GOTHENBURG, Neb. (KNOP)- Andrew Johnson is the high school wrestler in a video that went viral this past winter; being made to cut his dreadlocks mat-side by a referee in order to continue competing.
"I just was mad and blacked out, just wanted to not be there," said Andrew Johnson, 120 weight class wrestler from New Jersey.
Johnson said he remembers looking up to his mom and crying but that rage pushed him to win the match.
World Champion wrestler Jordan Burroughs said, "It was saddening. Especially since he's so young and he's so impressionable. But also because I know how strong your hair is tied to your identity, especially as an African-American. When you're in high school, you're trying to discover yourself and who you are. So bullying is prevalent and I know that that was probably a difficult time for him."
Johnson and Burroughs happen to be from nearby hometowns in New Jersey.
Johnson said, "I just feel like he's so close to me that it's like, we're comfortable. Like he's from Winslow, that's 20 minutes from where I'm from. The same wrestling groups that I wrestled for, he wrestled before me too when he was that young. It's awesome. I think he's a great person and I'm just really thankful for this right now."
Coming to Gothenburg, Nebraska to accept the Jordan Burroughs scholarship put them face to face for the first time.
"But I really just wanted to introduce myself to him, tell him that I was thinking about him and let him understand that not even sympathy but empathy really from the wrestling community," said Burroughs. He was brave for doing what he did. And he's a leader, and so it was cool to have him here and be able to meet him for the first time."
"He supported me the whole way. He called me, we FacTimed, we just chatted about it saying it will be OK, you got to step up, you know what I mean, things happen but we're going to get through it," said Johnson.
Burroughs said, "And he didn't even want to be a pioneer for civil rights, he just wanted to wrestle. That's pretty much it. So his life has changed drastically, I imagine. I hope that he's been able to get some normalcy in his life since then."
"There's just nobody like him right now and if you watch him, you just get a whole 'I want to be the best wrestler in the world' just watching one match from him. Him as a person is just so motivational, he's just always pushed me and my brother to do great things and be better," said Johnson.