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Extinct wrestler claims NJ boarding school turned blind eye to years of hazing, abuse

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Extinct wrestler claims NJ boarding school turned blind eye to years of hazing, abuse

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Fraternities fill announced sweeping adjustments in latest years, but families of young men who fill died in hazing-linked incidents mumble it be no longer satisfactory.

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USA TODAY

A frail grappler on Blair Academy’s wrestling team is suing the elite boarding school in Warren County, Unique Jersey, claiming coaches and administrators turned a blind eye while he became once subjected to years of hazing and sexual assaults by fellow wrestlers.

Rapidly after becoming a member of the team as a freshman in 2016, the pupil became once assaulted by two upperclassmen on a day lag back and forth to a wrestling competitors, when the 2 teammates compelled him into a mattress and later pulled him into a shower and stripped off his apparel, in accordance to a lawsuit filed closing month. 

When the pupil reported the assaults to then-head wrestling coach Brian Antonelli, Antonelli laughed off the claims and brushed off hazing incidents as “rites of passage,” in accordance to the complaint, filed in relate Superior Court in Sussex County.

Antonelli, who stepped down closing month after leading the team to nationwide titles from 2015 to 2019, stays energetic within the wrestling program and is assistant director of athletics at the school. 

The swimsuit identifies the alleged victim most effective as “John Doe.” He’s now a nationally ranked wrestler at a school program but stays in a “fragile” emotional relate after his ride at Blair, his attorney, Michael Garcia, acknowledged in a mobile phone interview closing week. 

The swimsuit seeks unspecified damages from the Blairstown, Unique Jersey school in addition to four administrators and 4 wrestling coaches, including Antonelli. It additionally cites two unnamed frail wrestlers at the school and various team contributors for his or her feature within the alleged abuse.

Suzy Logan, a spokeswoman for Blair Academy, acknowledged the school does no longer observation on pending litigation. 

The tony boarding school charges virtually $70,000 for corpulent-time residential tuition. It has been a nationwide wrestling powerhouse for decades, persistently rating first within the nation amongst preparatory schools and winning a file 40 titles at the nationwide prep wrestling championships.

So in December 2016, all the blueprint by blueprint of one of the biggest wrestling tournaments within the country, the Beast of the East, it got right here as no surprise that the team would snatch its 20th consecutive resolve.

On the opposite hand it became once at a resort, within the hours leading up to when the team took the mat, that the then-freshman claims he became once assaulted. Sharing a resort room with two seniors and most effective two beds, the frail pupil acknowledged, he became once left to sleep on the pull-out couch.

In accordance to the swimsuit, the seniors taunted him and insisted he join them in mattress. Despite his reluctance, he complied, but then became once told to gain below the covers, the swimsuit states. 

The following morning, the pupil acknowledged, the 2 seniors ordered him into the resort shower and compelled him to resolve off his boxer shorts. They then “wrestled and overpowered” the freshman and lined his face in cleaning soap, in accordance to the swimsuit. 

The intimidation and hazing allegedly persisted after the day lag back and forth, with teammates often dunking the boy’s head into a toilet and flushing it as they chanted “swirly, swirly, swirly!” 

The frail pupil acknowledged he reported the abuse to Antonelli. The coach “merely laughed the incident off,” the swimsuit alleges. Other coaches were told as correctly, but to no avail, the pupil acknowledged. 

The boy took a two-week hiatus from school to hurry the hazing and humiliation, in accordance to the swimsuit. Antonelli allegedly got right here to his dwelling and admitted he became once aware of the assaults but brushed them off as “rites of passage” by seniors.

“Guys will purchase on freshman the first few months. Then, it gets customary and they gain over it,” Antonelli allegedly acknowledged. He additionally acknowledged “hazing” became once a approach for the team to bond, the boy claims. 

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Antonelli did no longer reply to a mobile phone name and an email searching for observation.

In accordance to the lawsuit, the boy returned to the team after Antonelli told him they “wished him for qualifying aspects,” but the bullying did no longer let up in his sophomore and junior years. 

The “swirlies” persisted and the wrestling locker room became once closed three instances by Antonelli to stop hazing, in accordance to the swimsuit.

The hazing intensified when the boy became once a senior, the swimsuit acknowledged. Antonelli allegedly witnessed one incident by blueprint of which the boy became once tackled to the bottom on campus but did nothing about it. The boy acknowledged he additionally received explicit threats from a wrestler that he may be victimized by gangs. Any person additionally plan up a “unsuitable net story” within the boy’s name on a Blair Academy computer server and stuffed it with pornographic pictures and threats, the swimsuit acknowledged.

The boy acknowledged he had a meeting all the blueprint by blueprint of his senior three hundred and sixty five days with Christopher Fortunato, then the academy’s head of school, and various administrators, but that they refused to look into the incidents. Fortunato, who left the school closing December, told him to “combat by blueprint of it and resolve a pair of days off,” the lawsuit says. 

Efforts by the Unique Jersey Herald to reach Fortunato were additionally unsuccessful.

After the meeting, the pupil told Fortunato and Antonelli he became once no longer going to resolve part within the rest of the season, including the National Championship tournament often held in February, pronouncing he became once no longer mentally or emotionally able to compete.

In retaliation, the lawsuit claims, Antonelli and various coaches tried to thwart his plans to transfer on to a school with a nationally ranked wrestling program. 

The boy acknowledged he had his sights plan on a prestigious university where he had been authorized to the wrestling team on a corpulent scholarship. The Blair coaches allegedly referred to as the school’s coach and accused their frail athlete of being a “cramped one” who wished to “toughen up.”

The coach notified the boy of his conversation alongside with his Blair coaches and told him that due to the allegations, his scholarship “may be in ache.” The pupil did later lend a hand the school.

The boy acknowledged he became once interviewed by Fortunato in April 2020 relating to the allegations, but he graduated believing no investigations were ever completed.

The years of hazing left the ex-pupil with lasting emotional scars, in accordance to the lawsuit, which described him as miserable and emotionally distressed, worried of intimacy and unable to have confidence others. He has suffered nightmares, fears physical and sexual contact and continues to suffer “extreme psychological trouble,” in accordance to his complaint.

Garcia, the protection attorney, acknowledged closing week that his client’s hope is that “no various pupil will fill to lag by blueprint of the trauma he had to lag by blueprint of.”

Lori Comstock can additionally be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by mobile phone: 973-383-1194.

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Extinct wrestler claims NJ boarding school turned blind eye to years of hazing, abuse