A confrontation at Saturday's Anne Arundel County wrestling tournament resulted in Broadneck wrestler Collin Harrell being kicked out of host North County High School, and it has led to the senior's being left out of the Class 4A-3A East Region tournament, which begins Friday.
The situation has caused an eruption of outrage from wrestling fans, devastated a family long involved in the sport and "inundated" Anne Arundel County coordinator of athletics Greg LeGrand's inbox with email in support of the Harrells.
But none of that has changed the bottom line.
Harrell, the son of Broadneck coach Scott Harrell, was ejected from the facility and not allowed to complete in his 138-pound weight class after getting involved in a conflict between his mother, Melloni Harrell, and North County assistant principal Laura Dudeck.
Because Harrell (13-2) had suffered a knee injury early in the season, he did not have enough points to automatically qualify for the regional tournament and was depending on a top-four finish at the county meet to get in. He was a county champion at 119 pounds last year and also finished second in region and fifth in the state.
Representatives from Anne Arundel County and the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association say there is no way of changing the rules and letting him continue his season, despite many contending that the wrestler wasn't at fault.
According to Scott and Melloni Harrell, their son came to find out what was happening to his mother as she was being escorted out of the building. As he persisted in asking questions, Dudeck told him to go sit down and eventually kicked him out of the event.
Melloni Harrell said she first got in trouble with Dudeck when she tried to go through an exit to the hallway where the wrestlers' hospitality area was located to take her son a bottle of water. Her second encounter was 20 minutes later, when after seeing "many others going through the door" she asked Dudeck and a police officer if it was all right if she went that way to the ladies room.
"[Dudeck] told me she was 'dealing with a lot today', and I went into the ladies room," Melloni Harrell said in an email. Minutes later, while she was washing her hands, Harrell said Dudeck asked her to step outside and told her she wanted her to get her things and leave.
"As I was leaving the gym, I made the mistake of telling Collin, who rightfully got very emotional and upset," Melloni Harrell said. "At that point, she took Collin off the roster and his high school career came to an end."
Dudeck and North County principal William Heiser did not respond to phone messages requesting comment on the situation.
LeGrand was at the tournament but left before the Harrell incident and said he could not speak to the specifics of what occurred. He said there were also "two or three" other problems during the day.
"It was the worst behavior issues we've had since I've been here," LeGrand said. "It took administrative personnel and police to handle the situations. There was bad behavior, bad, inappropriate language and, in one situation, old grudges that carried over from parents to two students."
North County's Collin Alexander and his mother were also barred in a separate incident. But Alexander will wrestle this weekend because he already had the necessary points to qualify.
The Harrells have explored several avenues to try to revive their son's final season, but all have been unsuccessful.
An immediate appeal to Heiser was denied.
Annapolis wrestling coach Tom Owen sent an email Wednesday to all the coaches in the Class 4A-3A East Region, making a motion that Harrell be seeded 3rd — the position Owen's wrestler Stanley Proctor holds.
But MPSSAA tournament director William "Duke" Beattie said the effort is wasted.
"Coaches can't vote students into tournaments," he said. "We don't know what lead to all this. It really is an unfortunate situation for everybody."
"There are many kids who fail to qualify with extenuating circumstances," Beattie also said. "We have to have the same standard across the state, otherwise there is the potential of a double standard."
Scott Harrell said he figured people would come together after everything cooled down and "do the right thing."
"I know it would be unprecedented. I understand that," he said. "But Anne Arundel County and the MPSSAA, they can't say, 'We can fix this'?"
Scott Harrell said witnesses told him that his son did not get upset until Dudeck ousted him.
"The principal and the assistant principal went into a room and closed the door," Harrell said. "They had the opportunity to do the right thing, and they didn't do it. The principal either ignored what eyewitnesses said or he didn't do an investigation.
"My son won't wrestle. My son is devastated. My wife is horrified she's been involved in a situation that ended his career. Collin is paying the price. Even if my wife did something so egregious, I don't know how this woman, an administrator, would remove an athlete without notifying the coach. She just wielded her power."
LeGrand said he has known Collin Harrell for four years and recognizes him as "a really good kid, a good student, captain of his team." But he said that doesn't mean he can overrule the decision made at the meet.
"If I'm the principal, the first thing I'm going to do is gather my administrative team and find out what happened," LeGrand said. "He has 10 or 20 minutes to make a decision. You make the best decision you can. That's what he did and he's standing behind it."
Scott Harrell, who is worried about his son missing out on scholarships, all-star games, the all-county team and the senior national team, said he isn't finished fighting and his next step will be a legal one.
"I'm going to fight this for my wife and my son as far as I possibly can," he said. "Whatever it takes to earn my wife's reputation back, and an apology from the administration that mishandled this situation. At no point in time should one person have that much influence on a child's future. Until someone steps up and admits this has been mishandled, I'm going to fight."