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Referee Penalizes High School Wrestler for Praying Before Match


"It had everything to do with the rules of wrestling."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Nicholas Fant regularly drops to one knee and says a prayer before competing in Wake Forest-Rolesville High School wrestling matches. But on Tuesday, after the student took a few moments to pray before heading into the center of the mat, he ended up landing himself in hot water. The referee slapped Fant with a stalling warning for his invocation and, as a result, the wrestler lost a point; he later lost the entire match.

The student, who was competing in the first round of the North Carolina playoffs, wasn't happy with the referee's decision to cite him for praying -- and neither was the community. His coach, Sam Hershey, said that he planned to investigate the rules to learn more about the call, however he didn't plan on reporting the incident to the N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

But even if Hershey had reported it, the organization likely wouldn't have been on Fant's side. NCHSAA Commissioner David Whitfield told Fox News' Todd Starnes that the referee made the correct call and that the decision to penalize the student had nothing to do with religion.

When students are called to the mat, Whitfield said it's time to wrestle.

"It had nothing to do with prayer or anything related to a faith-based scenario," he told Starnes. "It had everything to do with the rules of wrestling."

Whitfield did say that referees can use their discretion and that the individual overseeing the match was not required to penalize Fant. That said, according to the rules, he had every right to do so.

Starnes also spoke with David Culbreth of the Southeastern Wrestling Officials Association, though, and he disagreed with Whitfield. Culbreth said that he would have allowed Fant to take two seconds to pray.

"I’m not going to call that, but if it turned into a 60-second prayer – he’d probably get a verbal warning – or I might try to say 'Amen' for him," he explained.

What do you think? Should Fant have been given the chance to pray for a few seconds or was the referee correct in his call? Let us know in the comments section.

(H/T: Fox News' Todd Starnes)

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