When high school wrestler 18-year-old Brendan Johnson saw who he was matched up against in the state tournament, he withdrew from the competition. Although Johnson, from Colorado, attests that he quit the tournament because of his religious beliefs, critics wonder if it was something different. Johnson was matched up against female wrestlers and decided to abandon the match instead of facing off with them in the ring.
Last month, Brandon withdrew from his slated match against Skyview High senior Jaslynn Gallegos in the first round of the tournament because he refused to wrestle a girl. Then when he got put into the consolation matches, he gave up against the third opponent was Angel Rios from Valley High.
Both of the women he forfeited against placed in the tournament. Angel Rios placed fourth while Jaslynn Gallegos placed fifth.
Brandon Johnson hails from Classical Academy in Colorado Springs. Although his forfeits ended his high school wrestling career, he said it was better to lose by giving up than to wrestle a girl because it was against his religious and personal beliefs.
Brendan identifies as a Christian. In an interview with KDVR, he argued that being that close to a girl was a violation of his religion.
“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.”
Brendan was happy to explain his views on Christianity and wrestling to the news source.
“There is something that I really do find problematic about the idea of wrestling with a girl, and a part of that does come from my faith and my belief. And a part of that does come from how I was raised to treat women as well as maybe from different experiences and things.”
Although Brandon refused to wrestle because his opponents were girls, he does not see it being an issue with equality.
“I don’t think that I am looking at them as not equal. I am saying that they are women and that is different than being men because I do believe that men and women are different and we are made differently. But I still believe that women are of equal value to men. I don’t think that seeing men and women as different [opposes] the idea of equality.”
Brandon’s forfeitures were so controversial, he got another interview with The Denver Post. He admitted that since he started the sport in seventh grade, he had never wrestled with a girl.
“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. Wrestling is something we do, it’s not who we are. And there are more important things to me than my wrestling. And I’m willing to have those priorities.”
Gallegos began wrestling when she was five. She found Johnson’s forfeit to be sexist.
Gallegos spoke to The Washington Post about how she felt about Brandon quitting because she was a girl.
“This whole time that I’ve wrestled, it’s just me trying to prove a point that I am just a wrestler,” she told the Post. “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. My whole thing is that I’m not a girl wrestler; I’m just a wrestler. So it kind of doesn’t hurt my feelings, but I do kind of take it to heart.”
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