And, the winner is …. We don’t know his name but he’s the real champ.
“He” is the 17-year-old Rio Grande High School wrestling team member who was confronted by his much larger teammate, state champion Nick Chavez, in a highly publicized late February incident in the school cafeteria. A sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school says he saw the 18-year-old Chavez take $15 from the younger, smaller kid, knock his lunch tray out of his hand then slap him in the face when he asked for his money back. The deputy filed a report and charged Chavez with larceny and battery. APS suspended him for three days, making him ineligible for the state wrestling tournament and therefore ineligible to defend his 195 pound title. Then someone got South Valley politicians involved. Several made calls to APS about the suspension. When APS refused to overturn it, the family got a lawyer, went to court and convinced a judge to grant an injunction blocking the suspension and letting Chavez wrestle. He’s a damn good wrestler and he won another state championship.
Chavez and his supporters have tried to pass off the incident as just typical “horseplay” between two teenage boys. When all this was first unfolding, we didn’t know for sure what happened. There was no reason to doubt the deputy’s report, but we hadn’t really heard Nick Chavez’ side of the story, so we couldn’t be certain that he is a bully. We still don’t know his side of the story. He spoke little when the case went to court yesterday, saying only that he was sorry that he and the victim haven’t remained friends. The victim did speak in court. (I hate calling him “victim” because when you read what follows, you’ll realize this kid is not afraid to stand up for himself against any bully, teenage or adult.) He was not there in person because he had to take an exam. But his attorney read a statement the boy wrote, the most articulate statement by a 17 year old that I’ve ever seen. We’ve linked it here for you to read. When you do, decide for yourself if it was just “horseplay”. You decide for yourself if Chavez was a bully. You decide for yourself about the behavior of the politicians and other adults who inserted themselves into this sordid mess.
In the end the judge, with the “victim’s” approval, let Chavez off the hook. If he doesn’t get in any more trouble, the charges against him will be dismissed in 90 days. Some people might see that as another victory for “the champ.” But when you read that letter, you’ll realize who the real champion is. It’s the kid who weighs a hundred pounds less than Nick Chavez but who pinned him to the mat with heavyweight words and wisdom.
Way to go kid!