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Jaslynn Gallegos On Being A Woman In Wrestling


A high school wrestler named Brendan Johnston refused to compete against two opponents and forfeited those matches at the Colorado State Wrestling Championship last month. Those two opponents, Angel Rios and Jaslynn Gallegos, are women. Brendan Johnston told reporters he wasn't comfortable wrestling with women. Jaslynn Gallegos went on to win in fifth place in that tournament. She is a senior at Skyview High School and joins us now from Brighton, Colo. Ms. Gallegos, thanks so much for being with us.

JASLYNN GALLEGOS: Yeah. No problem.

SIMON: First, congratulations.

JASLYNN: Thank you.

SIMON: How did you feel when Brendan Johnston declined to compete against you?

JASLYNN: Well, one of my things is I just want to be a wrestler, not necessarily defined as a girl wrestler. So it kind of hurt me a little bit because, you know, I just want to be this wrestler. And my gender is holding me back.

SIMON: Brendan Johnston told reporters, quote, "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." Do you accept that?

JASLYNN: Yeah, I mean, everybody has their own beliefs. But at the same time, it's not just black and white. Like, you can't really change what somebody believes. Like, for me, I believe that I'm just a wrestler. And he believes that you're not just a wrestler. You know, you're a female wrestler.

SIMON: Now, let me ask. You know what's going on in this country and around the world. Can you see in this day and age why a young man just may not want to put himself in the position of applying force on a woman or pressing against her even if it's in a public athletic competition?

JASLYNN: You know, I feel like that whole situation is something that the wrestling community has gone past, especially, like, since I've wrestled hundreds of guys. Like, that's not an issue here, you know? It's kind of unheard of in the wrestling community for a girl to say something happened during a match.

It's wrestling, and I think we all understand that it's a very physical sport. You're literally fighting someone to put them to their back. It's - you're not thinking about anything else at the time because you're trying to win a match. For me, when I wrestle, it's literally all muscle memory because I practice my shots and my stand-ups and my sit-outs and my pinning combination so often I don't even have to think when I wrestle.

SIMON: Anything you'd like to say to boys who might be reluctant to wrestle you?

JASLYNN: You know, just wrestle me. You know, you might get pinned. You might win by one or two points. You might even pin me. But I'm definitely worth giving a match to, you know?

SIMON: And I gather your brothers are wrestlers, too, right?

JASLYNN: Yes. My older brother, he wrestled his whole life, as well - qualified for state. And then my two little brothers, they are currently wrestling.

SIMON: Bet you can beat them.

JASLYNN: Oh, yeah, definitely - both of...

SIMON: (Laughter).

JASLYNN: ...Them at the same time.

SIMON: (Laughter) I gather you started wrestling when you were 5.

JASLYNN: Yes. I did.

SIMON: Well, so you've been at it a while. Anything you would like to tell young women who want to wrestle?

JASLYNN: You know, just like anything, there's going to be points where it gets really hard, and you don't know if you can do it. But, you know, if you push yourself and just keep going, especially if you love it, it's worth it in the end to just keep on doing it.

SIMON: Jaslynn Gallegos, a wrestler at Skyview High School in Thornton, Colo., thanks so much for being with us.

JASLYNN: Yeah. No problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF VETIVER SONG, "BACKWARDS SLOWLY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.