The father of a North Carolina high school wrestler was arrested on Jan. 18, following an incident in which he tackled the son’s opponent during a match, the Charlotte Observer reports.
Kannapolis police apprehended Harrisburg resident Barry Lee Jones, whose son wrestles for Hickory Ridge High School in Harrisburg, and charged him with simple assault and disorderly conduct. Jones had earlier been seen in a viral video running onto a wrestling mat and slamming his son’s opponent from Southeast Guilford High School. The teenagers were competing at a tournament at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis, according to the Observer.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jed Cox, the coach of Southeast Guilford’s wrestling team, told the paper.
Footage of the incident went viral over the weekend of the 18th. One user shared the 17-second clip on Twitter, where it received nearly 1.5 million views and mixed reactions.
The video begins with a referee blowing a whistle to start the match. Following a brief struggle, the Southeast Guilford athlete then lifts Jones’ son from behind and throws him onto the ground. Jones’ son lands on his head, causing the crowd to groan and the referee to put his hands on his head. Jones then runs after his son’s opponent and slams him to the ground.
In an interview with the Observer, Tyris Rorie, a wrestling coach at Garinger High School, acknowledged that the Southeast Guilford athlete’s move was unsafe. Prior to the incident, the teen had allegedly been penalized for lifting Jones’ son off the mat and not returning him safely, according to the paper.
“It’s a dangerous move, even if you’re not that high off the ground,” Rorie explained. “But (the illegal mat return) doesn’t happen that much. It depends on a kid’s adrenaline when he’s trying to perform a move. I don’t think most of them are intentional. It’s like getting hit by a baseball. But you don’t see it that much because you know you’ll lose a point.”
Still, some Twitter users defended Jones, claiming that he had the right to protect his son regardless of whether the move was intentional.
“The best reason ever to be arrested,” one person wrote. “Fighting for your kid’s safety.”
“That kid knew exactly what he was doing,” another tweeted, in reference to the Southeast Guildford wrestler. “He could have broken his opponents neck- I have no idea what the father actually did but a swift knock to the floor is NOT uncalled for when you presumably perform an action that can lead to death on my child.”
Two days later, on Jan. 20, Southeast Guilford shared an apology note from parents of the Hickory Ridge wrestling team on Facebook.
“WE ARE DEEPLY SORRY,” the letter read. “We want you to know that we experienced the same nightmare WITH you. We are in shock, horror and disbelief by the inconceivable action of one parent….We don’t understand it nor would we ever condone it.”
North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) commissioner Que Tucker told the Observer that her office would take action against Jones after an investigation is completed.
The Southeast Guilford athlete was not harmed in the incident.
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