All-Metro wrestler Justin Neal, last year's Class 4A-3A state champion at 275 pounds, has been ruled academically ineligible for his senior season at Glen Burnie, his coach, Joe Key, said yesterday.
"It kills me. The guy is essentially the nation's best heavyweight recruit," Key said of Neal, who has been rated as high as No. 2 nationally among 275-pound seniors by WIN Magazine, and No. 3 by USA Wrestling.
"We thought we had taken care of it last year when I made up a customized grading sheet that had my telephone number on it, and his mother's telephone number on it," Key said. "Every teacher had to sign it along with his mother [Connie] on a weekly basis. His grades came up, and he was able to wrestle the entire season."
However, Neal was declared ineligible for this season two weeks ago. "I've been going to study hall every day, working with a counselor," Neal, 17, said yesterday. "I haven't been told by anyone that I'm ineligible. If it's true, I'll just keep working on my grades and working to raise money for college."
Key said he will continue to work with Neal on getting his diploma.
"I've done everything I can, and it's disheartening," Key said. "But I'm not going to give up on him."