A high school senior chose to sit out the Colorado state wrestling championships in order to avoid sparring with two opponents who ended up becoming the first female wrestlers to ever place in the tournament.
The Denver Post’s reporting of the incident was really something, placing Colorado teen Brendan Johnston at the center of the story as the one making history. In the article, Johnson said he didn’t want to compete against Jaslynn Gallegos and Angel Rios because of the “physical contact” wrestling entails:
“I’m not really comfortable with a couple of things with wrestling a girl,” Johnston told The Denver Post. “The physical contact, there’s a lot of it in wrestling. And I guess the physical aggression, too. I don’t want to treat a young lady like that on the mat. Or off the mat. And not to disrespect the heart or the effort that she’s put in. That’s not what I want to do, either.”
But in an interview with NPR published on March 10, Gallegos said she just wants to wrestle, a sport she’s been training for since she was five years old:
“I just want to be a wrestler, not necessarily defined as a girl wrestler, so it kind of hurt me a little bit,” she told NPR’s Scott Simon. “I just want to be this wrestler and my gender is holding me back.”
She’s one of 16,562 female high school wrestlers in the U.S. However, just 12 states have adopted girls’ wrestling with dedicated state championships. That means competing alongside boys is the only option for many of those athletes. This year, Colorado approved a pilot program to give female wrestlers their own bracket, though Gallegos decided to wrestle against the boys in the state championship.
Gallegos took fifth place in the tournament, and Rios came in fourth, marking the first time female wrestlers have placed at the state level. Gallegos plans to continue wrestling in college.
The NPR story speculates that the hesitation to wrestle female opponents may stem from anxiety over the #MeToo movement, which is utter bullshit:
“It’s kind of unheard of in the wrestling community for a girl to say something happened during a match,” Gallegos said. “It’s wrestling and I think we all understand that it’s a very physical sport. You’re literally fighting someone to put them to their back.”
Her message to the boys hesitant to touch girls in a sport they’ve both trained for and consented to participate in: “Just wrestle me.”