In reading about a Colorado high school wrestler who declined to compete against a girl, I couldn’t help but think that holy ghost — as we call them here at GetReligion — might be haunting the story.
I first caught this recent news via Yahoo! Sports, which made no reference at all to religion in writing about Brendan Johnson.
Curious, I clicked the Yahoo! link to the original source material from the Denver Post.
Here’s the deal: On one hand, the Denver Post piece is extremely compelling and readable.
Let’s start with a big chunk of the opening (more text than I usually copy and paste) because it really sets the scene:
Once the curveball leaves life’s fingertips, the swinging part is up to you. The way Judy Johnston tells it, she just happened to snatch the first open seat she saw near the floor of the gymnasium at Legend High School in Parker last month. What she didn’t know at the time was that the open seat just happened to be next to the one occupied by Angel Rios’ mother, Cher. Or that Angel, a junior 106-pound wrestler at Valley High in Gilcrest, just happened to draw a matchup against her son, Brendan, a senior wrestler from The Classical Academy.
Or how Cher was going to react once she heard Brendan wouldn’t wrestle a woman. Not now. Not ever.
“It was a fluke,” Johnston recalls from a stairwell inside the Pepsi Center during the 2019 Colorado High School Activities Association State Wrestling Tournament. “I had been told Angel is really good, she wants to go the Olympics, so we knew a little about her. And the (Valley) coach came by and said, ‘He’s going to forfeit.’ And Angel came over to her mom and said, ‘He’s going to forfeit.’ She was disappointed. Her mom was disappointed. And me not being able to turn away from a challenging conversation…”
With Cher fuming, Judy introduced herself.
“Well,” she said, words dancing carefully to avoid stepping on any toes, “my son happens to be the one that’s forfeiting.’”
“Why is he doing that?” Cher replied.
“She explained why she felt disrespected,” Johnston recalled. “I said, ‘I totally understand that.’ I said, ‘I know she’s worked hard, but he feels it’s not appropriate to interact with a woman that way, to be physical on or off the mat, at this stage in life.
“So I kind of explained my side. It took a while, but she was able to kind of say, ‘Yeah, I kind of see your point.’ I wished her well and wished Angel well. And that was the end of it.”
Only it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.