Wrestlers grapple with the loss of final home match


Morgan Kienzle

Senior wrestlers like Julius Diossa (center) are trying to make the best of losing the team’s Senior Night match.

The date was set for February 7, 2022. Wrestling senior Julius Diossa had immortality set on his mind, a goal he had had since he was a junior high wrestler.

Diossa wanted his name on the program’s 60-point banner in the Bellwood-Antis Middle School gymnasium.

The 60-point banner is a goal every wrestler has as a kid. It becomes like a role model to look up to, only the role model is every person that has every made it on that banner.

That all changed earlier this week when the Bellwood-Antis officials decided to cancel the wrestling program’s senior night match scheduled against Northern Bedford. Instead, the team’s senior recognition got moved to tonight’s girl’s basketball game against Mount Union.

NOTE: The girls basketball game was cancelled late in the school day Thursday. The wrestling senior ceremony will be rescheduled.

Diossa was going into that match with 57 team points this season.

Diossa, Zach Amato, Aarron Laird, and Xander Shank will be recognized.

The cancellation was the result of moves the district made this week in response to what it considered unruly and potentially violent behavior at a board meeting last week. On February 1, police were called to intervene at a meeting after several community members, upset over the district’s handling of the Ryan Blazier case, became loud and disruptive, using profane language and necessitating the meeting be adjourned.

A statement released by the district to news outlets described the situation:

At the February 1 Committee of the Whole Meeting, a member of the community spoke at public comment, in accordance with District policy.  The speaker inquired into aspects of the litigation about which the District is not at liberty to speak, and the Board President and District Solicitor explained that the District cannot comment due to the pending civil litigation again, in accordance with its practice.  A small crowd of attendees then became disruptive, disorderly, violent and profane, threatening the safety of members of the Board, Administrators, children and other employees of the District.  They were warned by the Board President and Solicitor to stop and in response, their behavior escalated. The individuals were removed from the room, the meeting was recessed and then, reconvened. Police were called to the scene.  Seven individuals were charged and no trespassing letters were issued to each from the District, barring them from school premises as a result of their behavior.

Blazier was the junior high wrestling coach in 2019 and 2020. In 2021, he was convicted of sexually assaulting two members of his team and sentenced to 21-42 years in prison.

Because of the outburst last week, the district was forced to postpone this week’s board meeting as well as the wrestling team’s final match as a safety precaution.

“Violence will not be condoned or tolerated by the Bellwood Antis School District, whose first priority is the safety of its students, Board Members, administration, faculty and staff,” the district said in its press release.

Some wrestlers were so upset by the cancellation of the Senior Night match, they said they didn’t even want to participate anymore.

“When I started the season, the goals were to go to districts, but that wasn’t why I wrestled. I did it because it was fun. It’s not fun anymore,” said Diossa, who may yet get his name on the 60-point banner. He said there is talk of calculating in some of his tournament points since the team is forgoing its final dual meet.

Senior Zach Amato said that even though the wrestlers will be recognized at the basketball game, “it’s not the same.”

“It’s disappointing that after everything that happened over the past few years, the match we looked forward to the most was taken away,” Amato said.

The wrestling team has already endured its share of hardships this season. In January, first year coach Kyle Fink resigned, citing what he said was a lack of support from the school

“Just when we start having fun again, something happens,” said senior Aarron Laird.