The issue started at the Cobb County Invitational when Kennesaw Mountain’s Henrio Thelemaque and Pope’s Jonny Sexton were given flagrant misconduct penalties in their third place match at 145 pounds.
According to Kennesaw Mountain coach Roberto Rivera, the officials, Rivera and Pope coach Jim Haskin came to the conclusion that the wrestlers’ action warranted documentation in the scorebook, however the flagrant misconduct penalty, which would have resulted in a two-match suspension, would not be reported to the GHSA.
The wrestlers just reacted to the emotion of the match, but the situation never escalated, and neither the coaches nor the officials wanted to punish the wrestlers and prevent them from competing in their respective area tournaments two weeks later.
Believing the situation was resolved, Rivera and Haskin used their wrestlers during their area tournaments — Pope in 7AAAAA and Kennesaw Mountain in 4AAAAAA. Thelemaque finished second at 145 pounds, while Sexton was also runner-up at 145.
Also according to Rivera, someone with an interest in the Area 4AAAAAA tournament reported the incident, which had been resolved by the parties involved, to the GHSA following the area championship. In other words, the individual or individuals involved waited two weeks to divulge the incident to the GHSA, which ultimately ruled Thelemaque and Sexton ineligible for the today’s sectional.
As a result of Thelemaque’s disqualification, Kennesaw Mountain, which beat Hillgrove 201 to 200 for the area championship, lost the points Thelemaque accumulated, dropping the Mustangs from first to fourth in the team standings, while elevating Hillgrove, Marietta and McEachern into the No. 1, 2 and 3 positions.
The Hawks win their second area traditional championship in three seasons — the first was in 2011 — and Pope, who remained as the Area 7AAAAA champion, was denied a chance to send all 14 of its wrestlers into the state sectional for the second year in a row. Last year, the Greyhounds automatically qualified 13 wrestlers, but an alternate also made it in after another wrestler had to drop out.
“It’s not the way I wanted to win the championship,” Hillgrove coach Luke McSorley said. “And I feel sorry for the kinds involved who don’t get to compete for a state championship.”
Rivera was also sorry for the wrestlers.
“We resolved the (flagrant misconduct) like adults for the betterment of the kids,” he said. “I just wanted them to have a fair shake. It’s a shame for the kids involved.
“If I had known this was going to happen, I could have changed my lineup. I feel bad for my kid. I thought it was resolved, but some other folks got involved two weeks later.”
With the matter settled, Rivera said he will know focus on what he can control.
“We just have to move forward with the guys we have now,” he said. “We’re hosting again like we did three years ago, and I think everybody liked how it ran. It should be a smooth tournament.”