superpaperdudelives | February 18, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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