Highland Park wrestlers face one-year suspension because Washington
was at an outstate meet.
Terry Foster / The Detroit News
HIGHLAND PARK — There’s a showdown brewing in Michigan high school
sports this week — and it has nothing to do with the baseball,
softball and soccer tournaments.
On Wednesday morning, representatives of Highland Park High School
square off against the Executive Committee of the Michigan High
School Athletic Association.
The MHSAA has demanded Highland Park suspend wrestling coaches Glen
Washington and Jamar Whitfield for one year because of their
participation in a non-sanctioned meet in Virginia. If not, the MHSAA
has threatened, Highland Park wrestlers will be banned from next
season’s team and individual state tournaments. Furthermore, Highland
Park’s membership in the MHSAA could be suspended, effectively
shutting all teams out of postseason play.
Highland Park officials, in turn, are seeking a change to MHSAA rules
and threatening legal action.
“If they want a fight, they got one,” Highland Park school board
president Robert Davis said.
MHSAA communications director John Johnson said Highland Park still
would be eligible to participate in regular-season competition. He
said other schools have been banned from tournaments, but could not
“It is very infrequent,” Johnson said.
Detroit King was banned from the Class A girls basketball tournament
in 1999 for playing too many regular-season games. Detroit Community
was banned from the boys basketball tournament in 2003 for using an
MHSAA executive director John R. Roberts outlined the possible
sanctions in a letter dated May 3. The MHSAA contends Washington and
Whitfield violated Regulation II, Section 13, which prohibits coaches
from national exhibition and all-star competitions during the school
Crux of argument
Washington and Whitfield admit coaching seniors Jaron Trice and
Anthony Jones at the National High School Coaches Association Senior
Nationals in Virginia Beach, Va., March 29-April 1.
Highland Park officials claim Washington and Whitfield did not
violate the MHSAA rule because they were not employed as coaches by
the school district at the time. All Highland Park coaches submit
resignations at the end of their seasons and reapply for their
positions before the next season.
Highland Park officials are asking the MHSAA to adopt their
interpretation of the rule — that coaching status ends once the
season is complete and not at the end of the school year. Roberts’
May 3 letter contends that’s a semantic argument to skirt the
Davis said the school terminates employees because it gives it
greater flexibility with personnel. Washington said he submitted his
resignation because he wants to avoid “conflicts of interest” with
his wrestling club (Silverback Academy Wrestling Club).
Were there others?
Johnson said the MHSAA is investigating claims other state coaches
participated in the Virginia meet, and guilty schools would meet the
same punishment as Highland Park.
The Highland Park violation was easy to determine because video of
the finals were posted by flowrestling.com. Trice advanced to the
final, and Washington and Whitfield were visible, while all other
Michigan wrestlers were eliminated in earlier rounds. Also, Highland
Park officials chose to take the case public.
Johnson disputed claims Canton wrestling coach Casey Randolph also
participated but will receive less punishment.
“I can’t say specific schools,” Johnson said. “We have information
about other schools who had coaches at the same competition who are
being handled in the exact same manner. Coaches can go as spectators.
There were coaches in the stands who were not coaching. That is where
the line is. Going on the mat is a totally different thing.”
Randolph did not respond to telephone messages.
Dearborn Fordson coach Jerry Marszalek said the Highland Park coaches
are on shaky ground. Marszalek said he often watches his wrestlers in
other meets, but he remains in the stands and does not coach them.
“If you are going to push the envelope, you have to pay the price,”
he said. “You know you are not supposed to do it. In my opinion, the
kids would have done well without them. When a kid is good you don’t
have that much influence.”
Clarkston coach Joe DeGain wrestled in the meet in 1996. One of his
wrestlers, Mike Maguire, competed this year.
“I didn’t even go,” DeGain said.
Wrestlers are provided a coach by the national federation if they
Rule bars athletes, too.
The rule also states any athlete who participates in a national event
loses eligibility for one calendar year. For example, if a basketball
player participates in the McDonald’s All-American game he cannot
play spring sports.
Johnson said most states have the rule.
“Educators have felt that national championships and travel
competition is not in the best interest of education and athletics,”
Monroe wrestling coach Dave Winger believes the rule should be
“If you are good enough, you should be able to go,” Winger said. “The
state of Michigan is very selfish in they want the state championship
to be the ultimate.”
Richmond coach George Hamblin had two wrestlers eligible to compete
in the meet.
Brian Peterson wrestled and lost his spring eligibility. Lance Pitcel
decided to run track.
“It’s a tough decision for kids because a lot of them want to go
since it’s big for college coaches,” Hamblin said.
Washington claims neither he nor the kids were representing Highland
Park. They were representatives of the Silverbacks.
“I don’t feel we violated any rules,” Washington said. “At the end of
the year we are terminated. We put in our resignation and then we go
all over the country and do other things.
“I don’t understand this whole thing.”
Washington said the school is not trying to “skirt rules.” He simply
wanted his kids to participate in a meet where college coaches could
“I wonder what due process is and what past practice is.”