DENVER — Two Colorado high school wrestlers made history on Saturday, becoming the first females to place at the state tournament.
Angel Rios of Valley High School and Jaslynn Gallegos of Skyview High School needed one win each to make history at the 84th Colorado High School Activities Association tournament at the Pepsi Center.
Rios finished fourth and Gallegos fifth in the Class 3A 106-pound weight class.
Brendan Johnston of The Classical Academy forfeited his matches against the girls. He declined to wrestle Gallegos in the first round on Thursday and did the same when he drew Rios on Saturday.
“Right now it’s kind of still a blur,” Rios explained.
In a sport that’s predominantly made up of boys, Rios was inspired to hit the mat at a young age.
“I have three older brothers who are wrestlers, so I was constantly around the mat,” Rios said.
Over the course of her 15-year career, Rios has faced her share of skepticism. But heading into the state championship tournament this past weekend, with a 23-3 record, Rios was ready to put up a fight.
However, Johnston says he does not ever wrestle females.
“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 said.
While Rios said she was disappointed with the decision, ultimately, the two have no bad blood.
“I think it’s possible to forfeit while still respecting them as athletes and competitors. I really don’t want to disrespect the hard work these ladies have put in. They’ve done a lot of that too. Some people think by forfeiting I’m disrespecting them. That’s not my intention at all,” Johnston said.
Johnston also made the decision to forfeit a female opponent at the 2018 state tournament.
“My coach always says, ‘Wrestling is what we do, not who we are,’ and that’s something I’ve taken to heart,” Johnston said. “The decision I made was important to me, enough to know that I’d be done with my career after that – at least for high school. I’m OK with that.”
For Rios, she is hoping her success in the sport will inspire other girls to follow.
“I’m hoping it motivates them to be the best they can,” Rios said.
Rios and Johnston both have aspirations to wrestle in college.