imageI have tremendous respect for Joel Northup, a sophomore homeschooled student who wrestles for Linn-Mar High School in Marion, IA.  Joel went 35-4 this year, and qualified for the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament in the 112 lbs. weight class.  Two girls also qualified for the tournament, the first time in state history, and Joel was supposed to wrestle Cassy Herkelman, a freshman at Cedar Falls High School who qualified after going 20-13 this year.

This morning in the first round Northup refused and chose to default instead.  He cited religious reasons and the fact that he was raised that this is not “how you treat a girl.”  He released a statement through his school later this afternoon:

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan (another girl from Ottumwa, IA who qualified) 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.

Some have said this decision was made because he was afraid he’d lose to a girl.  The kid was a favorite to win the tournament, so no that isn’t it.  He stood by his principles even when it cost him, and that is something we all should admire whether or not you agree with his decision.

I happen to agree.  Having wrestled myself, I understand the sport well enough along with different moves, etc. to know that there are positions you can be placed in that would be inappropriate.  There are many sports where girls and boys can compete, but because of the physical contact involved I don’t believe wrestling should be one of them.  Joel wanted to avoid the very appearance of impropriety.

More importantly I think it is a sad commentary about our culture when people don’t understand why he made this decision.  I do.  My son wrestled for a couple of years until he decided he wasn’t interested.  We were confronted with the possibility that he may eventually have to wrestle a girl (something I never even had to think about when I wrestled).  My wife and I (and my son) believe that was inappropriate, and it went against everything we had taught him about how he should treat women.

We’ve raised him to treat his mom and sisters with gentleness and respect.  We’ve taught him to never, ever use physical force against a girl (unless there is a legitimate need for real self-defense with an older woman).  He does things like *gasp* opens doors for his mother and sisters.  We want to raise a modern-day knight.  I assume it is the same with the Northups, as it is with many Christians within (and without) the homeschool community.

So Joel was to abandon that in order to win a wrestling match?

Joel you made us proud.  In the spirit of Eric Liddell you stood for what you believe.  Hold your head high.  Thank God chivalry isn’t dead, at least on the wrestling mat at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA today.

17 comments
  1. I agree with his decision and if put in the same situation would do the same. However, I have a problem with your comments about treating women with gentleness and raising your son as a “modern day knight”. If women want to be treated as fully equal then why teach him to open doors for women? Along the same lines…why give up a seat anywhere for women? Respect? Absolutly. Until given reason otherwise.

  2. Did I miss something? Is chauvinism the new chivalry? This was nothing more than an act of despicable sexism.

    In refusing to wrestle his opponent, this boy has deprived her of the sweet taste of hard won victory. No matter how far she goes, no matter how many matches she wins in this tournament, all of her success will be tempered by the knowledge that one of her “wins” wasn’t an honest contest.

    That is not fair.

    That is not right.

    Herkelman entered this competition to compete and win, not to be looked down upon by condescending high schoolers who believe girls to be unworthy of entering such a “violent” realm of the male. No, Herkelman came to prove that she could be just as good as a boy.

    She did not deserve to be told that this was not her place to compete in.

    1. It would not have been fair for the reason I believe many of her victories were won….because the boys she wrestled were constaintly worried about where to put their hands instead of wrestling.

  3. Chauvinism is believing someone cannot do something due to their gender. That was not the case here. This young man did not feel it would be appropriate to be groping these ladies even under the sanction of sports. That is a personal belief, not condescension.
    I admire Joel. Most young people would not be willing to choose their beliefs over a chance to win a state title. I am sure he struggled with that decision, as well as with worry about the way it would affect the two ladies who were in the tournament. Yet he chose not to sacrifice his beliefs on how to treat women in order to appease or win a tournament. I hope there are still young men like this when my daughter gets to high school.

  4. Bravo to the young man in showing that his convictions are of such importance to him. I also would like to commend his parents for providing him that moral compass missing in many areas of todays society.

    Should the young lady feel that she was cheated her victory, I would like to see it said from her. She was given the win (by default) and cannot remove that win. The win will show up anytime her coach or team plans for the next competition. It is highly unlikely the coach nor the team is going to say at the next competition, “Don’t count that win, it was earned through a default.”

  5. I was deeply gladdened by this article. I’d seen some Facebook posts about it, but not the whole story. It exemplifies something that our American society just doesn’t grasp… as seen by Extemper4life’s comments. We have elevated sports and winning above everything. It is a “god” to us and we worship at its temples (arenas, stadiums) all the time. When someone doesn’t bow the knee to our “god”, we want to become like the kings of old and through them into a furnace burning so hot, even the king’s men would die as a result. What this young man did took far great courage to do than simply wrestling a girl and putting his reputation on the line should he have lost. He’s the far better for this brave act. So are the few who will read it and understand. I could only hope that others, like Extemper4life, will somehow come to understand that winning isn’t everything.

  6. I assume that girls are allowed to compete on boy’s teams because there is no corresponding girl’s team on which to participate. But suppose a boy decided he wanted to play volleyball. Would he be allowed to compete on a girl’s team because there is no corresponding boy’s team available to him? If not, then we have a double standard. If he is allowed to play and is a reasonably good athlete, it would not be difficult to imagine him starting and being a dominating player. In fact, if a group of guys in a single school decided to do this, it would not be hard to imagine that most of the starting girl’s team could be composed of boys. How would that sit with the girls who tried out for the team? How would that sit with the opposing teams comprised of all girls?

    I think people need to be better at thinking through what they are doing.

  7. Thank you for your article that gets to the facts and principles of this situation. I believe that Joel had a 35-4 record though:) You did just as great with the article as Joel did with his decision.

  8. If you intend to discriminate against women or girls, you should not be allowed to participate in the sport. Start a Christian tournament then, where boys and girls are separated – just like they teach in Islam.

    1. He didn’t say she couldn’t participate, and neither did I. But we do have men’s and women’s sports… are you comparing basketball to Islam?

      He choose to sacrifice a chance at the title by not wrestling and losing by default. I really fail to see how that is discrimination.

  9. I absolutely agree. It’s great to see that chivalry still exists and that he respected himself, her and God enough to default. He is being bashed for it all over the internet and I’m sure he knew something like that would happen. Good for him.

  10. I am astonished to see Joel Northup’s actions equated with chivalry. He did not forfeit the match for Cassy Herkelman’s sake. He forfeited the match because HE was uncomfortable.

    I can sympathize with his discomfort, and he was within his rights to forfeit, but let’s not pretend that robbing her of her opportunity to compete was somehow an act of gallantry.

    Also, there is a clear distinction between an act of criminal violence on another person and violence within the context of a sporting event, with rules, safety precautions, and referees. I am pretty sure most boys are not so stupid that they can’t see the difference. (Moreover, no one should hit ANYONE outside the context of sport, self-defense, or war.)

  11. I am astonished to see Joel Northup’s actions equated with chivalry. He did not forfeit the match for Cassy Herkelman’s sake. He forfeited the match because HE was uncomfortable.

    I can sympathize with his discomfort, and he was within his rights to forfeit, but let’s not pretend that robbing her of her opportunity to compete was somehow an act of gallantry.

    Also, there is a clear distinction between an act of criminal violence on another person and violence within the context of a sporting event, with rules, safety precautions, and referees. I am pretty sure most boys are not so stupid that they can’t see the difference. (Moreover, no one should hit ANYONE outside the context of sport, self-defense, or war.)

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