Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wrestling: 'Redneck' fair wrestling event cancelled

In the wake of concerns from the state's governing body for high school athletics, the Redneck Wrestling at the Fair event scheduled for Aug. 1 has been cancelled.

The high school match, which was to pit teams from High Point and Newton against each other at the New Jersey State Fair in Sussex County, came under fire on Tuesday with a published report in a local newspaper. NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko raised concerns over the dual match that was scheduled to be contested may violate rules, citing "language in a press release from fair organizers."

The press release states:

"Two local high school teams that personify power and history in Sussex County wrestling will compete ... The NJ State Champion High Point Wildcats and coach John Gardner will go head-to-head against Coach Eric Bollette's Newton Braves ... Both teams are renowned in New Jersey wrestling."

When reached on Wednesday, Timko said his intent was not to stop the event from taking place.

"I was told by the reporter, and I can't even remember his name, that they were using school singlets and names for competition and that goes against our constitution and bylaws," Timko said. "This is nothing new, it's been in place for years."

Timko added that if town names rather than high school names -- meaning if High Point was called Wantage -- were being used, and as long as no school equipment or transportation was being supplied for the event, the match could have taken place.

Event organizer Joan Smith said it was never her intention to put the schools' wrestling seasons in jeopardy and never intended to offend anyone.

"I certainly regret that it happened. We wanted to celebrate wrestling," Smith said on Wednesday afternoon. "We were looking to have a nice event and we were all looking forward to it."

Bollette confirmed that it will not take place as agreed upon by the two coaches and athletic directors.

"It's unfortunate. The kids were looking forward to wrestling," said Bollette, who stated that school-issued singlets or transportation was never to be used for the match. "But better safe than sorry. I just seems that the [newspaper] writer was out to do something. Was he trying to get this cancelled?

Offseason dual events in New Jersey have been commonplace for years, including the Hunterdon County and Hopatcong Duals in the immediate area. Also, teams from Phillipsburg and Warren Hills annually compete against each other in a Pin Cancer event that rotates between the respective high schools.

None of those events violate any NJSIAA rules.

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