Angel Rios made history when she, and another wrestler (Jaslynn Gallegos), became the first girls to place at Colorado’s state wrestling tournament, in fourth and fifth place, respectively. In the handful of articles that I read about the event, that should have been the short summary of a pretty amazing moment, but no, I was treated to this and this instead. A couple of issues I had with both articles:
Her victory is about him.
Both articles suggested quite flagrantly that Rios wouldn’t be up there if Johnston had not have withdrawn. They also make a point of mentioning that he forfeited to her four times in the past, leading readers to wonder, how many of her wins did she earn? No mention is made of her skills, her prowess. It’s not even considered that perhaps she would have beaten him based on her previous performances and past opponents. No, as stated in the Denver Post headline, ‘wrestler made history when he knocked himself out of the state tournament.’
His unwillingness to compete is heroic
Read through the comments in both articles and Johnston is lauded as having a ‘good head on his shoulders,’ and being a ‘gentleman’. I would expect that if someone flat out refused to face a difficult situation head on that would make him cowardly, but because his decision is morally/faith based, we call it something else: honorable. I understand his point about not wanting to ‘treat a girl that way,’ and I also respect his decision to walk away. It’s his choice, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to add a little context: she’s there because she’s good enough, not because someone wanted to make a statement about gender equality. Next, wrestling is not assault. This is a controlled form of combat. There’s a ref, officials, protective gear. This isn’t a bar brawl that spilled into the streets. And finally, a missed opportunity to understand nuance: how would a person fight someone that they wanted to beat, but not harm? Is there a way to learn how to wrestle that he can maintain his dignity and hers? He’ll never learn (and we’ll never know) because he walked away.
No better place to compete
One thing both articles neglected to mention was that the CHSAA (the Colorado High School Activities Association), the governing body which oversees the state’s schools sports, doesn’t offer girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport. Meaning that though it is recognized (as it is offered as a pilot program), without sanctioning, there’s no postseason and tournament wins don’t count toward an official record. So at this stage, it’s not more than a glorified hobby. For Rios to wrestle at a level worthy of her skill, she needed to compete with the boys and not only did she compete, SHE WON!