DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa high school wrestler who became the first girl to win a state tournament match when her opponent refused to face her was eliminated from contention after losing both her matches Friday.
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Cedar Falls freshman Cassy Herkelman lost 5-1 on points to Indianola’s Matt Victor in their 112-pound quarterfinals match, and was pinned by Des Moines Hoover senior Jordan Jones in their consolation match.
Despite the controversy she was thrust into, there was little reaction from the 6,000 spectators at Wells Fargo Arena when Herkelman lost her first match. There were several other matches taking place at the time.
Herkelman had a 20-13 record entering the tournament, but was deprived of the chance to show her skills when her favored opponent, sophomore Joel Northrup, refused to wrestle her. Northrup, who is home-schooled but competes for Linn-Mar High School, said wrestling a girl would conflict with his religious beliefs.
Ottumwa High School sophomore Megan Black, the only other girl to make the tournament in its 85-year history, watched both of Herkelman’s matches from the stands Friday. She was eliminated Thursday after losing both her matches.
“She tried hard, so that’s good,” Black said.
Tournament organizers didn’t make Herkelman or Victor available to the media after their match, though Herkelman was expected to address reporters later Friday.
Iowa High School Athletic Association spokesman Alan Beste said Herkelman was “pretty emotional” after losing to Jones and needed time with her family.
On Thursday, Northrup said he respected Herkelman and Black but didn’t think girls should compete against boys in wrestling. In a statement issued through his school, he called wrestling a combat sport and said “it can get violent at times.”
Herkelman’s father, Bill Herkelman, told The Associated Press that he respected Northrup’s decision and wished Northrup well.
High school and college wrestling draw huge crowds in Iowa, and the annual tournament in Des Moines is followed closely throughout the state.