20
Dec
10

sexual assault in the form of a wrestling move? that’s a new one on me…

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1 Response to “sexual assault in the form of a wrestling move? that’s a new one on me…”


  1. December 20, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    CLOVIS, Calif. — At 17 years old, Preston Hill is known around the Fresno area as an accomplished wrestler, a leader of his high school team, the Buchanan Bears, and a potential candidate for a college scholarship in the sport he loves.

    But over the past several months, Preston has been battling another opponent, the Fresno County district attorney, who has charged him with a bizarre crime: using a wrestling move to sexually assault a teammate.

    According to a police report, during a July practice Preston used a maneuver informally known as a ”butt drag” — which involves grabbing the haunch of an opponent to gain leverage — to roughly and intimately assault a smaller, younger wrestler on his team in retaliation for a supposed affront.

    Preston has denied attacking the younger boy, who is 14, telling the investigating officer that he was merely executing a common maneuver that ”everyone does,” in order to ”to motivate people who don’t move on the mats.”

    ”Hill replied that this was a wrestling move,” according to the police report.

    The case, which is expected to go to trial next month, shocked students and parents alike in this Fresno suburb, and brought accusations of both lax supervision by coaches and overzealousness by prosecutors. It has also cast an unwelcome pall on high school wrestling, and again raised questions about bullying in schools, particularly in the often macho arena of sports.

    Mike Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, a nonprofit group, said he had been fielding questions about the case, which was first reported by The Fresno Bee. In addition to explaining what a ”butt drag” is, he said, he has also been trying to reassure people that the behavior that allegedly happened on the mat is not a regular occurrence.

    ”There is no sport that is more closely refereed; it would be harder to get away with something in wrestling than any other sport,” he said. ”But unfortunately, in contact sports, cheap shots and illegal techniques happen all the time.”

    The police in Clovis, a middle-class enclave where wrestling is a proud tradition, say the case began over the summer. The 14-year-old accuser, who has not been identified, told the police that he had been ”bullied by several students,” including Preston Hill, who, the younger boy said, had made a habit of taking his drinking water during practice.

    On July 15, however, according to the younger boy’s account, he refused to hand his water over, prompting threats from Preston, including menacing gestures. The police report states that at a practice that evening, Preston purposefully stood near the younger boy during a wrestling exercise and, when the coach whistled for wrestling to begin, threw the younger boy down, pinned him to the mat and performed an invasive ”butt drag” maneuver.

    If convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery, Preston could face six months in county jail. He has been suspended from Buchanan High School, a handsome suburban school that won the state wrestling team championship in 2006. The school district declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing student confidentiality laws.

    This month, a Fresno County judge delayed the trial to allow the district attorney time to gather more evidence, and ordered both sides in the case not to talk about it. But a person close to the Hill family, who requested anonymity because of the order, said there seemed to be a number of inconsistencies in the accuser’s account and a lack of witnesses, a detail borne out by the police report.

    The Bee reported that the Fresno County district attorney had considered dropping the case, until prosecutors found a witness to the threat alleged to have been made by Preston. The district attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

    But the Hill family representative said Preston, who had hoped to gain a wrestling scholarship, refused to take a deal from the district attorney because he says he did not do anything wrong.

    The 14-year-old accuser’s father, Ross Rice, said it would have been easier not to press charges. ”But that’s the wrong attitude,” he said. ”That’s when you can end up with a Columbine situation.”

    Mr. Rice said that he had nothing against wrestling — he competed in the sport in high school — but that ”there needs to be some serious clarity by coaches and the national wresting community on moves that are close to that part of the body.”

    Wrestling coaches say that while grabbing the backs of the legs and buttocks during a match could lead to accidental groping, there is no legitimate reason for a wrestler to get as invasive as Preston is accused of being.

    ”There’s absolutely no advantage in doing that,” said Dennis DeLiddo, a former coach at nearby Fresno State University. ”And we don’t want guys like that in the sport anyway, if they’re probing.”

    Several classmates of Preston’s at Buchanan High School said the accusation seemed out of character.

    ”Everyone knows him for being Preston Hill, the wrestler,” said James Munro, a 16-year-old junior. ”No one has any problems with him.”

    Katy Tudor, a friend of Preston’s and a wrestler, was more blunt. ”You have to expect that things are going to happen that you don’t like; you’re going to get hurt,” she said. ”If you don’t like it, go play basketball.”

    One recent Friday evening, the wrestling season seemed in full swing, with a tournament at a rival high school, Clovis West. Inside the gym, six mats of matches were going on at once, with a constant tweeting of referee’s whistles and a steady array of headlocks, half nelsons and takedowns.

    On the Buchanan bench, Coach Tyrell Blanche was animated, rubbing wrestlers’ shoulders and cheering them on. But he has declined to comment on the case, though he may be called to testify at trial. Preston’s defense lawyer, Stephen Quade, told The Bee that he would call several witnesses when court convenes on Jan. 13.

    Among those watching the tournament was Mr. DeLiddo, who said the incident had cast his sport in a bad light. ”I don’t know the motive behind this, but I’m here to defend the sport,” he said. ”That sort of thing has got nothing to do with wrestling.”


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