St. Paul’s wrestling coach Rob Eiter and Executive Director of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Lee Dove confirmed a Flowrestling report that Crusaders sophomore Kurt McHenry, one of the top wrestlers in the country, will not compete at this weekend’s National Preps wrestling tournament at Lehigh University because of an incident at the Maryland Independent State wrestling tournament Saturday.
McHenry was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty immediately following the final whistle of his 106-pound championship match against Mount Saint Joseph freshman Chris Barnabae for what Dove said was a “head-butt-type situation,” according to the official’s report. McHenry was then called for a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after something was said between McHenry and Gaels head coach Harry Barnabae, who is Chris’ father, during a customary handshake following the match. McHenry was deemed to be “taunting” the crowd, Dove said, according to the official’s report.
The first infraction can be seen at the 9:50 mark of the video below
“The reason we followed through with this suspension was because the officials upon the second instance of unsportsmanlike conduct in wrestling equals an ejection, and we just followed our ejection rule that if an athlete is ejected from a contest then there is a suspension that follows that encompasses the next two competition dates,” Dove said.
Dove said the MIAA considers the National Preps tournament a two-day event, so McHenry will be eligible to compete in his first competition next year.
McHenry won titles at Beast of the East, Escape the Rock, Powerade, MIAA and MIS this season and has a record of 55-0. He is ranked No. 2 in the country at 106 pounds by Flowrestling and was expected to be the No. 1 seed at the National Preps tournament. He also won the World Wrestling Freestyle Cadet Nationals World Championships last summer.
According to the report by Flowrestling, Harry Barnabae refused to shake hands with McHenry following the match, and a source “indicated that the St. Joe coach instigated the situation.” It later says McHenry “allegedly backed away, pointed to the St. Paul’s crest on his singlet, pounded his chest and shouted, ‘Let's go!’ toward the crowd.”
Barnabae said to The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that he did shake McHenry’s hand following the match.
“The infraction that happened at the end when I shook [McHenry’s] hand, I couldn’t believe that happened," Barnabae said. "I asked him a question: ‘Is this what a world champion does?’ That was it. That was all that was said. I couldn’t believe he just head-butted my son in the face out of bounds after the match ended.”
Eiter said the incident was “unfortunate,” but added that he did not see the incident between McHenry and Harry Barnabae. He says he shook hands with Chris Barnabae and then turned around to grab Kurt’s gear when St. Paul’s assistant coach Cory Cooperman went toward Kurt to get him off the mat.
“Apparently Kurt went over to shake coach [Barnabae’s] hand, coach had turned his back to pick up probably Chris’ gear, turned back around and whether he shook his hand or not, I don’t know,” Eiter said. “I can’t confirm or not because I didn’t see it.”
Eiter said that as he was walking toward the head table, the head official, who was not officiating that particular match, said McHenry was taunting and that was his second unsportsmanlike penalty.
As for the first unsportsmanlike penalty, Eiter didn’t think McHenry made contact with Chris Barnabae intentionally.
“This is my biased opinion, but Chris was standing up and as Kurt stood up he kind of stood up to look Chris in the face, I don’t know, maybe stare him down a little bit or what not. And, to be honest with you, he caught the top of his head under Chris’ chin,” Eiter said. “I’ve watched the video a few times, and it was incidental as far as I know. Everybody is calling it a head butt. It wasn’t your stereotypical head butt like Kurt grabbed Chris and head-butted him. Kurt stood up, as he was doing that took a step forward toward Chris and caught him under the chin. ... But again, I told Kurt, just turn around and walk back to the center. That’s all he had to do because things like this happen and now look where we’re at.”
Eiter said he told McHenry on Tuesday that the decision was made to not allow him to compete at National Preps and that he was “disappointed.”
“It’s a life lesson. Fair or unfair, he said or she said, it happened,” Eiter said. “We’ll move on and I’m excited for the weekend. It would be great to have Kurt there but I’ve got nine other kids I’ve got to coach and get ready.”