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Baltimore City

Former state champ attempts to wrestle in Florida as trials on assault charges loom

A two-time Maryland state wrestling champion who was barred from attending classes or competing for an Anne Arundel County high school after being arrested three times is attempting to revive his career — in Florida.

Patrick Downey III's eligibility has been rejected twice by a state agency since he enrolled at Oviedo High School near Orlando this month, but an attorney hired by Downey's father, Patrick Jr., in Florida will try to convince a judge in Seminole County Circuit Court Tuesday that Downey should be allowed to wrestle when the district finals begin Saturday.

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Downey, 18, is scheduled to stand trial in Baltimore on Feb. 18 — the same day the Florida state high school wrestling championships begin — on charges from two incidents.

In November 2009, Downey was charged with first-degree assault after Baltimore police said he beat up a Towson University student in a parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium the day of the "Turkey Bowl" high school football game. According to police, Downey broke Connor Little's jaw and knocked out four of his teeth.

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In June 2010, Downey and a friend, former North County wrestler Pat Carey, were charged with first-degree assault after police said they brawled with two Navy football players, Keegan Wetzel and De'Von Richardson, at an 18-and-over nightclub on Guilford Avenue.

Downey's trial in Anne Arundel County is scheduled to begin March 29. In that case, Downey and two others are charged with second-degree assault, theft and robbery. Police say they roughed up the victim, a North County High School classmate who'd just sold them marijuana, who was also injured when he held onto the car door as one of Downey's friends drove away.

Despite Downey's arrests in Baltimore, North County's former principal allowed him to play sports at the Glen Burnie school. But new North County Principal Bill Heiser, who came to the school in September, requested from the county a "community alternative placement" for Downey after his arrest in September, Anne Arundel school spokesman Bob Mosier said Monday.

Mosier said that anyone on "home teaching" is not eligible to participate in athletics "because there's no team to compete for," but Pat Downey Jr. said that the county schools' athletic handbook "clearly states that if a student is placed in a home [teaching] situation, he is to remain athletically eligible."

Mosier said that under county rules, Downey would have been ineligible to play sports had he transferred to another county high school. Pat Downey Jr. said that they could have moved in with relatives and his son could have gone to Catonsville High School in order to wrestle. But Downey Jr. said he took a job in December with an engineering firm in Orlando.

"They say we moved 1,000 miles for athletic eligibility purposes; nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "I could have moved in with relatives in Catonsville, and he would have been on the mat two months ago."

The Florida High School Athletic Association denied Downey's eligibility based on the fact that Anne Arundel County ruled him ineligible after his arrest in late September.

"An athlete would not be eligible if he or she transferred to escape disciplinary issues, whether they've been expelled or not," FHSAA spokesman Seth Polansky said.

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But Downey's father says that his son was never officially declared ineligible by Anne Arundel County school officials and "was not given due process" in order to regain his eligibility. The younger Downey was also the starting quarterback on North County's football team at the time of his last arrest.

Downey was once considered among the nation's top recruits for wrestling, with schools such as Pennsylvania State University interested in offering him a scholarship. Now his plans for college "are on hold" pending the outcome of those trials, according to his father.

Downey could have signed a scholarship agreement Wednesday, the first day high school athletes can officially announce their intentions. Instead, much of the past three weeks have been spent discussing Downey's eligibility at Oviedo, a Florida wrestling power that was ranked seventh in the country in one preseason publication.

"Patrick's constitutional rights have been trampled upon," his father said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Oviedo is Downey's fourth high school. He attended Mount St. Joseph as a freshman before transferring to Loch Raven, where he was unbeaten and a state champion as a sophomore. He then went to North County as a junior and was honored for having one of the top four grade-point averages of any wrestler in his weight class, 189 pounds.

The hearing Tuesday is the fourth time Downey's eligibility has been discussed either by Florida state high school athletic officials or in the courts the past few weeks. Downey's attorney, William Grant, is Florida state chairman for USA Wrestling.

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Neither Oviedo athletic director Wes Allen nor wrestling coach JD Robbins returned repeated telephone messages from The Baltimore Sun.

don.markus@baltsun.com


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