Wrestler Joel Northup Forfeits to Female Opponent in Iowa State Championships

Home-schooled high schooler gives up his chance to become a state champion.

ByABC News
February 18, 2011, 9:14 AM

Feb. 18, 2011 — -- High school wrestler Cassy Herkelman, the first girl to win a match in a state tournament in Iowa, lost her quarterfinals match today in the Iowa State Championship.

A freshman at Cedar Falls, Herkelman lost 5-1 to Indianola's Matt Victor in their 112-pound matchup.

Herkelman won her first match by default when the highly ranked wrestler Joel Northrup walked off the mat without even touching his opponent. In Iowa, the statewide wrestling tournament is as big as the Superbowl and the World Series, and Northrup's forfeit sent shockwaves through the stadium.

Northrup, a sophomore who is home-schooled and wrestling for Linn-Mar High School, defaulted because his opponent, Herkelman, is a girl. He wrestled with his conscience instead, his father explained.

In a statement Northrup wrote, "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."

His father explains, "Wrestling is a combat sport and they're out there and it gets violent at times, and my son doesn't believe that girls should be engaged in that way," said Jamie Northrup.

"It is a decision that his family made and that's what it is," said Scott Mahmens, the Linn-Mar athletic director. "Obviously his beliefs are more important to him [than the chance to be a state champion],"

Not just one, but two girls, qualified to compete against the boys, for the first time in this tournament's 75-year history. Herkelman, a freshman from Cedar Falls, became the first to score a win.

Megan Black, who was pinned quickly in her opening match, just wants to be seen as an athlete.

"When I step on the mat, I'm just ready to wrestle. And I'll wrestle anyone in front of me," Black said.

The growing trend of girls who are taking up wrestling has been spoofed on the show "Glee," opening debate over this co-ed contact sport and providing opportunities for female athletes to make history.

"To have a girl get her arm raised at what has traditionally been a boy's high school state wrestling tournament, it's a moment that's been noticed in Iowa and clearly today it's been noticed beyond Iowa," said Bryce Miller, the executive sports editor of the Des Moines Register.

Herkelman, who isn't speaking publicly until after the tournament, has her hopes pinned on being the first girl ever to take home a medal.

ABC affiliate KCRG, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.