A Colorado high school student forfeited the state tournament match rather than wrestle a girl during the match.
Brendan Johnston, 18, a senior at the Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., forfeited his match against Jaslynn Gallegos, a senior at Skyview High in the first round of the tournament on Thursday, Feb. 21, KDVR reported. A few days later on Saturday, Feb. 23, he forfeited the match against Angel Rios, a junior at Valley High, in the third-round consolation match, ending his high school wrestling career.
The student cited his religious and personal beliefs for forfeiting the matches.
‘It’s so physical… physically close. I don’t think that’s really appropriate with a young lady. It’s also very aggressive and I’m not really, I guess, comfortable with that,’ Johnston told KDVR.
Johnston has never wrestled a girl before and also forfeited against a female opponent in the state tournament last year, the media outlet reported.
‘And I guess the physical aggression, too,’ the student told the Denver Post. ‘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.’
Johnston is certainly correct. Wrestling is an intensely aggressive sport, perhaps the only one that demands constant, skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin, that is, separated only by thin layers of spandex. By the end of a match, wrestlers are liberally bathed in each other’s bodily fluids. Grabbing the genitals of another wrestler is unlawful, so to speak, but any number of holds and moves–including desperation flailing–can find wrestlers making direct contact with the crotches of their opponents. Add female breasts into the mix, and unless a male opponent is willing to go all out—as one must to win a match—there is going to be a great deal of touching of portions of the female anatomy that outside wrestling and without permission, would land any guy in jail, and forever brand them a sex offender.
The other factor is the aggression about which Johnston speaks. One wins by forcing, through strength, skill, will and overwhelming aggression, their opponent to submit. The kind of men that exercise that kind of aggression against women are normally put behind bars, and deservedly so. Isn’t it odd that “women’s advocates” decry “toxic masculinity,” which surely includes male aggression, but have nothing to say about a young man groping a woman under the guise of wrestling?
One of the most important lessons any young man can learn is how and when to control their natural aggression. Do we truly want a society in which men treat women with no restraints? There are models of such societies in every war zone, where women are beaten, raped, sold and kept as slaves. Lest anyone try to suggest it, I am not equating wrestling with terrorism, merely making a point about human nature.
Rios and Gallegos ended up making history after becoming the first females to place at the tournament. Rios placed fourth and Gallegos placed fifth.
This whole time that I’ve wrestled, it’s just me trying to prove a point that I am just a wrestler,’ Gallegos said. ‘And so the fact that my gender is something that kind of holds me back still is just a little nerve-racking, but I respect his decision. It’s fine.”
Rios said while she was disappointed by Johnston’s decision to forfeit, she’s hoping her story will motivate others to follow.
‘I’m hoping it motivates them to be the best they can,’ Rios said.
The problem here is not entirely Rios and Gallegos. One can appreciate their determination and interest in sports. The problem is the adult sports authority of Colorado.
Sports are provided based on interest. In Colorado and elsewhere, there is very little interest among girls in wrestling. The same is true of football. Girls are interested in sufficient numbers to justify soccer, basketball, softball, swimming, gymnastics and other programs.
Many years ago, after allowing my sophomore kids to handle a variety of swords in support of our readings of the Arthurian legends, a number of kids earnestly asked if we could form a fencing club. I am the past vice-president and co-founder of the Wyoming Division of the U.S. Fencing Association, so I asked for permission. The then-superintendent refused.
Fencing is a sport with male and female teams, and women do very well indeed. It would have cost the school district only the occasional use of a small area of a gym, or even the dance studio. I was willing to coach for free. Why did they refuse? I suspect because they didn’t want anything to compete with established athletic programs. It was likely to catch on, and in Texas, nothing is allowed to compete with football.
But in Colorado, and some other states, in a misguided attempt at fairness, equity, diversity, what have you, adults have decided to put girl’s in harm’s way. They’ve decided, rather than simply saying, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have a girl’s wrestling program; there’s just not enough interest to justify the expense,” to put honorable boys like Johnston in an untenable position.
Obviously, not all boys feel as he did. Some are more than happy to aggressively manhandle a girl for daring to intrude on their sport. That’s the nature of male aggression. Or perhaps some use only the force necessary to win, being careful to avoid—to the degree possible–touching girls in sensitive places. Because boys are generally much stronger than girls, they can usually get away with that.
But in allowing girls to compete in wrestling with boys, wrong-headed adults push male/female relationships beyond reasonable, appropriate boundaries. Rios and Gallegos are obviously strong young women, strong in many ways. But their desires—the desires of a very few—deprive boys like Johnston of the deserved results of years of hard work and dedication.
As I’ve previously noted, girls can participate in a great many sports, even sports like fencing, Kendo, bicycling, etc. not provided in public schools. But you’re discriminating against girls by denying them the right to wrestle! There is no such right. One would like to think that in school districts strapped for cash, as many are, responsible adults would eliminate sports programs rather than academic programs, but we all know how that works out.
In this case, Rios and Gallegos made history, at least in part because Johnston would not manhandle them. They are fine with that. Some might think such an accomplishment not an accomplishment at all.
Let’s hear from Johnston, who obviously has far more common sense and maturity than the adults involved in running scholastic wrestling in Colorado:
Wrestling is something we do, it’s not who we are,’ Johnston told The Denver Post. ‘And there are more important things to me than my wrestling. And I’m willing to have those priorities.
Johnston will do well, but it’s a preventable shame he was forced to choose between being a gentleman and winning a medal in the state championships his final year in high school. It was he, not Colorado wrestling authorities, who was looking out for the best interests of young women.